A History of Star Trek Action Group by Janet Quarton

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Interviews by Fans
Title: Memories of STAG and Star Trek Fandom by Janet Quarton
Interviewee: Janet Quarton
Date(s): 1991
Medium: print
Fandom(s): Star Trek
External Links:
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In 1991, Janet Quarton wrote her memories of the fan club and newsletter, STAG.

It was printed in Star Trek Action Group #100.


The Content

When I found out about Star Trek fandom in 1972 there was only one specific Star Trek club in Britain: The Star Trek Correspondence Club run by Audrey Baker. There was also The William Shatner Fan Club and The Scottish Society for Leonard Nimoy Fanatics. Then in 1973 Jenny and Terry Elson formed the Star Trek Con for Britain Action Group with the aim of raising enough money to run a Star Trek Convention in Britain. The first newsletter must have come out in April or May as the second one was June/July. The name of the club was soon shortened to the Star Trek Action Group and became more commonly known as STAG. At the time the club was formed the Star Trek Animations had started production in the States.

I joined STAG as soon as I saw it advertised and was always proud of my membership number - no. 2. The club was soon up to 40 members and enough money was raised to rent a church hall for a day. The first Star Trek Convention to be held in Britain was aotually a one-day Mini-Con held in a church hall in Wigston, Leicester. As far as I remember there were about 100 people there and the atmosphere was fantastic. It was the first chance the majority of us had had to meet and chat with other fans.

I had been keeping in steady contact with Jenny and Terry and in June 1974 I was delighted to be invited to join the STAG connittee as membership secretary. At that time the other committee members were Jenny and Terry Elson, Marian Kennedy, Helen McCarthy, Jennifer Harding and Karen Gilmurray. Johanna Butler joined the committee later in the year. I enjoyed being membership secretary as I was working as a girl groom in Chesham, Bucks at the time and living on my own. Through the club I made quite a few friends in the South of England, including Beth Hallam, Ann Looker, Margaret Draper, Margaret Austin and Marion Dougall (now Van der Voort) and fondly remember when a group of us used to meet up and go to Ann Looker's school in Aylesbury to watch Star Trek on video. It was the old Philips video when you could fit one episode on a tape which cost about £17-00.

The first main British Star Trek Convention was organised by STAG and held at the Abbey Motor Hotel, Leicester, on 28th/29th September 1974. The guests were Jimmy Doohan and George Takei. This was a fantastic weekend. It really started for me on the Thursday when Jenny invited me to go with her to meet Jimmy Doohan at Heathrow. There was also someone else with us but I can't remember who. Anyway, we met Jimmy, who couldn't have been friendlier, and then took him on a bus to London where we eventually met George in a club; we had to wait for George who had decided to go 'walk-about' on a bus (to anyone who knows George this isn't unusual). I had to say goodbye to Jimmy and George then as I had to work on Friday, and it was a real wrench to see them drive off in a taxi without me; I could hardly wait till I went up to Leicester the following night. One of my main memories of that Convention was sitting in the bar with Jimmy and a small group, drinking and chatting until the early hours of Saturday and then going for a walk around the outside of the hotel. It seems that I just missed out on meeting Sheila Clark that night as she had been intending to visit the bar but got sidetracked by Helen McCarthy and then thought it would be closed. Anyway, it was a fantastic weekend and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. That New Year Jenny invited a group of us up for a party and that was where I met Sheila. We hit it off from the start and have been close friends ever since. A second STAG Mini-Con was held on 22nd March at the Leicester Centre Hotel. I have to admit that I don't remember much about this one. By June 1975 STAG had grown from 40 members to 400. The second main Convention was held at the Leicester Centre Hotel on 20th/21st September 1975 with Jimmy and Wende Doohan as guests. This was another great Convention with a fantastic atmosphere. At this time Jenny Elson felt that it was time to hand over the club as, after running it for over two years and organising two main and two mini Conventions, she felt she needed a rest. She was also bad with arthritis at this time. Most of the rest of the committee were resigning as well so she asked me if I would like to take over. I must admit that I had to think about it for a while as I had never done anything like running a club before and with 400 members it was a bit daunting. However, with encouragement from Sheila, Beth and Marion Dougall (Van der Voort), I said yes. I officially took over as President of STAG in October 1975 and Beth Hallam, Sheila Clark and Helen McCarthy joined me on the committee. Out of the 400 members about 300 had life membership which threatened a financial problem but we managed to persuade most of them to convert to annual membership. When the previous committee had offered life memberships they hadn't realised how long the club would runi Helen didn't stay with us very long; her responsibility on the committee was artwork and since we were getting so little she felt that she was redundant. When we took over the club we had a stock of zines which had al ready been published but being keen fanzine readers we decided we needed to produce more. Finances were a bit tight so Sheila and Beth financed the first sines and did the duplicating. This was the start of the Log Entries series of zines. Almost from the start of us running STAG we were lucky enough to be in fairly regular contact with Gene Roddenberry and Susan Sackett and we covered the on again / off again / on again movie / TV series / movie which finally culminated with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Star Trek celebrated its 10th anniversary in September 1976 and at that time the BBC had been showing the series for 7 years and had shown 75 episodes 3 times. They had only shown Miri once and The Empathy, Plato's Stepchildren and Whom Gods Destroy not at all. Numerous letter campaigns didn't persuade them to change their mind over these episodes. Early in 1977 Gene Roddenberry, Majel and their three year old son, Rod were staying in Britain. Gene was filming Spectre, a TV movie and pilot for a series, at Elstree film studios. I received a phone call from him on 1st February inviting 50 fans down to visit him at Elstree. As I only had nine days to arrange things it was a bit hectic but on Thursday 10th, 52 Star Trek fans from throughout British ST fandom arrived at Elstree. He were met by Jean Garioch of PR and taken to the Executive Dining Suite where we were treated to a lovely buffet lunch. After we finished Ms. Garioch introduced us to Gene and Majel. Everyone was given a present by Majel; earrings, ring or pin with a command insignia or an IDIC ring. We were then taken on a tour of the sets and saw a scene being rehearsed. After this we went to a 150 seat theatre; Gene and Majel sat on the edge of the stage and Gene started by telling us the story of Spectre and then ended up with a question and answer session. We could have stayed there all day but unfortunately our time ran out and Gene and Majel had to leave. Ms. Garioch then took us for a tour of Elstree, ending up at the canteen for a cup of tea. It really was a great day and I'm sure everyone who went had a fantastic time. The following afternoon Beth, Sheila and I were invited back to Elstree for the wrap party and ended up spending the evening drinking with Gene and Majel and various members of the film crew in the pub on the studio lot. Sylvia Billings joined the STAG committee as membership secretary in October 1977. She and Chris Jones had been helping with typing labels for a while, for which we were very grateful. Around this time a new Star Trek series was in pre-production but it was to be without Spock. In the December 1977 newsletter we had to answer queries we had received from members as to whether we would cover the new series etc. This series was cancelled when Paramount decided to go ahead with a movie but it is interesting how the situation has repeated itself with TNG. On 28th March 1978 we received a telegram from Gene announcing that all the cast would be returning for Star Trek: The Motion Picture….

