The Clacton and North East Essex Arts and Literary Society was founded in December 1904 and was first known as “The Clacton Industrial, Arts, Museum and Trades Exhibition Society. Among the objects of the Society in 1904 were the furtherance, through exhibitions and competitions, of the works of children in Clacton and the surrounding district, embracing the whole curriculum of their education and also their hobbies.
The Society also committed itself to holding meetings at least once a week in the Winter, for free lectures for members and “instruction in such subjects as may be feasible and expedient”, coupled with encouraging artistic and high intellectual pursuits by people of all ages.
During the early years a large Exhibition and Competition was held on two days in May at the Winter Gardens in Clacton attracting an astonishing range of exhibits and also entries to a wide range of competitions. This was followed by a Winter season of concerts and lectures at the Granville Hotel in Clacton.
The significant amount of work involved in mounting such an ambitious Exhibition soon reduced its frequency to alternate years and with the start of World War 1 in 1914 it ceased, never to be restarted. However the concerts and lectures continued throughout the war.
As the frequency of the exhibitions reduced in the years before the war it was decided to change the name of the Society and on 9th October 1911 it became “The Clacton Arts and Literary Society”. The name of the Society then remained unchanged until April 1987 when, in recognition of a much larger membership drawn from a wide geographical area, it was changed to “The Clacton and North East Essex Arts and Literary Society”. Soon afterwards the Society obtained charitable status.
Over the years the objects of the Society have shifted through several changes until now, rather more simply, they are “to promote, improve, develop and maintain public education in an appreciation of Science and the Arts, including the Arts of literature, music and drama”.The biggest change in the Society in recent years has been the manner in which it has met its aims.
It has gradually moved away from the predominant use of lectures to the staging of both dramatic and musical presentations. The Society now uses entertainment as the means of meeting it’s objectives and a typical season is divided between eight musical and eight non musical evenings.
The Society is large enough to attract performers and groups of international reputation. Recently artistes appearing have included – Julian Lloyd Webber, Peter & Dan Snow, Michael Portillo, John Pilkington, Ann Widdecombe, John McCarthy, Henry Sandon, Pam Ayres, Cantabile, Opera Interludes and Rohan McCullough. Drama, opera and dance presentations have also been staged.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
The Society is one of the largest of its kind in the United Kingdom and meets in the prestigious Princes Theatre, in the Clacton Town Hall complex. For each of the last two years the membership has exceeded 900 but this membership has to be maintained if the high cost of providing the current level of entertainment is to be met.
The Society meets on Monday evenings at 7.30pm between mid October and March and the cost of a Season Ticket for all sixteen performances for the 2013/2014 Season is £44. 00. Non members can purchase tickets at the box office, subject to availability, for individual performances price £10.