The End of an Era - A Fond Farewell to Clive Minnitt
18th January 2022
The End of an Era...
Last week was an emotional one for everyone at Light and Land, as tour leader Clive Minnitt led his last ever tour after 20 years with us.
For those not familiar with Clive’s story, let us share Clive’s history with L&L…
Clive at Light & Land
Clive’s first L&L Tour as a leader began on 18th May 2002. His final tour ended on 10th January 2022.
During the intervening 19 years, 224 days, Clive ran 108 Tours of which 103 were co-led with Phil Malpas.
Also, during that time Clive was away on tour for 831 days (not including recce and travel days)
As the crow flies – from where he lived in the UK to the tour destinations he visited, Clive travelled in excess of 375,000 miles!
Phil & Clive at L&L
Phil Malpas, Clive’s co-leader for 103 tours, shares his story…
“Although we didn’t even know each other back then, it turns out that Clive and I shared a common interest in the early 90’s namely the photography of a certain Charlie Waite. We both owned a copy of “The Making of Landscape Photographs” and studied it intensely in an attempt to improve our own photography.
It was this admiration of Charlie’s work that caused me to book on the first ever Light and Land tour to The Lakes in 1994, which was based at “Land Ends” near Ullswater and was led by Charlie and Sue. The following year I went on the first L&L tour outside the UK to Tuscany, also led by the company’s founders which was based in what was to become almost a second home to me – The Hotel Casanova in San Quirico d’Orcia.
The group who attended that first Tuscany adventure included many people who were to become life-long friends and in fact we had such a great time that we asked Charlie and Sue to organise another tour for the same group at another location. Charlie said that we just needed to say where we wanted to go, and he (Sue) would organise it.
For whatever reason it took a while for this tour to be set up (probably an inability by us clients to agree where we wanted to go) but eventually we had dates in the diary for a week in Andalucia in early 1997.
In the intervening months L&L hadn’t been idle and one of the first places that Charlie and Sue chose as a new destination was Venice. Fate would have it that they happened to be there when the fabulous “La Fenice” Theatre caught fire and was severely damaged. It turns out that in the early hours Clive was listening to the radio news, only to hear that they were about to “talk to an English photographer” about the developing situation in Venice. He immediately recognised Charlie’s name from his landscape book and resolved to find out more. Clive would travel on his first L&L tour in early 1997 – of course to Venice with Charlie and Sue.
In the end not everyone who travelled to Tuscany in 1995 could make it to Andalucia two years later and as such a couple of places were offered to others. A few weeks before we were due to meet in Andalucia, Sue Bishop telephoned me to say that the hotel we were staying at didn’t have enough rooms for everyone to have their own. She asked me if I would mind sharing and explained that they had met this chap called Clive in Venice and that “he is all right honest!”.
This was therefore where Clive and I met – he on his second L&L tour and me on my third.
Clive and I got on really well and resolved from that point onwards to try and travel to the same L&L tours. Our first choice was to book to join the L&L Vermont tour with Charlie and Sue in October 1998.
In early 1998 Clive rang me and asked if I wanted to go to Tuscany as it was a tour that he was very keen to join. I explained that I couldn’t really afford to do two tours in the one year and that as I had already been to Tuscany I would prefer to wait until our planned New England trip later in the year. I enviously encouraged Clive to go to Tuscany though as I knew he would love it.
A few weeks before the Tuscany tours (there were simply not enough places on L&L tours even back in 1998 such that a second tour which was also sold out had to be arranged), Sue rang me and explained that Charlie was running back-to-back tours in Tuscany with 14 clients on each and that she couldn’t attend this time. As I had been there before they wondered if I would be willing to go along as an “unpaid assistant” where they would cover all my travel costs and expenses – in other words two FREE L&L Tours. Of course, I jumped at the chance but then realised that I couldn’t tell Clive as he had paid full price just to go on one of them!
It turned out that Clive was on the second of the two and in between Charlie asked me to take the first group back to Pisa (with our friendly bus driver) and collect the second group (which included Clive).
It has to be said that Clive’s face was a picture when he came through from airside at Pisa Airport to see me holding up the L&L sign! He muttered a few choice words at my good fortune but soon saw the funny side of things (as he usually does).
Clive and Phil during a tour to Vietnam, 2017
Over the next few years, we were both invited to be “unpaid assistants” with various L&L leaders including Charlie, Joe Cornish and Ben Osborne. We also travelled as clients on David Ward’s first ever tour as a leader to the Outer Hebrides and had a week in Provence with Joe and David as well. Over this period Joe, David, Clive & I became good friends and arranged to meet up in Las Vegas at the end of a Joe and David tour in the year 2000. The four of us spent a few weeks travelling to some amazing locations and on our return persuaded Fuji to use our images from the trip on their stand at the NEC as part of the Photography Show. We spent the whole show on the Fuji stand telling everyone how marvellous Fuji Velvia film was and in return they gave us some film!!!
