The following brief post speaks of these seemingly disparate elements, and is the germ for a wider research project that is sadly beyond the scope of my current work/time/life/balance.
It stems from a long-held fatigue of a ‘London Swinging Sixties’ / ‘Underground London’ duopoly which runs the rule over much historical writing and documentary making (populist, academic or otherwise) about this period. It is inspired by my own PhD research which tries to suggest that independent film-making in Yorkshire has long roots, an excellent 2018 journal article by John Griffiths entitled ‘Rivalling the Metropolis cultural conflict and the regions c.1967-73‘, and the overriding sense that many years on, we still haven’t shaken off the cliches of Carnaby Street – 1968.
What was happening outside the bubble, and was anything going off in Yorkshire, man? It is a necessarily brief dip into the subject, and while general cultural histories of the North in the sixties concentrating on the mainstream explosion of Kitchen Sink actors, writers, films and musics are abundant, this post steps into a relatively uncharted ‘underground’ Yorkshire and starts with a look at a great educationalist.
Alternatives in Education and Theatre – Albert Hunt
It was in the nascent Polytechnic colleges were evidence of a Yorkshire counterculture is most evident. While I have written about the formation of the Sheffield Polytechnic HERE, in Bradford a different picture emerged. In 1965 the Bradford College of Art appointed Burnley-born, Oxford-educated lecturer Albert Hunt to run this department. His important, and subversive, contribution to the arts in Yorkshire deserves discussion.
Despite attempts at integrating the Dip. AD. program into Bradford, the college was not successful and so changed its ethos, becoming a dedicated college of art and technology based on on vocational training for students. Hunt was charged with teaching film within this context and revising the timetable structure along these new lines. His 1976 autobiographical tome, Hopes For Great Happenings, examines this period, proposing new possibilities for an alternative education approach. Freed of the constraints of the Dip. A.D., Hunt devised a teaching methodology that was radically different to many in the country, and one that was indicative of a late 60s spirit:
Faced with the unreal learning situation, a group of us decided to create alternative situations in which learning became part of a concrete, physical experience. So, we played children’s games… 
In his second year of teaching, Hunt first used collaborative theatre based on experience and improvisation to lead a series of student-led happenings that blurred the boundaries of education, and transcend the limited notion that the London schools were the sole place of ‘where it was at’ during 1960s. In Autumn 1967, he staged a huge theatrical event among students and a wave of visiting artists, with people from all the over the country coming together in memoriam of the Russian Revolution of 1917. The idea was to turn Bradford into St. Petersburg and try to recreate , ‘in the form of a dramatic game, some of the events in Russia’.  The happening went on for a period of eighteen hours, with processions, discotheques, poetry recitals, play workshops, exhibition boxing, and dancehall music located at various venues around the city. It called to attention that something unusual was happening at the Bradford College of Art. The city was now ‘crawling’ with visiting artists who integrated into the College and taught lessons. Future arts luminaries to arrive at Hunts’ behest included poet, Adrian Mitchell, Bomb Culture author Jeff Nuttall, surrealist writer Tony Earnshaw and avant-garde musician, Cornelius Cardew.
In the moving image, abstract film-maker John Lathan brought a piece to be projected and the College group made an associated soundtrack, while student Chris Vine developed a large film piece involving a pencil and ‘huge ruler’.  These descriptions speak to a multi-disciplinary group operating at the bleeding edge of arts and performance, located some 200 miles from London. There followed an intense period were Bradford College of Art can rightfully claim to have kept pace with the counter-cultural activities of the capital’s art schools. Writing in 1980, Catherine Itzin further reinforces this idea by describing the Revolution work as ‘the largest piece of street theatre produced in Britain in the sixties or seventies – an event which encapsulated the imaginative possibilities of political theatre and which set a precedent for the following decade’. 
