Search This Blog

The Glee Club

September 2010

He is nervous and rightly so.
The three-tier unit at the British Waterways building at Castle Wharf looks far from ready.
It’s just days until the opening when Mark Tughan takes me on a tour of his £1m comedy club/music venue/cafe-bar and there’s plenty to be done.
“I’d be terrified if the contractors hadn’t assured me, as cool as cucumber, that it’ll be done in time for Friday,” says the 42-year-old, who is originally from Northern Ireland.
“I know I’m a layman and don’t know what I’m talking about but I won’t believe it until I see it.”
Friday means today or rather tonight when The Glee Club will throw open its doors for the first time.
There won’t be any whistles and bells, no red carpets and ribbon cutting. For starters Mark doesn’t believe in all that. More importantly the staff need a practice run.
“We need to make sure everything is functioning as it should. The beer is coming out right, to check the light and sound and to make sure the staff know what they’re doing.”
As a result it’s a subdued line-up, a gathering of local comedians, just to give the Glee a dry run. Punters can get in for just a fiver, which includes food and drinks will be cheap.
The Glee Club, Nottingham, really gets going on Wednesday with Rich Hall, then Shappi Khorsandi on Thursday, after which the weekly weekend shows begin.
Additionally there will be music. Already booked to play are Lloyd Cole, Mary Gauthier and Tim Robbins. Yes, that one. The Shawshank Redemption, Oscar winning actor and director has an Americana band.
“To start off with we’re going for the singer songwriters, seated shows but if the promoter wants to get more than 400 people in we can start removing the tables and chairs.”
They’ll play in the main room on the third floor, where Jongleurs was until Regent Inns folded last year.
The stage is in the same place but the bar has been moved, as has the sound booth and, although you wouldn’t notice, the kitchen.
“The kitchen was on the ground floor so we’ve moved that on to the third floor, which makes more sense when you are trying to get hot food to customers as quickly as possible.”
The balcony remains but has been tweaked with fixed theatre-style seating. The main floor will also have theatre-style seating with small rectangular tables.
“Everyone is facing the stage and can see what’s going on.”
And seating is allocated.
Unlike the former Jongleurs, The Glee Club is, he says “semi-hostile” to stag and hen parties.
“We’ll never let our nights become dominated by them.”
They operate a ‘behaviour bond’, a deposit paid by stag and hen parties in advance to be returned if they keep antics to a reasonable level.
The same seating principle applies in the second venue, created out of what was the balcony bar in Bar-Risa. That will host both music and comedy.
The ground floor will be a cafe-bar. I say will be because there are no fittings when we look around. As well is the sealed off bar above, it’s noticeably narrower.
“The cellar was in the basement which wasn’t very practical, so we’ve moved that behind the bar.”
The son of a solicitor, he studied law and politics at the University of Nottingham between 1987 and 1990.
“I had a fantastic time here. I used to go to the student night at Rock City on Thursdays and there was a place called Sunset & Vine that sold triples for a pound. And The Irish and The Black Orchid.”
His one and only attempt as stand-up was in a university bar.
“I got a bucket of water thrown over me because I was so awful. Never again.”
He’d become consumed by live comedy during a year out in London before coming to Nottingham.
“I went along to the Comedy Store and Harry Enfield was doing Stavros. I was a regular at Jongleurs in Camden and Battersea. I was absolutely hooked.”
While studying in Nottingham, where there were no comedy club, he’d return to London at weekends.
After graduating he became a merchant banker for three years in the City, a career cut short by the recession.
His first Glee Club was in Birmingham, which he opened 16 years ago, although he had considered his adopted home city.
“There was a venue available in Birmingham. The other thing that swung it was that it’s a bigger city so it should be easier to crack. And it’s closer to London. Back in the nineties the comedy circuit was in London. I was very nervous about being able to persuade people to come further out of town.”
He admits: “It was an unmitigated disaster for a good six months because I didn’t know what I was doing.”
It was turned around once he’d teamed up with an experienced promoter who has since booked the likes of Peter Kay, Jack Dee, Lee Evans, Michael McIntyre, Matt Lucas, Bill Bailey and Graham Norton.
A second Glee Club was launched in Cardiff in 2001 and earlier this year another in Oxford. But this is the biggest.
Not just for the capacity: The cafe-bar is a first. And at more than £1m to lease and refurbish, market and staff, it’s his biggest investment so far.
“I thought it would cost a few hundred thousand. I knew I had to turn a frog in to a prince but because it had already been a comedy I thought bish, bash, bosh, job done. But the more we got under the skin of this place, the more we knew had to be done.
“It probably would have been cheaper to have gone in to an empty shell.”
Other changes include new dressing rooms and toilets.
In Oxford we spent £14,000 on the light and sound. Here it’s cost over £100,000. Because we really want to do the music properly.”
He adds: “I had wanted to get in to Nottingham for ten years. I looked at Cabaret but I didn’t think it was good enough so I walked away.”
As I leave, music suddenly booms from the PA. Mark shouts over, grinning: “Hey, it’s working!”.
Then turns on his heels and marches back inside. There’s work still to be done...

For details of The Glee Club’s opening night and subsequent shows visit


1 comment:

  1. Hey,
    This is the nice post and this post is really appreciable and informatics i like this post too much , i appreciate you for your experience sharing , If you are looking for comedy in Bournemouthand Hen weekend in Bournemouth we oofer you through comedy in bournemouth so find more info from here .....
    and if you are looking the comedy clubs in London we also provide this facility in London and Brighton and Blackpool you can book your hen night online with us and enjoy your weekend in various cities of uk so hurry up and book your hen night ........