Ansible logo on London SF Meetings

On the Move Again

The Inn of Court is no longer accepting bookings for fandom's exclusive First Thursday use of the cellar bar. The plan is to move to the somewhat smaller room at The Bishop's Finger, 9-10 West Smithfield, London, EC1A 9JR, used for the 2015 Christmas meeting. This move was initially announced for March 2016, but owing to a double booking the new venue isn't available. Thus the 3 March gathering will again be in The Inn of Court without exclusive use of the downstairs bar (this worked well enough in February). Meetings from 7 April onward will be at The Bishop's Finger.

When and Where?

The "London Group", "London Circle" or just "First Thursday" open sf/fan pub meetings in London, a continuing tradition since 1946, take place on the First Thursday evening of each month. Exceptions are noted below. Meetings run from 4pm or 5pm when people begin to arrive, and continue until closing time at 11pm or later. All are welcome.

Since January 2006 the regular venue is the cellar bar of The Inn of Court pub, which opens at 6pm; early birds can use the ground-floor bar before then. This pub's name changed from The Melton Mowbray in mid-2015. Location: 18 Holborn, not far from Chancery Lane tube station.

    London Calendar
  • Until 17 April 2016 • Alice in Wonderland (exhibition), British Library
  • 17 February 2016 • ZZ9
  • 24 February 2016 • BSFA
  • 26 February 2016 • Alice’s Adventures in Comics-Land (panel), British Library
  • 3 March 2016 • First Thursday [still at old venue: see left]
  • 11 March 2016 • BFS
  • 16 March 2016 • ZZ9
  • 23 March 2016 • BSFA
  • 7 April 2016 • First Thursday [new venue: see left]
  • 20 April 2016 • ZZ9
  • 27 April 2016 • BSFA
  • 5 May 2016 • First Thursday
  • 18 May 2016 • ZZ9
  • 2 June 2016 • First Thursday
  • 15 June 2016 • ZZ9

More about the Pub

The Inn of Court is on Holborn, not far from Chancery Lane tube station. Address: 18 Holborn, London, EC1N 2LE; phone 020 7405 7077. Paul Treadaway says: "The cellar bar will fit 100 people. It's a Fullers 'Pie and Ale House', so the beer is all Fullers [...] and the food menu funnily enough has several different kinds of pie, along with various non-pie options. Food is served until 8pm, so arrive before then if you want to eat." Warning: the cellar bar and its entrance are easy to miss if you're new to the pub.

To get there by London Underground: Take the Central Line to Chancery Lane Station, leave the station using Exit 3: High Holborn (South Side) and continue east along the south side of Holborn for about 100 yards until you find the Melton Mowbray on your right.

Exceptions to the First-Thursday schedule

Roger Robinson is the "owner" of the meeting as far as the current pub is concerned, and regularly books the cellar bar for First Thursdays.

Christmas Meeting – a second gathering each December, traditionally on the Thursday before Christmas Eve but sometimes a week earlier for greater general convenience. Someone needs to inform the pub well in advance. For 2014, the date was 18 December, the usual pub venue was unavailable and the meeting was held in The One Tun. For 2015, the date is 17 December; venue uncertain since the pub management prefers a paid Christmas party booking (if it can get one) to a group of sf fans who merely drink a lot.

New Year – if 1 January (the UK New Year's bank holiday, with the country in shutdown mode) should be a Thursday, the January meeting is traditionally displaced to 8 January. This last happened in 2015 and will happen again in 2026.

Maundy Thursday – the London meeting takes place as usual but is likely to be somewhat depleted if the annual UK Easter SF Convention (Eastercon) is far from London.

Extra Meetings may be declared at more or less any time by anyone who can persuade enough people to turn up – to meet some sf celebrity passing briefly through London, for example. It would be wise to check with the pub in advance. The most recent such meeting was on Thursday 21 August 2014 for the benefit of overseas visitors to the London Worldcon.

