2014 Festival

2014 Uke Festival 20/9/14 and 21/9/14

Bigger than 2013 and certainly different, the Festival kicked off in the George Payne in Hove with a wonderfully crafted set from Meriel’s Secret. The Secret was formed out of the Lovely Ukulele Strummers of Hove and performs songs written and sung by Meriel, well who else, no secret there. The songs speak of Love, Life and History and are sung to a variety of accompanying ukes.

It was a great start and was quickly followed by an open jam using the Uke at the Duke Book 7. I thought it was going to be quite a short jam as the lights were low and I couldn’t see the book, so I knew I was going to be in trouble after the second song, the first two being uke classics which most of us know and had chord structures that repeated. After this I would need to see the book, I was saved by Robb Johnson who had gone home and got his music stand light which, after it was fitted to my music stand, saved the day and allowed us to carry on. Pete with his impeccable timing kept me in order and some lusty singing even brought a few people round from the restaurant, where a birthday party was in full flow. It’s amazing the power of 30 or so ukes.

Blackcap finished off the evening and as I have somewhat of a vested interest in this group I will leave the praise or otherwise to the audience. Finishing with a flute-led Fisherman’s Blues, the evening had been great fun and a suitable start to the weekend.

An early start and arriving at the Duke at 11.45am to find people waiting outside was perhaps an omen of how the day was going to carry on. Fighting to get the sound system up as people poured into the pub was difficult, but not the only problem that Dave the Sound would have to conquer.

Gavin and his Brothers kicked off the festival as they had last year but the Brothers had grown somewhat and now our Gavin was backed up by violin, banjo, bass and harmonica, the full line up being:
Gavin Thomson: Uke + Vocals
Adam Thomson: Bass + Vocals
Mervyn Wallis: Fiddle + BVs
Steve Bell: Banjo and Harmonica
And for the last song James Thompson on Harmonia

Really enjoyed the set, watch it on YouTube here.

So next was an attempt by me to lead a jam Uke at the Duke style using Book 8 which even my thick skin told me was not working, so best get LUSH on to provide a bit of strength and depth. I was surprised how many people had wandered in or even travelled from around the country to just watch. I suppose I thought that the audience would be all players, but this was far from the case with people from as far afield as Peterborough and Essex, as well as more local people who had come just to see what was going on.

You can always rely on LUSH led by Meriel, Liz and Theresa to provide a good show of uke classics with interesting arrangements both vocally and musically. Lots of music had been brought to share out and it was great to see players spread all around the pub and out into the garden playing along. By this time we had rigged a speaker at the back of the pub to help the people who couldn’t see the stage to know what was going on.

Next to lead the jam was the mystery which is the Ukerladies, seven friends who have found a common interest in the uke and have not been playing for very long and appearing for only the third time in public. “Rocking all over the world” and “These boots were made for walking” are always crowd pleasers and with lots of copies given out to the audience there was raucous support both musically and vocally.

Scandomando came together as a result of playing at the Northern Lights and have developed a sound which bowls along, cries of “Scando” from the Brighton based audience showed their popularity. I loved the rhythm of the uke and mandolin together, they really complement each other. I will let Jim off the fact that he didn’t play any Smith or Clash songs (one of the reasons I booked them) because they were great. But definitely Guns of Brixton next time lads.

So back to the jam using Book 9 and after one song by me to call attention I quickly backed out and left Pete and Huw to lead. They introduced some of the songs from our next Book 10 and the sound of strumming ukes could be heard around the bar.

During this time the raffle had been in full swing with the first prize being a hand-built uke from Noah’s Ukuleles.

Matt from Noah’s Ukuleles had a range of ukes for sale perched up on the bar billiards table and attracted great interest. They really are lovely instruments, lovingly made and beautifully finished. Please do have a look if you’re in the market for a new uke and let’s face it, who isn’t.

