The British Star Trek Convention (1974 & 1975 cons)

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Star Trek Convention
Name: The British Star Trek Convention
Dates: 1974, 1975
Frequency:
Location: England
Type: fan-run fan con
Focus: Star Trek: TOS
Organization:
Founder: STAG
Founding Date:
URL:
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The British Star Trek Convention was the first major con in a long-running series of cons. There were two, one in 1974 and one in 1975.

While these two cons were the first major British Star Trek cons, they were not the very first Star Trek cons. That con was the STAG Mini-Con, a gathering of fans in a church basement.

For a list of all these major cons, see The British Star Trek Conventions, the series.

cover of the 1974 program book
cover of the 1974 program book
an inside page from the 1974 con, with autographs, and a con badge

The Founders Recount the First Major Con

...from our American friends, we heard about a wonderful thing; something called a Convention, which took place in New York. A lot of the stars attended, along with several thousand Star Trek fans! It all sounded so exciting and oh how we ached to be part of it all! An idea began to form, Terry and I discussed it endlessly; a convention of our own! The first British Star Trek Convention. But how could we ever afford such an expensive venture, when there were still only 50-60 fans in Great Britain? There was only one thing to do; form an action group in order to save up for the required financing. We could produce newsletters and fanzines and promote the idea amongst the skeptical fans. The Star Trek Action Group was born! We bought a second-hand duplicator (which spat ink everywhere), cajoled everyone into writing articles and stories, and charged the princely sum of 50 pence membership fee. Not that it helped much. Our membership still hovered around 50 and £25 a year would hardly get us the Convention we'd planned for! To boost funds we organised a Mini-Con at our local church hall. I suppose that was the first real Convention. People came from the length and breadth of Britain, all for one day of slide shows, talks and friendship. Then came the big break-through! An article in our local paper prompted me to write to the letters page about Star Trek. Two weeks later the paper sent a reporter to our house and wrote an article about us, STAG and the hopes we had for a Convention. Four weeks later, the letters began to arrive; a few at first, then more, then a deluge! Unknown to us, that article had been syndicated to local newspapers all over the country and, believe it or not, Australia too! Star Trek fans from John-o-Groats to Lands-End (and Sydney to Melbourne), all of whom thought they were alone in their devotion, wrote of their delight at 'finding' fandom. In the end there were so many letters we had to draft in helpers to reply to them. At last, The Star Trek Action Group could do what it had set out to do. In 1974, we finally realised our dream with the first British Star Trek Convention. [1]
Another description:

The Star Trek Action Group was set up by Jenny and Terry Elson specifically to get support for a British Star Trek convention. The venue was the Abbey Motor Hotel, Leicester, and the convention charity was the World Worldlife Fund.

Although billed as a two-day event, many of the fans travelled up early on Friday for a one-day pre-convention minicon. Because the hotel was so small, the convention was fully booked before it opened. According to Rob Hansen’s history-in-progress THEN (Vol 4, Ch 2), a group of mainstream SF fans who travelled up to the event in the hope of meeting women were turned away at the door. Happily, others had booked ahead, and one, Malcolm Davies, liked the fandom so much he later married Trekkie Kate Solomon (or Katie Chafen, as she was then.)

George Takei and James Doohan were the guests. The Elsons had asked Paramount to send over the three “banned” Trek episodes for screening, but Paramount provided the blooper reel from the show instead. This was, of course, on film.

There was a single programme stream with screenings (including British telefantasy such as Gerry Anderson’s Doppelganger,) guest talks and autograph/photo sessions. There was also a sales room and an art room, both quite small.

Doohan and Takei were very accessible and affable, happily posing for pictures, playing darts and sharing a pint with fans in the bar. [2]

The Con in 1974

Took place in February?

Comments: 1974 Con

There is a con report by Jenny Elson in A Piece of the Action #15 and #20. In the second issue, Elson reports that it was a good, though relaxed, time. The hotel accountant and half his staff had been arrested for embezzlement and the new staff was sparse and had been on the job only three days. James Blish canceled days before for medical reasons. And Paramount wouldn't let them show three banned episodes. But... George Takei and James Doohan were there and delightful, both throwing themselves on the dance floor for "Shore Leave Disco" and that the blooper reel, shown for the first time in the UK, was a huge hit.