Passport to Theatre and Screen
By 1968, the Complementary Studies led Theatre Project group which birthed these happenings was now formalised as the Bradford Art College Theatre Group, with members including Chris Vine, Jacqui Crone, Roger Simcox, and John Booth. The group gravitated away from performance art events and moved in the direction of using popular entertainment to make political statements via the traditional theatre space. The first piece created by this new group was a work entitled Destruction Of Dresden and was performed at the ICA in November 1969. For the next six years they evolved into a professional troupe, attached to the college, and received backing from the YAA, Gulbenkian and the ACGB leading a series of experiments and innovations in the form, touring across Britain and Europe.  In his historical analysis of Theatres of The Left, Ewan Macoll writes that ‘the development of theatre as an open space – provided an imaginative paradigm for the campus revolt of 1968 and the anti-authoritarian movements associated with it.’  Hunt’s new Bradford Theatre Group sits in alliance with that broad up swell in shifting cultural attitudes. The Bradford group, in particular, demonstrated the Brechtian philosophy of ‘cheerful and militant’ learning through education, and proved that ‘theatre can be popular without dispensing of wit, irony, intelligence and mind.’  These philosophies were extended by Hunt’s attempt to reverse the theatre’s customary deference to high culture, instead to be replaced by agit-prop ‘… an attempt to escape from art to anti-art, and theatre to anti-theatre’. 
The Bradford group sits in a 60s Yorkshire landscape populated with repertory and agit-prop theatre organisations formed in a similar mould. In Sheffield, the Repertory theatre promoted experimental productions, while in Halifax the I.O.U group established new modes of street performance with Yorkshire Arts Association backing, and in the Leeds suburb of Armley, Interplay produced immersive plays with children, hospitals, and community centres.
These places of theatre often had a direct connection to the moving image. On a basic level, the groups utilised newly accessible open-reel video equipment to film performances, and to document working process. However, Hunt’s group advanced the use of screen technologies further still and began producing film and television programs to challenge the very concept of theatre and broadcast media.
In 1970, the Bradford College of Art enacted a new Film/Theatre/Television diploma course and tasked Hunt to run it. He remembers thinking that ‘there was no reason why we shouldn’t create an alternative television in the way an alternative theatre had been created…’  According to Hunt, initial experiments with newly-acquired video equipment (two Sony PortaPak cameras, two small monitors) attempted to ape mainstream television codes and followed conventional aesthetic ideas of how that should look. As a result, the newly christened ‘Media In Education Unit’ at Bradford College of Art began a project called Open Night / The Unteachables which Hunt described as a ‘counter-programme’ that would transform the Bradford practice from these norms. It remains a significant step-change in community media practice. Working with a group of school leavers, Hunt and his collaborators invented techniques and games of working with the video medium:
The school leavers would not make problem documentaries about their own situation, but entertainments, mock advertisements, collective cartoons, irreverent versions of This Is Your Life… 
This radical approach allowed pupils and communities a greater sense of freedom and confidence in the technology itself. It served as a way of, in Hunt’s words, skewing the typical methods of ‘imitating the dead forms thrown up by an authoritarian television industry’, instead creating a video entertainment to make political statements, therefore inverting the popular language of television remodelling moving image as an ‘educational weapon’.  The finished piece was taken to parents, teachers, school governors, members of education committees, and students in colleges or education, and was the catalyst to a host of video experiments at the Media In Education Unit. These included editing games with the broadcast news in which school leavers made their own news by cutting up interviews of Arthur Scargill, or recreating war-time Berlin in Bradford using newly filmed sequences and props.  The Leeds group Pavilion located a copy of The Unteachables in 2016 and toured it as part of their Problems of Perspective program, read more about it HERE.
One can trace the importance of Hunt’s radical experiments with screen media and agit-prop theatre long after the Media Education Unit faded from view in the mid 70s. The most explicit connection to the Unit is represented by Jim O’Brien’s YAA sponsored, NFS co-funded piece from 1977, Black Future. Discussed in more detail elsewhere on this site, the film serves as the logical – and most accomplished- extension of the work first started back when the Theatre Group was founded in the late 60s.
For seven prolific years, Albert Hunt and the Theatre Project/Media In Education Unit transcended funding constraints and educational shackles, and carved out a unique and radical space for alternatives in theatre, screen, and education. His contribution to the regions cultural history commands a more comprehensive account than this current project can afford. Further reading at the links below.
While the colleges in Bradford and Sheffield paved the way for a dynamic new culture of production and experimentation in the region, students attending the traditional red-brick Universities of Leeds and Sheffield were also beginning to investigate film practice. In South Yorkshire, The Film Unit at Sheffield University Union of Students produced many works during the post-war years. Little is known about the Unit itself, but the YFA collection points to a film culture which ranged from social documentary (Broomhall and Castle Market, 1965 is verite snapshot of life in the city), to strange science-fiction experiments such as Unknown (1972).
