THE 'swinging sixties' had not quite reached Craven 50 years ago. A letter written to the then MP Burnaby Drayson by one disgruntled young man sparked off a debate about just what Skipton had to offer its teenagers - and whether the town was suited to the 'glass and concrete entertainment centres' of provincial cities. Lesley Tate reports.

COOL Hand Luke staring the impossibly good looking Paul Newman was released at the cinema 50 years ago, and on the airwaves, it was The Beatles, The Bee Gees and The Monkees, with their 60s anthem, I'm a Believer. 1967 was quite something - in fact in terms of film, the year, which also included the release of The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, and not forgetting Michael Caine playing the spy, Harry Palmer in Billion Dollar Brain, is considered one of the most ground -breaking in cinema history.

Meanwhile, in Craven, the apparent boredom of the district's young people and whether there was nowt - or plenty - for them to do, the topic of much debate.

In October, 1967 a young dissatisfied youth wrote a letter to the then Skipton MP Burnaby Drayson claiming to speak for the majority of teenagers in that there was nothing for young people to do, and what was Mr Drayson going to do about it.

The Conservative MP, who remained in Parliament from 1945 to 1979, passed the letter on the Craven Herald, whose editor at the time came up with the idea of asking the paper's young reporters for their views - all four of them. For several weeks later, the paper received letters from many more dissatisfied teenagers, and also from bright young things, keen to point out there was in fact plenty to keep them occupied in Craven. Even the then Archdeacon of Craven, the Venerable Arthur Sephton put his oar in - suggesting young people get involved with the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

The young women and men reporters, busily learning their craft at the Craven Herald, readily put forward their views on a matter described by the paper as 'one of the big social problems of our times', adding that it hoped the article would develop into a forum on the 'problems of modern youth'.

Chris Charlesworth, pictured in the type of thick rimmed glasses worn by Michael Caine, said he and many others he had spoken to, believed there was a lack of entertainment for the younger generation. There were numerous healthy or mind absorbing pursuits, he acknowledged, but added: "Let's be honest, who wants to spend a Saturday night with a shapely blonde at a judo or car maintenance class?" He and almost every young man of his acquaintance would prefer a modern dance, and he pointed to Ilkley with its 'popular discotheque and hotels with dance halls. Even Keighley had a disco, while West Craveners could attend a Sunday dance in Thornton, and in Threshfield there were regular events at the Upper Wharfedale Rugby Club. Chris said he was lucky to have a car and could drive to places at weekends, but pitied those without.

Rob Hall asked just what was it that teenagers wanted, or expected. Half the fault lay in them being conditioned to expect everything to be done for them, he said. But, with a little effort and a small outlay, there were numerous clubs and organisations just waiting to be joined. Night schools offered everything from photography to dressmaking, dramatic and operatic classes, and then there was the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. And, what about all the sporting organisations, rugby and football, cricket, tennis, golf and swimming. Perhaps the young man, who claimed to speak for the majority, should consider voluntary work, added Rob. Rob approached one 17 year old in the street, who agreed there was nothing to do in the town, and that he was forced to go to Keighley. In Skipton, the 'Feds' - the then name for the police - would get you for under age drinking, he told the reporter.

Rob was not impressed, was there not more to one's social life than dancing, he asked. And what about the countryside of Craven? Skipton itself was a historic market town hardly suited to the 'harsh concrete and glass buildings' necessary for 'entertainment centres'.

FS (Fred) Manby said Skipton was 'hardly a swinging city' which was one thing in its favour, yet the youth of today seemed to have less drive and imagination than their ancestors, so needed entertainment offered to them on a plate. He asked, did the complainer really want a bowling alley, ice rink and numerous dance halls in a market town with just 13,000 people. Should such an historic place as Skipton be invaded by the glitter and glass of amusement centres to be found in neighbouring provincial cities? Fred deplored the prospect of more visitors to Skipton, which on Sundays already attracted enough trippers content to 'park their cars and watch others passing by'. More 'artificial entertainment' he said would mean groups of drunken youths from out of town. Fred said he had spent his early years growing up in Draughton, where he had learnt to amuse himself and had taken advantage of the treasures of the countryside.

Marcia Williams, putting forward a 'feminine view' asked just where did one go for a night out, assuming you could neither drink or drive. Worthwhile pursuits, such as hiking and potholing were in easy reach of Skipton, did not exactly fit the bill for a Saturday night out. Then there were the elderly teenagers, those of around 21 years old, who also looked forward to the occasional night out. Marcia, who came from Barnoldswick, said Skipton did have two cinemas and a dance hall. She was not suggesting for one minute Skipton should try to emulate the Swinging City of London, but wondered if there was room at least for one private initiative.

In the following week, the paper received several letters in response to its article. A Brian Bellas, from Embsay, said the majority of young people born in the post war years had not known hardship. Their instinctive senses had been dulled by their parents and they had come to expect things to be done for them. It was not a case there was nothing for them to do, but that what there was did not satisfy them. An organiser of regular dances in the town offered up four complimentary tickets for the paper's reporters, while another suggested the formation of a club for 18 to 24 year olds, similar to the Round Table.

Meanwhile, 24 year old Tony Bigland, from Hanlith, together with three friends, had bought a mobile disco, comprising a double record player, switch panel and three large speakers for £200. Calling themselves the Recorded Party People, they were prepared to travel anywhere in the North East to play at parties or any other function, for just £15 a night.