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A visit to 6:5 Special

Back in the early 50s, I was a volunteer youth leader in a large'ish Youth Centre in Surrey. The professional youth worker managed to get tickets for one of the most popular TV shows aimed at young people at that time; the pop show ‘6:5 Special’. It was my function to take charge of a coach load of teenagers between the age of 15 and 18 years to the BBC Lime Grove Studios to take part in the show.

We were amazed at the size of the T V cameras used in those days, they were huge! They lumbered silently around the floor looming up on the various artists as they did their stuff.

And what artists! The show that we saw rehearsed and then televised included Spike Milligan, Charlie Drake, Humphrey Lyttelton and the imported star from America for that week, Mel Torme. Spike Milligan was well established at this time, but I think that Charlie Drake was right at the beginning of his national TV success. The youngsters jived and danced in front of the cameras to music introduced by Pete Murray and Josephine Douglas. Although there were precious few moments when the rehearsals paused, when they did, the stars were very approachable and were very patient with the young people. One of the youngsters said that after they had heard the jokes and seen the comedy several times in rehearsals, it would be difficult to laugh at the same jokes when it came to transmission time. He need not have worried. Most of the comedians kept back part of their routine for the live show and that freshened it up.

We all felt that special tingle when we went ‘live’ to the sound of Don Lang singing the title song. And, even though we had been through a late morning and a full afternoon of dancing rehearsals, we still were able to give a creditable performance for the show.

At that time I had no idea that, much later in my life, I would actually be working with Alan Thompson, albeit in a very minor role, at BBC Wiltshire Sound. Initially I acted as a feeder of news items about young people, but in the early 90s, I found myself as producer and co-presenter of a radio programme, called ‘Breakout’, aimed specifically at the young adult age group. My partner in presenting the show was a very young Mark Franklin, and he went on from our radio show to present ‘Top of the Pops’ on BBC TV.

Rob Catt.

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