It all started in 1948……..

CLOC (Clevedon Light Opera Club) is a group of amateur singers, actors and dancers based in Clevedon at Prince’s Hall who normally put on two musicals a year. CLOC Juniors is the youth section of the club for those aged eight to eighteen and was reformed in 2005. They also  put on two productions a year normally a musical in September and a concert in the second week in December.

The club has been highly successful over the years receiving numerous nominations and awards from Somerset Fellowship of Drama, NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association) and Rose Bowl. Their most recently publicised triumphs relate to Hairspray for which they received many nominations from the Somerset Fellowship For Drama and came away with Best Musical Director – Mimi Cartwright, Best Cameo – Nadya Callahan – Motormouth, and Runner up Best Production. Congratulations to one and all.

A member of CLOC very kindly provided me with a copy of a brief history of the club which they produced in In 2016, the year of their 100th performance since the club’s origins in 1949. The late Gordon Lawrence who was an active member for 50 years provided a lot of the detail for the article which was very interesting and informative. It was the performance of ‘The Gondoliers’ in 1952 which led onto Gordon’s life long association with the club.

It all started in 1948 at Six Ways when three like minded members of the Clevedon Choral Society https://www.clevedonchoralsociety.org.uk/  Arthur Hill, Len Willmot and Herbert Chairman decided to organise a public meeting with a view to doing something different. Clevedon Light Opera club is born and has become one of Clevedon’s most prominent clubs with strong membership numbers in both the Junior and the Senior section. If you would like to become a member, then do get in touch via the link at the bottom of the page which takes you straight to their website.

The first ever shows performed by the club in 1949, took place at the Salt House Pavilion – Merrie England and Trial by Jury as shown in this photo from the Clevedon Civic Society

wpc201124f_05_06For most of the fifties, rehearsals took place in The Blue Room, Christchurch. In the 1960s, Victor Smith, the then editor of the Clevedon Mercury, in Albert Road, arranged for the club to use some of the print works warehousing which became known as Albert Hall.

Shows continued to be put on at the Salt House Pavilion which was far from ideal as it was not a venue intended for theatre use with no lighting fixtures, a stage height of just 9ft and no changing rooms. Nevertheless, they put on twelve challenging productions including ‘The Gondoliers’ (1952), ‘Gypsy Baron’ (1957) and finally ‘A night in Venice’ in 1961.

1961, saw the building of the ‘New Hall’ known later as ‘Prince’s Hall’ a much more attractive venue for the group, having a full size stage with curtains, an orchestra pit and space in the wings. They were the first to perform there with their production of ‘The Desert Song’ in 1962.

In the seventies, the club formed a group of four trustees and obtained a 16 year lease on East Clevedon Hall, owned by All Saints Church. In a total state of disrepair, they completely remodelled it  making provision for a bigger stage, two dressing rooms, new toilets and a split level storage facility for scenery on the ground floor and costume to the upper level. They also added a new boiler and heating. It became known as ‘The Little Theatre’.  They continued with their regular shows but added summertime performances: ‘Carousel’ in 1985, ‘Guys & Dolls’ in 1986 and ‘South Pacific’ in 1988.

The club continued to host its main performances at the New Hall every March but In the 80’s and 90’s began to concentrate on the now popular musicals, and in late 1989 the Princes Hall became home to the Opera Club, with a major production of ‘Annie’.

Clevedon Light Opera Club continued to flourish, and in 2005, the youth section was reformed.

imagesThe reviewers for the David Beach Award who come to watch performances every year from the Somerset Fellowship of Drama had this to say about the Junior Section:

‘The Clevedon Light Operatic Club’s junior section is a fantastic organisation. Over the years since reforming in 2005 it has given hundreds of young people aged eight to eighteen not only the chance to experience the glee of participating in musical theatre but also an amazing social opportunity to make friendships and bonds that could last a lifetime. There is nothing quite like sharing the ups, downs and sheer hard work of learning and rehearsing a show then the tension, fear and excitement of actually performing it in front of a live audience. The self-confidence and character building that follows can be life -changing. Over several years of watching CLOC Juniors’ productions yes, I have seen some remarkable individual talent but more importantly I have seen a load of youngsters having the time of their lives…….these are the kids who have made their sisters, brothers, mums, dads, aunties, uncles, grandparents and friends glow with pride as they watch them giving their ‘all’ on the stage at the Princes Hall. Does every performer have to be a brilliant singer, dancer and actor? Nope, it really doesn’t matter.’

I think Arthur Hill, Len Willmot and Herbert Chairman would be thrilled to know that the Clevedon Light Opera Club has received so many nominations and awards for their performances, had such lovely reviews written and are now such an integral part of Clevedon’s culture.

Find out more about CLOC here:

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