Fallback Venue

Should The Inn of Court be closed or otherwise unavailable, the meeting moves to whatever nearby pub can accommodate us. The Sir Christopher Hatton, used for the Christmas 2005 meeting when it was The Goose, is one possibility. Another is The Castle at 34-35 Cowcross Street, London, EC1M 6DB, used for the May and June 2015 meetings during refurbishment at The Melton Mowbray. Yet another is The Bishop's Finger, 9-10 West Smithfield, London, EC1A 9JR, used for the Christmas 2015 meeting.

What Are the Rules?

The meetings are open to all. Informality prevails. There are no talks or events, just a lot of people drinking and chattering. On first Thursdays, sf fans are present from 5pm or even earlier. If nervous, look for reprobates fingering proofs of British SF Association publications or handing out sinister sheets of paper – convention flyers or fanzines.

If you prefer more structured events, centred on a talk, panel or interview, try the monthly BSFA meetings held on the fourth Wednesday of each month except for December.

Other London Meetings

Regular/Annual Events in London

British SF Association (BSFA) Open Meetings traditionally take place on the fourth Wednesday of the month (but quite often switch to other Wednesdays, so always check first). Traditionally there is no December meeting. Meetings nominally begin at 7pm, with fans likely to be present from 5pm onward. Non-BSFA members are welcome; there is no admission fee. Speakers are announced on the BSFA site and/or the infrequently updated BSFA LiveJournal Page, and published – when announcement timing permits – in the current Ansible.

BSFA Venue. From August 2013 to November 2015, these meetings were at The Artillery Arms, 102 Bunhill Row, London, EC1Y 8ND: pub details here. In January 2016 there was a late change to the upstairs room of The Reliance, 336 Old Street, London, EC1V 9DR: pub details here. This was not entirely satisfactory owing to noise from the downstairs bar and its juke-box; the same venue was booked for February but the meeting may well move again thereafter.

British Fantasy Society Open Meetings are held every few months – see their website for the latest information (and check frequently since announcements are often at short notice). All are welcome. These meetings run from 6pm (for an official 7:30pm start time). Locations vary. Recent choices include The Mug House under London Bridge and The Blacksmith and the Toffeemaker in St John Street.

The Broken Drummers (Discworld) – "We meet on the first Monday of each month at The Monkey Puzzle, 30 Southwick Street, Sussex Gardens, W2 1JQ. Nearest stations Paddington and Edgeware Road." Free to all; official start 7pm but some arrive earlier. These meetings are not listed in the calendar at top right of this page.

City Illiterates meetings are held every Friday – again, not public holidays etc; Good Friday is the obvious example – "in the Windmill Public House in Mill Street (just south of Oxford Circus, off Conduit Street which is off Regent Street) ... usually there are people there from around 18.00 to around 19.30 ... we're usually in the ground floor back room," writes Brian Ameringen. All welcome, but note that it's a very small and informal gathering, much less obvious than the first-Thursday crowd. These meetings are not listed in the calendar at top right of this page.

Filk Meetings, which seem to be irregular, are documented at Rafe Culpin's website: These meetings are not listed in the calendar at top right of this page.

London Fortean Society meetings – see link. These meetings are not listed in the calendar at top right of this page, except occasionally by special request or whim.

London Sci-Fi Pub Meet – I didn't hear of this one until 2011 (and its habitués had apparently never heard of the various older meetings), but it seems to have been going for a while as a Saturday afternoon/evening event, monthly at The Shakespeare's Head, Holborn. See title link for dates; unfortunately this now requires a Facebook login, excluding those who don't care to sign up there. These meetings are not listed in the calendar at top right of this page.

London Skeptics in the Pub: UK sceptical movement meetings (there is or was some overlap with sf fandom) are regularly held in London. Dates and times may vary: always check their website. As of July 2010 the current London venue is The Monarch Bar, 40-42 Chalk Farm Road, Camden, London, NW1 8BG. Non-sceptics are welcome; there is a small admission fee. The Skeptic website events page also lists similar meetings in other cities. • Pub details These meetings are not listed in the calendar at top right of this page.

ZZ9 (Hitchhiker's Guide) currently has London pub meetings on the third Wednesday of the month – pub details here, general events diary here.

History of London SF Meetings

Much of the older historical information above is taken from Rob Hansen's history of British fandom, Then.