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6 June 2012

The Ukulele Festival of Great Britain 2012

Today's post celebrates the fun that was the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain. I dragged my family along kicking and screaming and a great time was had by all! Apologies in advance for the poor photography. I've included as many of the photos as possible, with a few scans interspersed in between. There's no particular order to the pictures. If it's uke-related then it's probably got a mention somewhere below. I've stuck in as many plugs and links as possible. Sorry if I missed anyone. And sorry if I've got any of my facts wrong. Just shout if you want anything fixing...

The Ukulele Festival of Great Britain; Cheltenham; 1st - 3rd of June, 2012
There'll be no festival next year apparently. No details were given. I'm as much
in the dark as you.

Packed and ready in the King Uke household! We had the only "V" at
the whole festival, and come to mention it, the only smiley uke too!
Surprisingly (for me at least) there was very little banjo-uke representation
and no (proper) electric ukes AT ALL! If I'd been a bit further on with
my build  I would have taken mine along. I bet the Re-Entrants would
have liked a look...

Aisling Out Walking were one of the bands in the morning set. They
were a big hit playing a number of 50s tunes. AOW came over from
Ireland. I think these guys were picked after played at Ukuhooley.

Aisling Walsh knows more than one tune about Dreams

Chonkinfeckle traveled down from Lancashire to deliver some
Northern humour. They were really let down by a terrible sound.
Even with some mid-tune fettling, the engineers weren't able to fix it.
About the only thing I could make out was that one of the songs might
have been called "Leccy-mon". Did I get that right? And you thought the
only good thing to come out of Wigan was casinos!

Gerald Ross turned out to be a bit of a gem. I think his introduction
announced that this was his first time in the UK. I don't know if that's true...
I'm sure they said that for everyone who wasn't from the UK. He did a real
mixture of songs and told a few stories. A highlight for me was his comedy
version of Something Stupid (the song made famous by Nancy Sinatra).
Pure class!
*See update at the bottom of this post

Collaboration was a big thing at the festival. There were a number of
established friends meeting up and it was obvious that a lot of new friendships
were being formed. I don't know how much practice the guys and gals were
able to fit in before hitting the stage. To be fair, it didn't really matter;
It was all very much appreciated by the audience. Here you can see
"internet sensation" Gus and Fin collaborating with the guitarist from the
Belgian troop - Winin' Boys 

The Winin' Boys opened and closed the festival. They were a professional,
 laid-back outfit playing laid-back tunes. This video is one of a song they played
as a request. It's an outstanding song and they did a beautiful version on the day.

The Hot Potato Sycopators were brilliant and became a bit of a
talking point in the King Uke family over the weekend. In fact, we're
still talking about them! I'm keen to track these guys down and catch
them again. They played (pretty much) everything double-time and
slotted in some great comedy to break things up a bit. Mr Dennis Teeth
(in the middle) is quite the talent! This picture is from the end of the night.

Here you can see the Duke of Nostalgia from the Hot Potato Syncopators.
He was dealing with a bit of feedback as they sound-checked. I just love
the pose. If ukulele is a religion then he's the ukulele Jesus!

The Hot Potato Syncopators started with a little harmonica action.

This actually turned out to be quite prophetic. It was probably exactly
about this time that the skies were opening up outside the Cheltenham
Town Hall, the main venue for the festival. I was amongst the masses
at the end of the night wishing that I'd been a bit more sensible
with my attire  I did pity the poor buggers who'd turned up on their bikes.

Manitoba Hal and another collaboration. This time it was with the
harmonica-playing singer from Chonkinfeckle. Beautiful! This was my bro's
favourite and I must admit I was enjoying it a lot myself. Hal's set
got off to a shaky start when it seemed like the announcer was going
out of his way to highlight Hal's large frame. It was was quite cringeworthy.
Hal seemed upset, but credit to him, he got stuck in and never looked back.
Well done Hal!

Nico'o ("and friends") broke the mold by adding a bit of
funk to proceedings. I really enjoyed these guys and
their Stevie Wonder medley. Nico didn't do a bad job
of his rendition of Stairway to Heaven either. I know it's
not part of the script, but I would have loved these guys
to have had a singer.

Nico'o and his band.. They really seemed to be enjoying being at the
festival. At the end of the night they were taking photos like the rest of
us. The guitarist was game enough to put down his guitar and try
his hand at some uke. He did alright too!

The Reentrants played their "rock set" and what a rockin' set it
was too! You know what a sucker I am for a little Motorhead. The guys
didn't disappoint. 

Gus and Fin did a fantastic version of this song on the Saturday night.
For those who like zombies... the original of this song features on the
Zombieland soundtrack. The song in question is Blue Oyster Cult's -
Don't Fear the Reaper.