Well, it's all over now although it doesn't really seem possible! The committee would really like to thank you all for all the support you gave to us, especially at the convention. This was new to all of us, and we learned many things, which will be of great value to us next time. And, most important of all, we raised £250 for WORLD WILD LIFE FUNDS, which was the profit from the convention. Thank you all for the generosity and this magnificent achievement. At the last minute, Paramount England decided we couldn't have the banned episodes after all, despite the fact that they had said previously they would be available to us. However, we have since received a formal letter of apology from Paramount USA, after the visit of Mr Lou Mindling to the con, and we have been assured that we will have no such trouble next time, and that we will have their full co-operation. Hoorayl BBC did their usual! After making arrangements to come down complete with camaras, they then proceeded to change their plans no less than three times, so in the end, we told them what they could do with their cameras. It was not, after all, very courteous of them to treat either us or our guests in such an offhand way. However, Barney Banford of Radio 4 was very gracious, and he interwiewed both Jim and George, and included the interview on his radio programme, as did BBC Radio Leicester. So, fair's fair. BBC do have SOME redeeming features. It was a great shame that James Blish was sent urgently into hospital only days before the convention. We all wish him well. [3]

If you want to organise a particularly elaborate coffee morning or a local youth club dance, then get in touch with Mrs. Jenny Elsen [sic]. However, if you plan a convention I suggest you leave it to Rob Barrow and friends. Jenny did her best to stage a "do" she all-too-innocently called THE FIRST BRITISH STAR TREK CONVENTION which turned out to be uncomfortably remeniscent of a girls' school outing (no smoking, of course).

What happened to all the guys who like Star Trek? It all suddenly clicked into place. Sure fellas like ST but girls prefer the crew and with Jimmy Doonan's fan club present in its entirety, need I say more? I mean, how can you call it THE British Star Trek con when the only people who knew anything about it were members of STAG (Star Trek Action Group), STERB (that's right, you've got it - the east Radcliffe branch) and a couple of other clubs who boast membership of about fifty? Jenny's limit was 250 people and she didn't want to let anyone else know. Not quite the 85,000 of the L.A. con in the States last year [4].

Of course, I couldn't have afforded it anyway without my magic Press Card. Two weeks in Majorca or a weekend at the ST con? See Sulu and starve? (yawn). I jest not. Most people stayed at the hotel at a reduced rate so with that lumped on to the admission charge (£3.00) the minimum cost was about £8.00 per head - oh, and that's without fares or food. Still, with such dedication they were probably all hikers on diets.

[...]

The handout I received omitted to mention what time the con started so I'm afraid I blundered in a couple of hours late and apparantely missed a particularly unriveting lecture on UFOs. I was bundled straignt off to the everso-elite Committee Room where I sat and made lazy conversation with a grey-haired, bearded Canadian who smiled from ear to ear and told me how the weather had been and what it was likely to be next. I was totally absorbed when the door opened and a hesitant "Er...Jim... you're on soon. are you ready?" came wafting in. I cringed as I realised I'd been interviewing James Doohan (alias Scotty) about the weather - well, how was I to know he was going to grow a beard, am I psychic? He and George Takei (Sulu) had been flown over from the US of A specially for the occasion so that they could meet their British fans.

Both Doohan and Takei were eager to please and considerate, smiling patiently when faced with questions like "Do you get on with the Klingons off set?", "What are dilithium crystals made of?", "Where are the toilets on the Enterprise?" and a comment that the Star Trek scripts are just as important to literature as Shakespeare. Still, they both admitted with cheeky grins that they were used to all that as both they and the rest of the "crew" attended cons, fairly regularly.

[...]