Leeds University also had its own production culture, steered by the experienced John F Murray who joined the Film Unit in 1970 to run the Audio-Visual Service supporting both graduates and the University promotional department to make films attracting students to Leeds. The service also supplemented ongoing YAA activity, filling the need for professional level editing equipment which was lacking at the YCC. Murray himself served on the YAA Panel in the 1970s and had an important role to play in a pivotal Indian language production, Khoon Aur Paisa (1977). It is evident from this broad history that the ferment of late 1960s and early 70s that Yorkshire was driven in the moment by the further education network and a new wave of ‘switched-on’ students, teachers, and graduates, facilitated by a liberated and flexible complementary studies courses and radical alternatives in education. While the coverage of the arts school network outside of London remains sparse, academic analysis of underground culture across the regions during the 1960s is almost entirely absent.
Swinging South Yorkshire?
John Griffiths’ 2018 piece challenges the excessive historical focus on London’s ‘swinging 60s’ scene, suggesting that contemporary accounts as written by travelling London-based authors enforced the declinist ‘portrayal of the regions as ‘black and white,’ in comparison with the ‘technicolour’ capital’. This position has been the dominant narrative to date, with only the populist local history market studying the period at a simplistic and nostalgic level. His brief survey attempts to redress the narrow emphasis by reinventing the perceptions of regional music and nightlife during the 60s. 
Comparing the cultural differences between the capital and the rest of the country, Griffiths reaches for Hoggart via Fowler who states that in the early part of the 60s the gap in cultural tastes and activity between London and the regions was so wide, ‘precisely because civic culture and working class culture were so entrenched’  in the North – the brass band over the bohemian. Moreover, the so-called psychedelic scene with its associations of LSD, love-ins and the hippy lifestyle simply didn’t connect on the same level in the industrial geographies of Yorkshire. Against this profile, therefore, Jonathan Green suggests that the psychedelic scene in the Northern cities was viewed with suspicion and apathy by working class communities, who saw it as ‘an educated movement [. . .] drawing on the children of the comfortable bourgeoisie.’  Furthermore, if we identify that drugs were one of the catalysts to a new counter-culture, the working classes of the North were not privy to the same substances as their counterparts in London. Many accounts of the nightlife scene in urban centres such as Leeds, Manchester, and Sheffield speak of a youth culture driven by pints of bitter, amphetamines and black American Soul music, not marijuana and Pink Floyd; a broad Northern picture emerges of working-class escapism from the weekday drudgery.
This further manifests itself in the consumption of moving image. While extended analysis of the cinema-going habits of 60s Yorkshire requires further research, it is understood that urban venues typically traded in the dominant, escapist Hollywood product, and it wasn’t until the 1970s when independent cinemas/films began to emerge in the region and a more aesthetic film-going was offered appeared. The Yorkshire underground culture, then, was instead propagated via the safe bourgeois spaces of the art school network. Anecdotal examples serve to reinforce this notion. Alf Bower (Sheffield City Polytechnic) remembers a ferment of alternative art and performance. He invited beat poet Dick Barker from London to perform, ‘cross-legged surrounded by candles and so on:A HAPPENING.’  While inspired by events at the Hornsey School of Art in 1968, he suggests that ‘one of the third year, John Phillips, occupied a staff office. Declared a UDI. We took it over.’ Meanwhile, YAA film-maker Peter Samson was engaged in his first job at Doncaster Art School in 1968 and recalls the bohemian scene somewhat less romantically: ‘there was one bloke from Essex, smoked dope, and wore velvet, and that’s all there was really’.  This tells us that although certain art schools were experimenting with the new culture, the psychedelic underground had only just taken root. This climate of late 60s change further manifest itself in the growth of radical avant-garde theatre practice (as with Albert Hunt’s Bradford), alternative press (see the Leeds Other Paper) and also the Arts Labs movement.
