Learning for life

The young men and women of the MAYC enjoy a group holiday.

The young men and women of the MAYC enjoy a group holiday.

As teenagers in the 1950s, my older sister and I looked forward to the weekly club night at the Methodist Associations of Youth Clubs (MAYC).

Table tennis, table skittles and billiards on a half-size, and not very solid table were not just games to play but opportunities for fun with friends.

Club nights were just the beginning.

At social evenings we learned to dance properly. Square dances were popular but so too were the traditional ballroom dances. Before the last waltz we had the opportunity to make the church hall tremble with the mayhem that was the Palais Glide.

Coach trips to the coast and trips to the theatre were real highlights. At the Coventry Hippodrome we saw Morecambe and Wise on their way up, Eve Boswell pickin’ her chicken and David Whitfield.
This was at the time when he had provided the theme song for the television series, William Tell. One young lady in the audience kept imploring him loudly to ‘sing the William Tell song, David’. Her pleas came to nothing – perhaps the band hadn’t brought the music.

Putting on concerts for parents and church audiences in the area was our club’s speciality. Even as a teenager I was given my head to write scripts, direct and compere. My sister joined with 11 other girls to form their version of the Tiller Girls, which proved an absolute winner with audiences. They wore colourful handmade costumes and had lively routines and bags of energy, though we feared for the strength of various church hall stages during high-kick routines.

In 1955, around 30 of us enjoyed a memorable holiday together on the Isle of
Man. Travelling by coach and ferry through the night was a new and exciting experience then, as was watching with awe as the sun rose over the Irish Sea. We shared a five-storey holiday home in Ramsey with young people and their leaders from other clubs, toured the island, had holiday romances and forged friendships we never knew were possible.

The star event was the London Weekend. Each year, upwards of 10,000 young people and their leaders descended on London for a weekend of celebration and worship in the Royal Albert Hall. Operation Friendship provided accommodation.

One year we camped in a church hall, sleeping on a collection of camp beds, lilos and mattresses. Another year we were guests in the homes of Methodists all over the city. On the Saturday afternoon we attended a display in the Royal Albert Hall, one year being graced by a young Cliff Richard. On the Sunday morning, 5,000 of us packed the Hall for a service of worship. Singing Cwm Rhondda as part of that massive congregation was the most unforgettable experience of the whole weekend.

The most significant effect the youth club had on our young lives was in the opportunity to forge friendships. My sister met her husband there and will soon celebrate her golden wedding anniversary. My wife and I will follow suit in 2012. So many young people found their partners at the MAYC that the acronym soon stood for Marriage Association for Young Couples.

John Foxon, Scipcote, Leicestershire