Here I must admit that the only way I could get near George was to boldly go where 249 girls had gone before and drag his writhing body off the dance floor. A Saturday night disco had been arranged for which you nad to leave the bar, go outside and pay 60p to come in again (still, after the initial £8.00 I should think they had given up counting). George, who could be regarded as science fiction's answer to David Cassidy, was an overwhelming success among the Trekkies, but never think he's just a pretty face (what d'you mean, you never did?). He takes it all with calm assurance and approaches his massive popularity without the arrogance you might expect. Intelligent and shrewd, he had previously opened his talk with the comment "I feel conventions are opportunities for us to get to know each other" and from then on there were cries of "Sulu for Captain! Sulu for CaptainJ" Well, where could he go wrong?

[...]

The people at the con were generally knocking the animation production but when the time came they were all huddled up around the several TV sets provided. OK, Paramount, you've made your point. Now get back to the good stuff.

[...]

James Blish, author of the Star Trek books, was the third guest star but sadly couldn't make the engagement as he was in hospital at the time. From what I gathered, though, none of the Trekkies was too keen on his books anyway so perhaps it's just as well he didn't show up.

[...]

Apart from the disco, discussions with Takei and Doohan, the UFO talk, another lecture entitled 'Science Fiction or Science Fact' given by & man who was unfortunately suffering from verbal diorrhea and a speel about the World Wilflife Fund which was probably all right if you enjoy Anglia TV's 'Survival' series, there was also an exhibition of Trekky goodies. Some of these were really very good especially one or two of the models of the Enterprise. The best scripts, poems,paintings and so forth were awarded prizes (silver apples on black plastic or were they dilithium crystals?). A "shop" also sold Trekky bitties like posters, books, magazines and T-shirts but it was only open a couple of hours each day. Oh, and by the way, a tape by Bill Shatner which said, "Hi! This is Bill Shatner; hope all Star Trek's British fans have a great time at their S.T. con!" sold for £18!

[...]

Just as I was leaving with my mouth hanging open, I was hustled into donating towards Jenny's present. It's the first con I've been to where you have to pay to get out...

