After I graduated university and returned to London to work, comedy clubs like the Store were my regular weekend haunts, I was hooked. This was around 1993. Comedy had changed and I thought a lot for the better. It was at this point that I sensed a gap.
Fast forward to September 1994 and the first purpose built comedy club outside London opened. The format quickly evolved into the club standard of a compere and three acts, with two intervals, the bar closing whilst the acts were on stage, and everyone facing the action.
Over the years
The little Glee stage has been graced by a who’s who of modern comedy.
Early customers ringing to book often asked about Peter Kay – who had already performed many times as a relative unknown. This was the start of the process of the new comedy circuit creating a new comedy royalty. We had acts playing our clubs that have gone on to super-stardom, such as Jo Brand, Jimmy Carr, Michael McIntyre, Johnny Vegas, Sarah Millican, John Bishop, Rhod Gilbert, Greg Davies. This tradition continues with more recent stars such as Katherine Ryan, Rob Beckett, Josh Widdecombe, Kevin Bridges and Romesh Ranganathan all playing early shows.
Some larger acts, such as Jack Dee and Lee Evans were already touring in large venues around the country. But they needed to “road test” material before their main tour.
Jack Dee was the first to perform a series of residencies whose purpose was to perform in an intimate club space, with a closeness to the audience that really enabled him to develop new material. Lee Evans soon followed suit, with his regular lengthy runs (and longer and longer sets!) with his visits becoming the key early preparation for all his subsequent arena tours. These are now regular occurrences for comedians, billed as 'Work In Progress' shows - which we announce to our mailing list first (so sign-up!).
More Comedy Artists
Going back to the grand year of 2001 we opened in Cardiff.
Cardiff was an instant hit, as we were able to channel seven years of experience and graft into a new outlet, in a city that was crying out for quality entertainment.
At around the same time as the Cardiff opening, a music promoter joined the team, initially on an experimental basis. Markus is still with us all these years later and is still bringing some of the best biggest names in music to all of The Glee Clubs as well as a portfolio of special events.
The essence of our music story at The Glee Clubs is best expressed by the acts who have performed over the years, including winners of the Mercury Music Prize, Ivor Novello Awards, Grammys, BRITS and Adele for an Oscar! Musicians that are often seen on Later…with Jools Holland, heard on BBC 6 Music and Radio 2. Also at huge festivals like Glastonbury.
A long list of previous artists includes Adele, Nigel Kennedy, Mumford & Sons, George Ezra, Jake Bugg, St Vincent, Richard Hawley, Boy George, Imelda May.... the list goes on and on!
More Music Artists
Over the years
we've made further improvements to the model by adding food and a greater choice at our bars.
In essence we have established a full night of entertainment and we are proud of the progress we have been able to implement which has brought comedy and gigs way beyond the ‘room above a pub’ scenario.
Our successful formula led to Nottingham and Oxford opening in 2010 that are now going from strength to strength.
In February 2019, we opened our fifth club, this time in Scotland - Glee Club Glasgow - a very exciting new addition.
The Glee Clubs are now one of the only independent groups of mid-sized venues that are hugely successful as comedy, music, spoken word and cabaret venues, under one brand. One Trademarked brand :), but that’s for another day!
I am proud that we are in our third decade of business and I love that even now I get butterflies before a show starts.