On the mezzanine floor above the garden the Pukes Workshop had begun with 10 or so attendees. The subject was “playing together and teamwork” which I understand was well received, everybody learning something in a relaxed atmosphere.

Irena’s band of BAD Ukes was next on and again played some great songs including their version of Delilah which is in a different chord sequence to our Uke at the Duke one and always throws me. BAD Ukes started about the same time as Uke at the Duke and I always regard the jams of Worthing (Wukulele), Hove (LUSH) and Brighton (BAD Ukes) to be sister jams to our own one, each has its own character and characters, each one offers something different to the uke player. Long may we combine and complement each other.

So the jam finished and the festival changed emphasis to the performing side. I think it’s true to say the audience changed slightly as well, as people came along to catch their favourites. By now we had eaten the barbecue out, all that was left was cake!! The beer held up though and the staff were beginning to look exhausted, bravely carrying on serving up pints of Hophead as required.

Blackcap’s second appearance of the weekend I think was well received. We have only been playing for just over a year and regard the Festival as our anniversary. The mood was very light and jolly so I was persuaded not to play any of my darker songs and stick to Pete’s and mine lighter sing-along tunes. Our merry go round song was my first outing with the banjo. OK it’s not a uke, even though I tried to pass it off as a giant banjolele!

Clear the decks, WOB is coming through. Our Bouncy Barman has a huge voice and mixes his own songs in with some classics from yesteryear, such as “it’s almost like being in love” complete with a one-minute high-note falsetto. WOB had help from Charlie and Ella who, despite frantic attempts by WOB’s partner Kerry to get Dave to turn off their mics, could be heard backing their Dad; clearly ones to look out for in the future. WOB was also joined on stage by Wukulele Harriet who did the actions for a kid’s song which was really funny, can’t remember what it was called, something about a fly on your nose?

By now and with Richard Durrant imminent we had to stand most people and push the remaining chairs to the side. Getting Richard was a great coup for the festival, getting someone of his stature was a real treat. Richard is a sound fellow, he and his wife do a lot for the community of Shoreham and he came to the festival to support his local people and events in the town. When you see someone play BACH on the uke does it make you want to give up or does it inspire you to practise more? That struggle with B minor to A change seems small beer when you see someone so talented as Richard. Does classical music fit in a pub against the clinking of glasses and the background hum which pubs consist of? I think it worked and I really enjoyed the Ian Drury song too.

Richard had asked me if he could finish on his new guitar piece inspired by his bicycle tour, how could I say no, after all I had played the banjo badly just a few minutes before. It was a magnificent finish to his set and I think most people felt privileged to see it.

So how do you follow that? Well bring on the Pukes, attitude, fun and a bit of a dance, the chairs were cleared away and everybody sang and pushed around to the punk covers – they played “Holiday in Cambodia”, “White Riot” and our own “Part time punks” to name but three. The Pukes started as a jam in London and has grown to be a big attraction around the country playing festivals and supporting some big names at big venues. We had a guest appearance from Peter Test Tube of Peter and the Test Tube Babies who sang “Banned from the Pubs”, an apt way to honour a fine festival at the Duke. Attila the Stockbroker could also be seen bridged between the monitors in true punk style loving it all.

Finally I jumped up on stage and got the Pukes and anyone else left standing to play Fisherman’s Blues, lots of players united in our love of the little instrument, it really was quite splendid.

Credits, in no particular order, just thanks:

Sound = Dave
Hosting = Rob and Jess Green, Ed and the staff of the Welly
Hosting = Zoe at the George Payne
Sponsor = Matt Cohen of Noah Ukuleles
Web site wizardry =  Steven Knopf
Sponsor = Attila the Stockbroker and the Glastonwick crew
Clara Wiseman and the Pukes = Workshop
Lynn and Theresa = Raffle sellers
Sally Stevens = Support
Pete Clark = Jam Leading and Songbook work
BAD Ukes

Everyone who came along

2015 we’ll see

ukeattheduke@outlook.com       www.ukulelefestivalsussex.co.uk