These last two things seemed to happily sum up the whole con. Sweet but very boring. The people there didn't really appear to be interested in science fiction at all, just a few good-looking actors. By the way, anyone ever thought of collecting for Rob Barrow? [5]
While I was surfing the Internet I came across the following piece of text, loosely written by Rob Hansen. I decided to edit this and send it in as it recalls STAG'S early trailblazing days. 'The UK's first Star Trek convention was held on the weekend of 28th/29th September 1974 at the Abbey Motor Hotel in Leicester. It was organised by the Star Trek Action Group (STAG), which had only been in existence a year and was already the largest Star Trek club in Europe. Guests of Honour were James (Scotty) Doohan and George (Sulu) Takei. Profits from the con were being donated to the World Wildlife Fund. Advertised attractions included exhibitions of artwork, writing, and models; group discussions, panels, and speeches; and a 'shore leave' party with a disco. A few people from mainstream SF fandom attended the con including Peter Roberts, Greg Pickersgill, and John Brosnan. Or, in the case of this trio, tried to, at any rate. They travelled up to Leicester by train, attempted to register at the door, and were turned away. The con was apparently fully booked and there was no registration at the door. Stunned, they travelled straight back to London, arriving in time for the pubs to open. Pickersgill wrote the incident up in a fanzine called 'EGG'. (However grim something might be, there's always a little voice at the back of a true fan's mind that says: "I can write a fanzine article about this."). Rob Hansen says that one of the trio's reasons for travelling to the con had been the possibility of meeting women, Star Trek fandom being known to attract far, more than were involved with other SF fandom. [6]
The first major convention in Britain was help in Leichester on the weekend of September 28/29 1974. It was organized by Jenny and Terry Elson, who back then, ran STAG; the guests were George Takei and James Doohan, who brought over the blooper reel (the bloopers weren't seen again in this country for several years). Jenny had hoped for the banned episodes, too, but Paramount didn't oblige. The charity was the World Wildlife Fund, and there was a speaker from it as well. We gathered at the Abbey Motor Hotel on the Friday evening. Most of us were strangers to each other... The con was preceded by a one-day minicon, but I discovered fandom just too late to register for it... The Abbey Motor Hotel wasn't the easiest of venues for a con, though it's curving corridors were mild amusing; they gave us the impression of being on the Enterprise. Except for the main hall, the function rooms were really too small for comfort, although there was only one programme in those days before videos. Jim and George were well received, we found both very interesting... The art display was poorly visited -- one of my duty spells was in the art room... The sales room was tiny; stewards guarded the doors and as one attendee left, another was allowed to go in. My memories of the sales room are not good; unfortunately, at that time nobody thought of how the stewards were to get anything -- we were on duty most of the time. The system of opening the sales room early for the stewards wasn't introduced until the third con.... there were colour photos from the episodes... black and white 8x10s... key rings, pens... There were few zines, but not many; some of the clubs had been on the go for a year or two... none of them had more than two or three zines, all quite short by today's standards. [7]
Meeting like minded friends on the train, we arrived at Leicester at 9.30, walked to the hotel, registered, dumped our bags in our rooms and ran to get into the opening ceremony to see George and Jim. Jim's got a beard! Lots of cheers and applause, autographs signed and photos taken. More talks, a break for coffee and time to make a host of new friends. Listened to Jim's long chat, watched some tapes and slides then returned to our rooms to unpack, pop Wimpy and change ready for the Fancy Dress. After a talk on UFOs and a short break came the disco. Terrific costumes. George and Jim dancing with us!!! Sunday, super breakfast in our room then down to the hall. Got dragged away to the stalls of goodies. Formed a raiding party: undreamed of delights from the USA. Met George and Jim and had my photo taken with them. Wow... George's laugh!!! The blooper reel was on next. Terrific! Sat through it 3 times (addict). A film on birds (non galactic) followed; the funds from this con are going to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the World Wildlife Fund. Retired in groups to friends rooms and brewed up and Trekkety Yakkety YakYak. Down to the quiz and panel game with Jim and George. Then the auction; very good prices paid for the tempting Trekanalia offered including such delights as packets of assorted film clips, colour photos of our heroes, scripts of episodes and one or two fan mags. News and rumours of a movie to be made!!! Then sadly, the closing ceremony. Boo Hoo!!! and finally staggered home on top of the world. Dragged myself away According to the Daily Express on the 30th September, 300 fans attended. Just think, 300 friends all together, in 1974!!! [8]
"I really enjoyed it. It did me the world of good. I was dancing around all the following week. I loved Jim and George, they were super guys and such good sports to mix with us at the disco. I bet there's a few so called "stars" who'd think themselves above that. (Must preserve the air of mystery, darling.) George was just as I expected; a real character, and Jim has the most devilish pair of eyes I ever saw; Gorgeous pair of fellers. I only hope we gave them something in return for all the pleasure they gave us, and I hope they enjoyed their first British Star Trek con as much as I did. Here's to the next one! One of the things which made the con so nice was that there wasn't too many people there, I felt I really knew everyone and that they were all my friends, or soon would be. From the reports of some of the USA cons they are so big that it's a miracle they don't all get trampled. [9]
What a memorable weekend! I still haven't come down to earth yet, I'm not a fan of Star Trek anymore, I'm a slave! [10]
What a fantastic weekend. Jim and George lived up to all my expectations, they are great. I'll never be able to listen to "Kung Fu Fighter" again without seeing in my minds eye George doing his "thing" at the disco! Felt rather a lemon when I first saw Jim. I was dashing up the stairs, and like the gentleman he is, allowed me to go first... it was only then I realised who he was. I didn't know what to do! And the Blooper reel was the funniest thing! Even now I think of parts and get peculiar looks from people at the bus stop! [11]
I have just had a lovely weekend at the con. Better than going to the South of France. (Ha.) [12]
The best parts of the con for me were:

Arriving at the reception desk of the hotel and being greeted with that lovely smile and a kiss from George
Looking into Jim Doohan's beautiful eyes for the first time...
Meeting all those fantastic fellow trekkies....
Talking SF films in the bar with a new friend....
Coffee drinking until 2 am with Barbie, Fran and Sheila...
Finding a fantastic pic from "City" on the WSB stall...
Racing down the hotel corridors like a lunatic to Sheila's room to see the animations...
Winning my Nova award...
Dancing non stop until they stopped the music, and hearing Jim tell me he liked my dress! (Someone pinch me, I'm dreaming.)....
Laughing myself silly at the bloopers....
Seeing PS's delight when she got the tape of Bill Shatner...

