It all started with a church club in the Cranstonhill district of Glasgow where the choir put on concerts every year for the congregation.
The choir and the church members enjoyed these so much that many were smitten by the “drama” 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 arrived and although several members left to serve their country, the Minerva Club carried on throughout WWII – the only Amateur Club to do so.
During this time The Minerva Club entertained troops in the Lyric Theatre and also at venues at the Tail of the bank in Greenock where many servicemen were stationed before being posted.
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 and The Minerva Club felt this was a good time to have a relaunch with some major changes that would revolutionise the amateur stage:
1. Hire of a professional theatre – the Empress at St George’s Cross.
2. Perform other shows rather than the the popular operettas of the day.
3. Present “Annie Get Your Gun”. These were later referred to these shows as the “modern musicals.” in contrast to the operettas that had gone before.
To make a success of this, the Minerva did something which was unheard of at that time – the committee advertise for principals and new members much to the displeasure of some of the older members, especially the sopranos, who had played leads for many years and who were unlikely to continue with ‘fresh blood’ joining the club.
At this time a fund had been set up to rebuild the Lyric Theatre by the NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association) clubs in Glasgow where clubs would put on a show to raise some money for repairs to the theatre.
It was decided that each club would perform 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 refurbished Lyric Theatre for a show called “Happy Song” which was written by our own producer, Alex McLeod and our Musical Director, Willie Hadden.
This show was ahead of its 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, our habitual rehearsal venue (the YMCA building) was sold for redevelopment 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 various amateur clubs in Glasgow and some of this money was refunded to the clubs, having exceeded the sums needed to re-open the theatre.
The Minerva Club, being one of the larger contributors to the funs, were able to use their reimbursed funds to buy new rehearsal premises in Burnbank Terrace, where we rehearse to this day.
We were very lucky that our present premises came on to the market just at the right time. This was the result of police action to close down the once notorious “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?!