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Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

The break out of violence by Teddy Boys across the country in the mid-fifties led to calls by the media for the Church to involve itself. Their response was to set up youth clubs in order to dilute it or remove violence entirely. Run by clergy the media would later dub 'trendy vicars' the clubs came in for equal praise and criticism and were even the subject of the 1958 movie Serious Charge.

In early 1958 ABC Television were in talks with social worker and religious adviser Penry Jones to devise a programme that looked at youth problems from a Christian perspective. Two pilot shows were produced and shown to clergymen, who were enthusiastic. An early version of the show, Facing Tomorrow, was to be broadcast by ABC on Sunday 16th February, featuring an interview with Frankie Vaughan, while the set design was meant to recreate a youth club. But the show was awaiting approval from the Central Religious Advisory Committee, who had approval on religious programming from both the BBC and ITV. It was not shown, but a re-vamp was commissioned.

A youth club setting was constructed within a television studio and Sunday Break was launched on the evening of 16th March 1958. The same evening ATV showed an edition of About Religion, which had a Christ figure (played by an anonymous actor), dressed in jeans and a sweat shirt being crucified.

The purpose of the show was to engage young people in discussion about the problems that they face and why they feel that some take to violence and destruction as a way out and if Christian teaching could help. Everything from youth church attendance to pre-marital sex were dealt with, all on a Sunday evening. The Rev Marcus Morris and TV personality Sheila Buxton presented the programme, with Alex Welsh & His Band as the resident group, while other jazz groups would appear later on.

ITV must have had high hopes for the show, giving it the much coveted TV Times cover for the first show, calling it "A Sunday club for teenagers.” Penry Jones claiming "Young people are no less religious than their grandparents. They are not religious in a churchgoing way, but they have faith and are interested in asking vital questions about life and its meaning.” Thirty youth club "members" were present on each show, brought in from around the country. By late 1959 the show attracted a viewing audience of about three and a half million per week.

From the TV Times "The club's music by The Alex Welsh Band and young people from England, Scotland and Wales: a window on their world, and their approach to religion and living.”

Alex Welsh was replaced by The Dill Jones Trio in 1959 and the show moved out of the studio in July 1960 following a another re-boot and the youth club was no more, while music acts were dropped altogether in late 1962. Ronnie Hilton was hired as the resident singer in July 1960, while the Sunday Breaker Songsters joined him, along with a new host James Roose Evans. Joe McGrath directed the show in 1962, a few years before he would move onto working with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, while future film director Mike Hodges also worked on the show as programme editor towards the end of its run.

On 26th March 1961 they broadcast A Man Dies, a folk music interpretation of the crucifixion featuring young people from a Bristol Presbyterian church youth club.

During the show’s history the stars popping their heads around the door included Paul Anka, Brenda Lee, Marty Wilde and Mark Wynter, but the soundtrack was mostly trad jazz.



16th March 1958 - 28th August 1965