Our History

– Est 1971 –

– 1971 to 1984 –

Formative Years

Keith Walker, Phil Spencer, David Sutton, Sandra Sutton and Rosemary Pardoe were founding members of the The British Weird Fantasy Society. The first BWFS publication, The Bulletin, launched in May 1971 under Keith’s editorship and then passed to Dave Sutton to continue. Dark Horizons and a Fanzine Newsletter soon added to the publications, both edited by Ro Pardoe.

1971 was also the year August Derleth died and Ramsey Campbell suggested that the BWFS should institute a memorial award to be given annually to the best literary work in the genre. An ambitious start for the Society with 34 members at the end of its first year. The August Derleth Award was administered by Ramsey Campbell and all nominated novels were listed in The Bulletin, allowing for a vote by the membership. This was first presented, along with the AGM, at the Easter Science Fiction convention. The AGM decided to drop “Weird”, the Society was renamed, and it was agreed that the President’s post should be an honorary one. Ken Bulmer was elected President.

1975’s notable event was Fantasycon I held at the Imperial hotel, Birmingham on Saturday 22nd February. The one day event was organised for forty one pre registered members. However, the room hired to cater for that was overflowing when around sixty members turned up!

1976 saw the first appearance of our “double headed dragon” logo to replace the earlier “sword wielding hobbit”.

1977… Added to the regular publications, the BFS now branched into publishing special booklets, beginning with a send up of John Norman’s Gor books: Bodoman of Sor by “Norma N Johns”, and William Hope Hodgson: A Centenary Tribute, edited by David Sutton.

So many other individuals supported the Society and membership numbers grew. The Publications and Fantasycon continued despite a few hiccups on the way!

– 1985 to 2016 –

The Middle Years

The Newsletter was being edited by Jo Fletcher and Steve Jones. After they stopped this was taken over by Pete Coleborn. 

1985 brought London Open nights, which still continue, and Fantasycon X with guests Robert Holdstock, Charles L Grant and Diana Wynne Jones. The Society’s longstanding President was Ramsey Campbell, and Mike and Di Wathen continued as co Vice Presidents.

The high point of the fantasy calendar in 1988 was undoubtedly the World Fantasy Convention, held in London and staged for the first time outside the USA (the WFC also included Fantasycon XIII). The chief guests were James Herbert, Michael Foreman, Diana Wynne Jones and Clive Barker

A number of Fantasycons were organised by Mike Chinn and Peter Coleborn who were also on the BFS Committee. By 1996, The Silver Jubilee, Jan Edwards was the Chair of the BFS.

Familiar names keep reoccurring as Editors, Fantasycon organisers and in the Committee. These include those already mentioned, but also Marie O’Regan, Paul Kane and Gary Couzens.

2013, brought the return of World Fantasy Convention, this time in Brighton. The guest list included Richard Matheson, Alan Lee, Brian Aldiss, Tessa Farmer and the Toastmaster was China Miéville.

Also in 2013, our longest standing President, Ramsey Campbell passed the torch to James Barclay. 

The move to digital publications in 2014 was a huge change for the Society, but allowed us to move with the times as well as reducing printing costs and introducing a cheaper Digital Membership option.

– 2017 to present –

The Now of the BFS

In 2017, The society registered with Companies House and so has begun a new chapter in the way our organisation is run so that we can share our love of fantasy and horror with anyone and everyone who wants to know. 

In 2019 James Barclay stepped down as President and Allen Ashley, who had been involved in the Society for a number of years, became President. It was all change for the Executive in 2021 as Juliet Mushens took on the role of President and Shona Kinsella became Chair. 

The BFS reached its Golden Anniversary in 2021, but pressure from the pandemic had meant the dates slipped away largely un-celebrated. However the new committee decided that it should not be ignored and put on some belated online events to mark the occasion. There are still plans to put together a Golden Jubilee publication. 

Fantasycon will have its 50th year in 2025 and the 50th Fantasycon is likely to be 2028 as 3 were missed over the years. 

Many thanks to articles by David Sutton, Pete Coleborn, Jan Edwards and others,  from which we were able to take this summary.

– Going Forward –

We have so many idea for the future of the Society, but we need your help.

Our members bring with them so many opportunities and we are keen to see everyone benefit from that. Bringing our members together is so important to us, whether that is in print, online or in person, with networking and social opportunities at the heart of who we are.

We are always looking for volunteers, to run regional events, contributors to The Journal (non fiction) and Horizons (fiction) and we love meeting you at events, especially Fantasycon. 

Please do get involved, this is your society and we want you to help us shape it. 

Become a BFS Volunteer

Go to our Volunteer page and see who we are looking for currently, and fill in our form to register as a volunteer!

We would love you to do a few things:

1. Join the Society if you are not already member.

2. Join/follow our social media to keep up to date with what we are up to.

3. Check our Volunteer page (linked above) and keep an eye on the bulletin and social media to see if you can help out. 

4. Come and meet us at an event such as  Fantasycon!

Join us!