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London Calendar

When and Where?

The "First Thursday" open sf/fan pub meetings in London, a continuing tradition since 1946, normally take place on the First Thursday evening of each month. Exceptions are noted below. Meetings run from around 5-6pm when people begin to arrive, and continue until closing time at 11pm. The gathering is entirely informal, and all are welcome. There is no admission fee or membership requirement.

Since April 2016 the regular venue has been The Bishop's Finger, 9-10 West Smithfield, London, EC1A 9JR. The meeting currently takes place in the upstairs room; unfortunately there is no lift. Roger Robinson "owns" the meeting as far as the pub is concerned, and regularly books the bar for First Thursdays. From April 2020 to Summer 2021 the meeting was impractical as an "all welcome" gathering owing to COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions on how many people could occupy "our" bar. Physical meetings resumed in September 2021, and the pub is currently booked to the end of 2024.

The replacement Virtual London Meeting organized by Alison Scott occupied the first-Thursday slot from April 2020, and from September 2021 became an additional meeting on the third Thursday of the month.

What Are the Rules?

The First Thursday 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 may be present from 5pm or even earlier.

Many London pubs have hosted these gatherings: see London Circle/First Thursday History below. Although no one now uses the old name "London Circle" for the meeting, a few long-time attendees like to call it the Tun in memory of the 1974-1987 venue the One Tun and its successor The Wellington (1987-1992; 1993-1997), which in a slightly tiresome attempt at continuity some fans called the 'Ton. Just so, and equally bafflingly for newcomers, certain diehards in the One Tun era liked to call it the Globe or even the White Horse.

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. (Although the First Thursday meetings are plugged in BSFA communications and the BSFA meeting is listed on this London events page, there is no formal link between BSFA and First Thursday events – just a partial overlap in attendance.) Some other regular events appear below.

Extra Meetings

Here are some traditional exceptions (and non-exceptions) to the First Thursday schedule. The default venue is always the current First Thursday pub as detailed above.

Christmas Extra Meeting – a second gathering each December, currently held on the third Thursday of December. For 2024, the booked date is thus Thursday 19 December.

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. Or perhaps unusually crowded when Eastercon is nearby in one of the Heathrow hotels.

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 that year's London Worldcon.

Fallback Venue

Should The Bishop's Finger be closed or otherwise unavailable, the meeting moves to whatever nearby pub can accommodate it. 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.

Other London Meetings

Regular/Annual Events in London

British SF Association (BSFA) Open Meetings normally take place on the fourth Wednesday of the month (but occasionally switch to other Wednesdays, so always check first). By tradition, there is no December meeting owing to the closeness of Christmas. 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 published – when announcement timing permits, which it rarely does these days – in the relevant month's issue of Ansible.

Since May 2019 the BSFA meetings have been held at the Central Station Public House, 37 Wharfdale Road, King’s Cross, N1 9SD (pub details here).

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 very short notice). All are welcome. These meetings generally run from 6pm, with an official 7:30pm start time. Locations vary. See the BFS Events page.

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.

City Illiterates meetings are held on most Fridays – though not on the day after the First Thursday meeting or during Eastercon, Novacon etc. – in the Yorkshire Grey, 46 Langham St, Fitzrovia, W1W 7AX. Fairly equidistant from Goodge Street, Oxford Circus and Great Portland Street. Usually there are people there from around 18.00 to around 19.30 ... normally upstairs at the back. All welcome, but note that it's a very small and informal gathering, much less obvious than the First Thursday crowd.

Filk Meetings, which seem to be irregular, are documented at Rafe Culpin's website:

London Fortean Society meetings – see link.

London Science Fiction Research Community activities include a reading group on the first Monday of the month (except bank holidays, when "it tends to be pushed back a week"), 7pm-8:30pm, followed by drinks at a convenient pub. For specific details see the Facebook page linked above, or Twitter.

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.

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. The London venue was The Monarch Bar, 40-42 Chalk Farm Road, Camden, London, NW1 8BG, but according to the website this has closed and a new meeting place is being sought. Non-sceptics are welcome; there is a small admission fee. The Skeptic website events page also lists similar meetings in other cities.

Super Relaxed Fantasy Club – see link. Informal gathering with author readings and Q&A sessions.

ZZ9 (Hitchhiker's Guide) traditionally has London pub meetings on the third Wednesday of the month. See the events diary.

History of London Circle/First Thursday SF Meetings

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