This climate of late 60s change further manifest itself in the growth of radical avant-garde theatre practice (as we have seen with Albert Hunt’s Bradford), alternative press (see Leeds Other Paper – LAW Case Study) and also the Arts Labs movement. Established by Jim Haynes in 1967, the London Arts Lab was a concept derived as an ‘energy centre where anything can happen… in a loose fluid multi-purpose way’.  Between 1967 and 1970, 150 Arts Labs sprung up around the country, and while they were often informal, unstructured spaces, Leeds, Bradford, and Halifax are known to have housed Labs in permanent buildings. The latter occupied two floors in a town centre warehouse, and presented a diverse program of happenings:
including electronic music film making and showing mixed media (light, sound, film etc.), drama, dance, poetry, literature mime, two and three dimensional visual expressions, folk, folk-rock, jazz and blues.’ 
The Arts Lab journal, International Times, documents a number of happenings and underground activities taking place across the region located at the intersection of different experimental media. This is further evidence of a -loosely- organised countercultural network of artists working with moving image in the late 60s. An active scene emerges, one with ties to London but one with its own unique regional character. The Arts Lab manifesto can tell us much about the broad political make up of this new-wave. Its founder, Jim Haynes, elucidated his position in the opening lines:
People ask me If the Arts Lab Is political. Anyone who is interested in changing anyone’s attitude to anything is committing a political act. We at the Covent Garden Lab have certain philosophic attitudes to the world, and we hope to show others by deeds that these political/philosophical attitudes can be transmitted via non-traditional political media. 
Following this cursory wander around the unwritten corners of the late 60s Yorkshire scene, it becomes evident that those most active were caught in a constant dialectic over political ideals, the state sponsored mechanics of funding, professionalism versus amateurism, and the desire for independence / opposition to the mainstream (London) art/film/music industries. A core demographic emerges, one inextricably bound by these inherent questions. Further, we now understand that the protagonists at the creative heart of this period were broadly from the middle-class university demographic, with Left political leanings, and shaped by the aesthetic, social, and cultural movements of the late 1960s.
It is clear to me that there is a need for a wide-ranging study of an Alternative 60s, one which encompasses a broad regional outlook, and one which investigates the students, the arts labs, the speed-addled working class lads and lasses, and the squares. A history far removed from the current, tired, narrative of Quant and Carnaby Street, but no less vibrant and dynamic.
[A] While this film was shot at the commune in Dorinish island off Co Mayo, it was filmed by the prolific Leeds businessman and accomplished amaueter filmmaker, Alan Sidi. More info HERE
 Hunt, A. Hopes For Great Happenings (Alternatives In Education and Theatre), Eyre Methuen, 1976. p.139
 Ibid. p.72
 Ibid. p.19
 Hunt, A. Hopes For Great Happenings (Alternatives In Education and Theatre), Eyre Methuen, 1976. p.98
 MacColl, E (ed.) Theatres of the Left 1880-1935 (1985): Workers’ Theatre Movements in Britain and America (Routledge Revivals: History Workshop Series, 2016), p.Xix
 Hunt, A. Hopes For Great Happenings (Alternatives In Education and Theatre), Eyre Methuen, 1976. p.131
 MacColl, E (ed.) Theatres of the Left 1880-1935 (1985): Workers’ Theatre Movements in Britain and America (Routledge Revivals: History Workshop Series, 2016), p.Xix
 Hunt, A. Hopes For Great Happenings (Alternatives In Education and Theatre), Eyre Methuen, 1976. p.132
 Hunt, A. Language of Television: Uses and Abuses, p.4
 Ibid. p.104
 John Griffiths (2018): ‘Rivalling the Metropolis’: cultural conflict between London and the regions c.1967–1973, Contemporary British History, DOI: 10.1080/13619462.2018.1519434, p.2
 Fowler, D. “From the Juke Box Boys to Revolting Students: Richard Hoggart and the Study of British Youth Culture.” In Richard Hoggart and Cultural Studies, edited by S. Owen, 105–122. New York: Palgrave, 2008.
 Green, J. All Dressed Up: The Sixties and the Counterculture. London: Pimlico, 1999.
 Alf Bower. Conversation with author, 2018. Personal communication.
 Peter Samson. Conversation with author, 2018. Personal communication.
 http://www.internationaltimes.it/archive/page.php?i=IT_1969-10-10_B-IT-Volume-1_Iss-66_016&view=text, Accessed May 2018
 http://www.internationaltimes.it/archive/page.php?i=IT_1968-08-23_B-IT-Volume-1_Iss-38_002&view=text, , Accessed May 2018