Looking foward to the new Star Trek film, and the next British con.[13]
How much I enjoyed the convention! And please say Hallo to George and Jim, and thank them for coming. Here's hoping they survived the trip. Special thanks to Jim for his technical explanations... That's another thing I like about Star Trek, no-one tries to fob you off with meaningless rubbish and contradictory double talk. And Jim and the other actors are dedicated enough to work out sensible answers to the technical questions put to them. It also proves they are people, (and very intelligent at that) and not just cutouts mouthing someone else's words. I really enjoyed the con, especially the Bloopers. I often wondered what the clip of Greg Morris shovelling coal into the Enterprises engines looked like. The really funny bit was the incident of Kirk and the arrow. Not many actors would risk that sort of self derision... et another insight to the one big happy family that was, and still is, Star Trek.[14]
Although it (the con) seems light years away now, it really was a super experience, and I did enjoy it all so much. Just two critisisms, tho' they're not very serious, I think that at the opening meeting you should have told everyone why the banned episodes were not available, and that James Blish could not be present because of being hospitalised. Maybe we could have sent good wishes from us all... And why didn't the BBC give any help, as they had seemingly promised to do when the project was first born?... Jim and George were all you said they'd be. Really, truly SUPER guys... and I did get my kisses from them; twice from George! What a dear he is! So natural and friendly and bouncy! I'll never forget my amazement at the amount of movement he put into his dancing, and not even my surprise at finding myself "Coming in fighting" or whatever you call the Kung Fu with him. At my age, I should have known better, but it was great fun.[15]
I really loved the convention, and I thought Jim and George were really great. I even joined Jim's fan club in the club room. And as for the Bloopers, SUPER! I thought they were so funny. Even after we watched them for the fourth time I could have sat watching them all day and still got a laugh out of them. Good old Gene, it was nice of him sending the Bloopers for us to see. I even won one of the raffles. I've never had such a good time Star Trek wise, so please, will there be another con soon? One of the things I liked was that all profits went to the World Wild Life Fund, I think it was a good idea doing that, because I love animals and I liked watching the wild life film that was shown. I thought that Jim and George were very nice people. I'm not just saying that because they were on Star Trek and all that, I really mean it. They talked to us with feeling, and when they signed their autographs, they always asked us for our names. They seemed to like talking to us and I felt that they were very good friends. Most of all, they treated us as people on a level with themselves, if you know what I mean. They were not at all bigheaded like some actors and singers sometimes are. The con was gggrrreeeaaattt! Does Star Trek live in GB? You bet your cotton socks it does![16]

