Over the next few months I will be dipping into the Hammond archives and alumni database to feature the story of a past student every week.

This week our student of the week is Preston Clare who attended the Hammond from 1974 -1982. Preston was one of the first intake of Lower School boys at the Hammond.

What course did you study?

I was a dance student – the academic part of The Hammond was an all-girl school in those days and so we, the boys, went to Christleton High School during the day and Hammond in the evenings and Saturdays.

The Hammond 1974 – (No. 18 Studio). Alan Hopper with (L-R) Duncan Mitchell, David Nice, Clade Edwards, Preston Clare and Simon Pollitt

What are you favourite memories from the Hammond:

Gosh – so many! We were the first boarding boys at the Hammond. There were five of us; Duncan Mitchell, Clade Edwards, Simon Pollitt, David Nice and myself. There was no boarding house for us so we were put out into digs with landladies. I suppose it was a bit like being an evacuee during the Second World War! It was great because we had a lot more freedom than the girls!

The Loft Studio was our studio in 12 Liverpool Road and our changing room was a Wendy House that was in the back garden. We were Alan Hooper’s venture and he always called us ‘his boys’. I remember him taking the five of us for a picnic to Wales one Sunday – he made the sandwiches and we played games etc – it was a great day.

Betty Hassall had a very close friendship with Peter Dornford-May (Head of Drama for the Cheshire County Council) and they collaborated with so many productions together. I found myself dancing and acting in all sorts of productions, which was the start of a career that is still going on.

When Mrs Hassall died, Simon Pollitt and I were ushers at her funeral. I remember Peter Dornford-May directing us before the funeral and saying; “As people arrive for the service, I want you to greet everyone with a smile as she would have done”.

There are so many more memories and all of them are my favourite – I think I should write a book!!!!!!

What did you go on you do?

Scottish Ballet, 1991. Who Cares? by Balanchine. Preston Clare is centre.
  • Danced with ‘Irish National Ballet’ (1982 – 1985)
  • Danced with ‘Scottish Ballet’ (1985 – 2003)
  • Taught Ballet and Contemporary at ‘Hammond’ (2004 – 2005)
  • Retrained as an actor gaining my diploma (2006 – 2008)
  • Acted with ‘Love and Madness’ (2008 – 2009)
  • Acted with ‘Image Musical Theatre’ (2009 – 2011)
Love and Madness, 2008 – Preston Clare as Fagin in Oliver Twist

What do you do now?

In 2011 I moved back to Glasgow and started my own Theatre Company called ‘Theatre Presto’. http://www.theatrepresto.co.uk/

The company performs in Old People’s Homes, Special Needs Centres, Day Community Centres and Village/Church Halls etc. throughout Scotland. I do everything – write all the productions, write the contacts and send them out, organise the tours, make the costumes, make the props, make the sets, audition and rehearse the actors and perform in the productions as well!!!! Last December we did 78 shows (with two groups) with my Christmas pantomime ‘Jackie and the Beans…Talk’. We have just finished the summer tour of ‘Oor Boaby, Brooned Aff Abroad’ (It’s a Scottish thing!) taking it to 47 different venues and I’m currently taking bookings for this year’s Christmas production of ‘Nicky-Dicky Whittington and her Cat’.

I also teach at Scottish Ballet for the Education Department.

Preston Clare now

Anything else you would like to add?

Two years ago, after years of dance abuse to my hips, I had my left hip replaced. I now have a titanium hip and it is amazing. I even forget about it and can still do everything when teaching ballet. I think of Betty Hassall and realise how lucky I am. She had both of her hips replaced and she used to walk, rather like a sailor, tilting from side to side. She had to have an automatic car because her hips wouldn’t [allow her to] work the pedals properly. The technology of today has given me a new lease of life and I’m so grateful – you honestly would not know I have an artificial hip.

 Thank-you so much for your wonderful memories Preston!

Keep an eye out for next week’s Student of the Week and if you haven’t already, please fill in our Alumni questionnaire.