I will never forget it, but it was during a coffee break at the NEC that Joe and David said to Clive and I “Isn’t it about time you ran your own L&L tour”?
This was something of a shock for us but eventually the idea began to sink in, and we decided that we would lead our first tour to “Barcelona and The Pyrenees” in May 2002. We needed to go their first to scout not only our photographic locations but also to find suitable hotels etc. Unfortunately, May 2001 had already passed so we would have to scout at a different time of year to the actual tour – not ideal but a good test for us. It was for this reason that we were walking along a street in Barcelona when a friend of mine who lived in Mallorca phoned me to tell me to “get into a bar with a TV quick” which we did just in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Centre in New York.
Our L&L careers nearly ended before they even got started as the shocking news made us both question our motivation for what we were doing there. Scouting for a photo tour seemed entirely trivial given that the world had just changed for ever and we simply wanted to go home! With hindsight it was perhaps fortunate that we couldn’t as all flights were cancelled for a few days after. Gradually we came round to thinking that we would not let this stop us and resolved to carry on and complete our scouting trip.
As it was, we ran our first tour together to Barcelona and the Pyrenees in May 2002 with just 5 clients. It would be more than two years before we would run our second.
Since then, we have led 103 L&L tours together culminating in our final one recently in Glencoe. During our time as leaders there have been many highlights as well as some disasters. We have both ended up in hospital (me more than once), we have met some fantastic people who we consider to be some of our closest friends and of course we have seen some spectacular locations all over the world.
Our third tour together in 2004 was suggested by Charlie who had led successful tours there before and I must admit to being slightly nervous at the prospect of travelling to Cuba! Clive was a seasoned traveller who had seen it all on previous back-packing trips around the world and I gained confidence from the fact that he didn’t seem perturbed by much and simply put any problems down to the joys of travel. We ended up running 9 tours to Cuba between 2004 and 2014 and have some wonderful memories from our time there.
Another favourite was also “set up” for us by Charlie (for which we will be forever grateful) and that was our 4 tours of Myanmar when the country was full of hope and a move towards a more democratic society. It is with great sadness that we look on the country now and think of the many friends we made there and how their lives must have changed since we last saw them.
During the 20 years that we have worked together we have become more comfortable in our roles as L&L Tour Leaders. We promised ourselves that we would never forget our humble beginnings and would always be grateful to those amazing photographers and friends that helped us along the way. We soon fell into the habit of completing the parts of the job that suited our characters the best. For me that would be the background organisation and making sure we are in the right place at the right time whilst Clive was always the entertainer. He was adamant that we would never forget that our clients had paid to enjoy themselves and that our job was to do our best to help them do that. His famous loud shirts, mastery of the harmonica and notoriously terrible jokes became usp’s for a M&M of L&L tour. We were humbled when many people started rebooking with us and to be honest this simply made us try even harder not to disappoint anyone.
Throughout all the fun, photography and on occasion trauma that we have experienced on tour, Clive has always had an incredible and obvious love for the job which has made my time so much easier. I will always be grateful for his companionship, camaraderie and yes – even those terrible jokes.
Clive, I wish you all the best mate – and will try not to bore my future clients with the gory details of your exploits on my future “Solitary M” Tours. “
Clive and Friends of Light and Land
Clive has not only touched the hearts of Phil, Charlie, Sue, the other L&L tour leaders over the years and the office team, but also you all - he has gathered a loyal following of clients who would rebook with him time after time. This is evidence of how fantastic he truly is!
Not to let Clive go quietly, long standing L&L clients and friends of Clive – Davina Clift and Julia Moffett - joined forces to surprise Clive with a farewell song and dance during his final tour to Glencoe this month. A must watch here!
I know Clive (and Phil!) were moved to tears by this hilarious and emotional ‘show’ and we would like to extend our thanks to Davina and Julia for organising this and to everyone who has travelled with Clive over the past 20 years.
The final tour group - Glencoe 2022
Clive does love a 'silly' hat!
And finally, a few words from Charlie Waite…
“They truly only made one of Clive Minnitt!
This lovely generous spirited man dedicated so much of his life to bettering other people’s lives and accordingly gave so much to Light and Land.
Clive gave with his photography talent, his expertise and his specialist teaching skills and his absolute passion for his photography which he transmitted to all and so often accompanied by laughter and a touch of naughtiness.
Clive gave with his wonderful and always upbeat personality and joyful outlook and his belief in all those he met over so very many years.
Related to that belief is the fact that every one of those people has developed an immense and ‘forever’ deep affection for Clive based on his wholehearted embracing of each and every one of them.
So along with all those hundreds of friends gathered over the years and having that same immense affection for him just as they do, I will add two simple but so heartfelt words to this so special of men…….THANK YOU dear, dear Clive for being that man that you are.
PS: Re your incredible library of jokes…….not going there!”
I’m sure you will all join us in wishing Clive the best retirement. He’s certainly earned a rest that’s for sure!