The Con in 1975

program convention from 1975

Comments: 1975 Con

The second con was almost exactly a year later, on the weekend of 20/21, September 1975; once again it was in Leicester, run by Jenny and Terry, but this time it was held at the Leicester Centre Hotel, a far more spacious hotel. Jenny and Terry tried to get George again, as well as Walter Koenig, as guests, but George had to cancel at fairly short notice, and Walter dropped out at the last minute for personal reasons; however Jim Doohan stepped in at very short notice and came over... 'The Empath' was shown at that con; an American fan brought a copy over. It was the one banned episode that I'd really been desperate to see; it had been advertised in Radio Times, but then 'Paradise Syndrome' was shown instead, without explanation... Helen McCarthy put on an Intergalactic Fashion Show. [18]
While we were vacationing in England, we did find time to take an afternoon off, and take the train up to Leicester for the Second British ST Con. Although this was my first convention, I would say it reminded me of how I would picture a small American con. (The attendance was around 500). We arrived around 4:30 in the afternoon on Sunday, and I wandered around until I found Jenny Elson. After she had finished calling George Takei (to tell him they were sorry he could not attend), she found someone to show me around. First, I met Jimmy Doohan... and got his autograph, and then my guide showed me around the display/sales. This was filled with photographs and drawings, and the best displays were some models of ST props... [a fan] took me down and we watched the film Baffled. I thought the fans acted a little strange -- they would laugh and giggle any time Leonard Nimoy smiled or said something vaguely reminiscent of ST. After the film, they set up for the club quiz finals, and the results were Hosato winning over Beyond Antares by 21 to 20. Then came the closing ceremony, with Jimmy handing out awards, and the committee making their closing remarks. All is all, it was an enjoyable afternoon, and I think the con committee did their best to make the convention a success. [19]
Looking for a particular [highlight] is almost impossible. Meeting the guest stars qualifies,, especially when you are likely to meet them in the lift, or the hotel foyer, as well as seeing them on the platform in the Rutland Room. This year's guests were Jim and Wende Doohan, end it was lovely 'to meet them. We are grateful to them for coming so far to be with us. One disappointment of this year's convention was that George Takei and Welter Koenig were unable to come. We missed them, but hope that they will come some other time. The JDIFC meeting was a friendly and informal hour with Jim and Wende, which certainly ranks among the highlights, especially as Wende very kindly helped with my cassette recording. Jim says she is handy with mending their T.V. set, too. A selection of films was shown. The Star Trek episode was my personal favourite, with "Baffled" a close second. I would like to have seen them both through again. (There are two more I'd like
to see as well, guess which?) [20] The Galactic Fashion Show was outstanding, teeming with 
ideas and imagination, and beautifully carried out. As a direct 
result of this, Joe glittered silver all evening. He congratulated Barbie on her costume, and, in spite of her warnings, gave 
her an enthusiastic hug! Hence the silver. Did someone say
 "Highlights"? There was more space in the club and display rooms, and people could move around in greater comfort then last year. There was also plenty of seating in the hotel foyer, which was encouraging. For when Star Trekkers get together they talk at length, and sufficient seating is appreciated. In fact, natter sessions are an established feature of cons and mini-cons, and through their medium, many a friendship has been made, many a pen-friend met and many a story told (not necessarily a Star Trek story, either). There were lots of things; the quiz, the auction, the disco and that excellent display of karate, the fancy dress parade, films, exhibitions, stalls, as well as the talk/question sessions with Jim amd Wende on the platform, the photograph and autograph session, and finally the presentation of awards by Jim. They all contribute towards the best weekend of the year. The two conventions we have had in Britain heve been the highlights of 1974 snd 1975 for some of us, and many thanks to Jenny Elson for being the driving force and making them possible. We wish her all the best and hope to see her again at the next con, whenever and where-ever it may be, although she has now decided to retire from the organising scene. May she live long and prosper greatly." [21]

References

  1. from Jenny and Terry Elson in Star Trek Action Group #100
  2. UK Fanarchive's summary, 1974: First British Star Trek Convention, the original link includes a photo of Takei and Doohan
  3. Jenny Elson, from Star Trek Action Group #10
  4. a reference to Equicon, but the author greatly exaggerated the number of attendees
  5. comments from a much longer report by Hellie Vintner, from a amateur publication called "Star Trek Lives?" (date unknown)
  6. from STAG #138, the fan notes that: " text copies of the related info may be obtained by anonymous ftp at -ftp.dcs.gla.ac.uk/pub/SF-Archives/Then"
  7. from IDIC #2
  8. from Star Trek Action Group #101
  9. from Star Trek Action Group #10
  10. from Star Trek Action Group #10
  11. from Star Trek Action Group #10
  12. from Star Trek Action Group #10
  13. from Star Trek Action Group #10
  14. from Star Trek Action Group #10
  15. from Star Trek Action Group #10
  16. from Star Trek Action Group #10
  17. [http://www.scifiinc.net/scifiinc/gallery/bio/White,_Alan.htm Fan Gallery
  18. from IDIC #2
  19. an American recounts his visit to this con, from The Halkan Council #13
  20. she is referring to the three episodes that were banned in the UK
  21. from STAG #14