True to his word Gene and Susan Sackett kept us informed on the progress of the movie and I think we all felt close to it as production progressed. They didn't give the story away but it was still a far cry from the secrecy surrounding the ST movies these days. Valerie Piacentini joined the STAG committee in October 1978, She had been helping us for quite a long time and we decided it was time she received official recognition. Since the second ST Con in 1976 the Conventions had been run by various groups but the majority had been run by Dot Owens of Empathy. STAG joined with Empathy to organise the STAG/Empathy Midi-Con which was held at the Dragonara Hotel, Leeds on the 31st March/lst April 1979. Anne McCaffrey was the guest of honour and Susan Sackett sent a half-hour tape where she answered questions about ST:TMP. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released in the States on 7th December 1979 and the British premier was at the Empire Theatre, Leicester Square, on the 15th. A group of STAG members went down to see the morning performance and then adjourned to a pub for the af ternoon for a celebration. We then went back to the charity perfor mance in the evening. Reactions to the film were mixed but I think we all had a good day. Before ST:TMP, membership of STAG had risen to nearly 900; after the film was released it went up to over 1000. When we did the books for 1980 we found that the turnover for the club was nearly £13500 and we only just got in under the VAT level. We had been producing a lot of zines for STAG and decided we would have to reduce the number we put out the following year to bring the turnover down as registering for VAT was going to create too much work. This, coinciding with the fact that some members found our story policy for STAG zines too restrictive, made Sheila, Valerie and I decide to hand the editing of the club zines over to Sylvia and Beth and to branch out on our own, producing our own zines under the ScoTpress label. After having the experience of jointly running the STAG/Empathy Midi-Con we decided to have a go at running a main Con; STAG CON '81 was born. We decided to go back to the Dragonara Hotel in Leeds and Dot Owens carried out negotiations with the hotel on our behalf. The Convention was held on 11th/12th April 1981 and Susan Sackett and Rupert Evans were guests of honour.

Due to more Con attendees than we had budgeted for, and the fact that both Susan Sackett and Rupert Evans came for very little cost, the Con raised £1200 for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and we were able to sponsor a guide dog called Quanta. After STAG CON '81 was over, Sheila, .Valerie and I found that running the club for nearly six years was catching up with us and we were getting stale so we decided to resign at the end of September and hand the club over to Sylvia, letting her form her own committee. Beth had also decided to resign earlier that year. As Sylvia did not want to carry on with Log Entries as the club zine, preferring to start with a new title, and since Sheila had (jointly with Beth) financed the first issues of Log Entries and edited (or jointly edited) all 43 issues, we decided to take the title over to ScoTpress, renaming it Enterprise - Log Entries.

I really enjoyed my time running STAG even though it waa hard work. Between October 1975 and October 1981 we had produced 38 newsletters (14-49) and I felt we had been involved in a special part of Star Trek's history. The club will always be special to me.