20th Century

Sixties York

1963 handbill featuring the Beatles - York Castle Museum

1963 film by May Webb
Yorkshire Film Archive

1960AD - 1969AD

For young people in York the Sixties truly began in 1963.  That was the year The Beatles played The Rialto on Fishergate no fewer than four times.  Their first appearance was on February 27, supporting Helen Shapiro, who was ill and didn't perform.  The group are said to have penned their next single From Me To You on the tour bus journey from York to the next gig in Shrewsbury.

Three of the Beatles reappeared on the Rialto stage on March 13 – John Lennon had flu and had to drop out.  The full group played a third date on May 29.  On this tour the Beatles began by supporting Roy Orbison, but had become so popular they became the headliners by the close.  Their fourth and final appearance was on November 27.

Owner of the Rialto Jack Prendergast, and his successor after he sold it to the Mecca Group, Don McCallion, brought many other international stars to York, from Cilla Black to Gerry and the Pacemakers.  The new music was broadcast by illegal pirate radio stations, including Radio 270.  Its studio was a Dutch trawler moored off the coast of Scarborough.

York also had its home-grown music scene.  Venues like the Kavern Club in Micklegate, the Mandrake in Stonegate, and Neil Guppy’s Enterprise Club were among many hosting live music by young city bands.

Among the most well-known were Steve Cassidy and the Escorts, The Smoke and Angel Pavement.  The son of Jack Prendergast led the John Barry Seven. John went on to become an Oscar-winning film composer, scoring the James Bond films and Born Free.


  • The Sixties
    York Castle Museum has a gallery and website dedicated to The Sixties