It all started with a church club in the Cranstonhill District of Glasgow. The choir put on concerts every year for the congregation and they enjoyed these so much, they were smitten by the “show business” bug and decided to form an amateur Operatic Club. The name “Minerva” was taken from the street in which the church was situated.
The first show was “King of Candy” in 1927, played at the Lyric Theatre which was in the YMCA Building on Sauchiehall Street. In those days this is where all of the clubs performed.
The War years were fast approaching and although several members left to serve their country, the Minerva Club carried on during the war years – the only Amateur Club to do so. During this time we entertained troops in the Lyric Theatre and also at venues at the tail of the bank. We continued to present our shows, like most of the amateur clubs, in the Lyric Theatre until 1953 when a fire caused considerable damage to the building and theatre. A new venue had to be found not only that, but a new image for Minerva was required. Having just come off a complete disaster of a show called “Sunny” after long and hard discussion by the Committee, decisions were taken that would revolutionise the amateur stage:
1. Hire of a professional theatre – the Empress at St George’s Cross.
2. Go away from the popular operettas of the day.
3. Present “Annie Get Your Gun”. We later referred to these shows as the “modern musicals.”
To do this, the Minerva did something which was unheard of at that time – advertise for principals, and advertise for new members! Obviously the older members were not happy, especially the Sopranos, who had played leads for many years.
At this time a fund had been set up to rebuild the Lyric Theatre by the NODA clubs in Glasgow. It was decided that each club would do something from their annual production – the show to be held in the Kings Theatre in June 1954. Since “Annie Get Your Gun” had been such a resounding success, the Minerva was asked to repeat this show at that venue – which we did with another tremendous success.
In the Spring of 1956 we returned to the Lyric Theatre for a show called “Happy Song” which was written by our producer, Alex McLeod and our Muscial Director, Willie Hadden. This show was ahead of it’s time. In later years a show called “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” came out as a film and stage show, with exactly the same theme as “Happy Song”.
Shortly after this, the YMCA Building was sold for re-development and it coincided with our clubrooms at Cleveden Lane coming under threat of demolition, which meant we were looking for new premises for rehearsals. A lot of money had been donated to the Lyric rebuilding fund by the amateur clubs – this money was refunded and the Minerva, being one of the larger contributors, had this money available and decided to use it to buy new rehearsal premises. We were very lucky that our present premises came on to the market. This was the result of police action to close down “The Crocodile Club” – well known in the Maryhill area and beyond for the seedy ‘goings on’ in the premises. A lot of hard work had to be done to make it suitable for rehearsal premises and it was all done by members and friends with a great deal of enthusiasm and satisfaction, enjoyed by all those who took part. We still rehearse in these premises, and also hire them out to a variety of other clubs and other businesses – who doesn’t love the Minerva Pole?!