Stars On Sunday

This page celebrates the long-running television programme of the 1970s. Along with 15,000,000 other people, you either loved it or sat agape, wondering that such things could be. The following oleaginous text, perhaps by Yorkshire Television's publicity people, indicates what was on offer.

Unlike some other programmes screened during television's Holy Hour, Stars On Sunday - Yorkshire Television's highly popular religious requests programme - never set out to be controversial. When it was created in 1969, a follow up to Choirs On Sunday, it was designed to fulfil a need.

"We felt it was an opportunity for those people who did not have a programme they could call their own," says Jess Yates, the creator and producer of Stars On Sunday. "Just about every other section of the community was catered for by some programme or other, but there was little that the over 65's could call their own.

"All we have tried to do is to provide a programme for them, and it is largely incidental that it has proved to hold appeal for other sections of the community as well. Religion comes into it because we felt that the period devoted to religious-type programmes was the only really suitable time for a series of this kind. In any case, the majority of the people for whom we were catering sought warmth, comfort and peace from religion.

"We agreed that we should present Bible readings as the kernel of every programme. Three years ago when Stars On Sunday started, the call of the Bible was strong. Today it is even stronger and many of the requests we receive are for certain passages of the Bible to be read.

"And when we added a theme to each programme we added more viewers.

"Stars On Sunday has also given an opportunity to young people who have never been seen on television before, besides up-and-coming talent, in addition to star names.

"Yorkshire Television's design department have provided some fine sets and they are responsible for creating the now famous 'Home' of Stars On Sunday. Indeed, the 'Home' of Stars On Sunday has become as much a reality in the minds of many viewers as has 'The Rovers Return' from Coronation Street, and the village of Ambridge in the radio programme The Archers.

Adds Jess Yates; "We've even had letters from viewers asking who tends the gardens, and many more people ask where the actual location of the place is and if it is open to the public."

'The Home of Stars on Sunday' is a truly magnificent setting, with its façade of the West front with 30 feet high pillars and dome viewed across an ornamental lake. It provided a spectacular setting for an excerpt from Handel's 'Messiah' in a recent series.

The grounds, too, have provided many delightful scenes. The splendid waterfall, cascading down into the lake; the rose garden -- where roses seemingly bloom all year round; the Hall of Dreams which stands near the old ruined Abbey and where only daffodils bloom; and the paddock, where camp fire sequences featuring revivalist songs are staged. But probably the most beautiful part of the 'home' itself, is the Lady Chapel, where a dominant feature is the magnificent stained glass windows -- originals which were displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851, in Hyde Park.

"After the exhibition," says Jess Yates. "The windows were taken to St. John's Church, Bury, years ago. When the church was demolished, Yorkshire Television decided to buy the windows with 'Stars On Sunday' in mind. We had been looking for something of the kind for some time."

Stars On Sunday has succeeded in fulfilling its aims. And more! Today, it attracts a regular viewmg audience of 15,000,000, which on occasions has reached 17,000,000, and it never falls far short of the 10,000,000 mark, even in the summer months. In January 1972, when it completed its centenary programme, it celebrated the event by becoming the first ever religious programme to enter the television viewing charts. And during its first year in 1969, over 250,000 requests were received. That figure has well and truly exceeded the 500,000 mark today.

But probably the strongest testimonial for Stars On Sunday, is the list of stars and distinguished people who have appeared on the programme. It includes the Archbishops of York and Canterbury, the Earl Mountbatten of Burma, Sir John Gielgud, Sir Ralph Richardson, Dame Anna Neagle, Raymond Burr, James Mason, Raymond Massey, Gerald Harper and Bill Simpson -- who have all been featured regularly reading extracts from the Bible. Miss Gracie Fields, Miss Violet Carson, Anita Harris, Moira Anderson, Eartha Kitt, Shirley Bassey, Nina, the Beverley Sisters, Sandie Shaw, Harry Secombe, Cliff Richard, Lovelace Watkins, Norman Wisdom, Roy Orbison, Bobby Bennett, Howard Keel and the Poole Family, are just a few of the star names who have graced the programme and added their own interpretations to many well-loved songs.

Yorkshire Television's Stars On Sunday has now carved a unique place for itself in television history! It is one of very few weekly series that can almost guarantee to run, and run, and run, for many years to come. The programme's format and underlying philosophy have remained unchanged. The only physical variation is that the number of stars used in any given programme has considerably increased.

The last word goes to the Rev. Brandon Jackson, vicar of the 8,000 people parish of Shipley, who is one of the programme's religious advisers, he sums up the reasons for the programme's success: "In the whole spectrum of a week's viewing on all three channels, only Stars On Sunday can guarantes something peaceful, comforting and true . . and can there be anything wrong with that?"

JESS YATES was born in Manchester in 1919. At the age of five, his family moved to Llandudno - . and Jess still lives in North Wales, although he also has a house in the Leeds area

As a schoolboy, he played the organ at the Arcadia Cinema, Colwyn Bay. And on Ieaving school at seventeen, went to work for a cinema circuit, where he remained for fourteen years as organist and manager in forty-eight theatres.

After the war, Jess wrote and directed documentaries for the Rank Organisation. He later went into television, first as a freelance designer, in 1952, and shortly afterwards, he made films on movie personalities under the title of Picture Parade.

Next came a stint with Columbia Pictures, making a series of profiles on many of their artistes, including Trevor Howard, Anita Ekberg, Jack Lemmon and Robert Mitchum. And at the same time, he was working on such films as Fire Down Below, Interpol, The Long Shîps, and many more.

In 1963, he made a series of documentaries for the Ford Foundation and in the next four years, he wrote a series of children's programmes which were subsequently translated into Welsh. He also wrote, the script for a fiim on the redevelopment of Salford for the Salford Corporation.

Since joining Yorkshire Television, in the company's early days, Jess Yates was the first presenter of the popular schools programme How We Used To Live He then produced several children's programmes including the ever-popular Junior Showtime, for which he is still executive producer as Yorkshire Television's Head of Children's Programmes. Jess also produced the company's programme Choirs On Sunday, which was the forerunner of Stars On Sunday, for which he is presenter and executive producer.

Jess Yates was married on June 30th, 1958, to Hellen Toren, actress and now a successtul authoress. They have one daughter, Paula, aged 12.

The picture at the top of the page shows the West Front
with ladies of the York Celebrations Choir. Click the link to view.