I can't remember why someone was running across the
stage... but I caught em!

Here we see a heady collaboration that joined the US's
Gerald Ross and Spain's lovely Helena and Nora with a
little Belgian Wining Boys glue. That sounds terrible,
but it wasn't terrible at all. Helena and Nora were my
daughter's favourites! Go Girl power!

I got a real sense of family over the course of the Saturday.
If felt like all of the bands were kind of getting to know
each other and as they came back out in the afternoon,
we the audience were getting to know them too. It turned out
that the guy we'd been stood next to at the bar was
actually the singer from such-and-such and the lady who
tried to sit on my knee at the end of the night was Helena!
That last bit is actually a lie... it was Nora! That was also a lie...
neither of them would sit on my knee...
no matter how much I begged...

I've already mentioned harmonica, but there were other instruments featured
too. One that I really enjoyed was the slide guitar. Here you can see the
guitarist from the Winin' Boys (I wish I knew his name) and Gerald Ross.
Both played inspirational slide. What a couple of talented guys! I'm
really looking forward to digging out my slide guitar now I'm back home.
These guys did it right!
*See update at the bottom of this post

Due to some poor planning on my part I missed the last couple of acts from
the morning session. I had to eat and somehow I didn't leave any time for
that in my diary. So apologies to Owen Nied who I almost floored coming
out of the toilets at the same time as he came in. Also, sorry to Betty's Boys
and Ukulollo. I believe that UkuleleZaza (featured in this picture with the
 tiny uke) is one half of Betty's Boys. And if I'm not mistaken the other half
was the guy leading the percussion on the mass busk.

This picture shows the stage. See the two HUGE ukes on each side of the
stage. Although anatomically incorrect ;-), they were perfect! In fact
the whole venue was perfect. The town hall is a beautiful old

Now we're getting into some of the scans I've done. I picked up all sorts
of crap throughout the day. I'm like that! What I'm uncertain of here is
whether the uke is the pest or the pest controller. What an odd advert!

Here's a scan of the line-up from the brochure available on the day.
Not all bands are listed, but you can find out a bit more from it about
the artists than I've mentioned.

Here are the tickets for the food at the Exmouth Arms on the
Sunday. I had intended to go on the Friday, but couldn't
in the end. I did make it to the Sunday event, but unfortunately
couldn't stay long. The weather was terrible, which was a
real shame for the open mic. The BBQ was fantastic!

Listen to that rain! Go Gus and Fin!

Yeah, I took loads of photos. Here's one of a fellow uker's bag. I took it secretly
and I feel quite dirty in retrospect. If it's your bag... sorry... but I love your bag!
"Be Happy and Play Ukulele"

You know that I'm a fan of the unorthadox. Can you guess what tune she
was playing? No? Me either! Ha ha! My bro was admiring this uke for quite
a while. Anyone know what make it is?

On Sunday, just around the corner from the Town Hall, there was a mass
busk. I'd downloaded the songlist, but didn't take part. Maybe if I'd taken
my uke I might have. There was a fairly big crowd gathered by the time
I got there and everyone was having a great old time.

It was good of the Mayor of Cheltenham to turn up to the mass busk.
I never saw him from the front. I'm assuming it was the Mayor. Either that
or B. A. Baracus. Either way... good of him to attend...

Here are the festival organisers leading the mass busk (from
behind). Only one is missing. And that's Betty on the
right... or at least, one of her boys. Did I get that right?

A shameless plug for a Piano Centre. It's okay...
They sell ukes too...

My bro surprised me by buying himself a uke at the festival. I've never heard of the
brand he came back with, but good on him! More surprising was that he went to buy
the Union Jack one and came back with a black one. His fantastic idea was to buy a
silver pen and to get everyone at the festival to sign it. Unfortunately, the idea never
made it past the idea stage... but what a great idea! He's clever like that!

Look at this giant uke stood outside the Exmouth Arms pub. Isn't it great! I must say
that the Exmouth Arms was an inspired choice. The pub was friendly and absolutely
full of ukers! And look! There's Gus... or is it Fin wondering where Mr Teeth left his
umbrella. Is it me or has that uke got a chimney?

The stands from the Saturday were recreated on the Sunday... only this
time with added rain. All seemed to be doing a roaring trade.

At the end it seemed only fitting that they got all of the artists on the
stage together... And that's exactly what happened. Can you guess what
happened next? Read on...

Yep, you guessed it... The Saturday night ended with paper planes
being thrown from every corner. The tune was The Dam Busters March.
Proceedings were being led by the capable Hot Potato Syncopators.
Those planes must have taken an age to make!

One more advert. My daughter bought
a 'learn to play uke' book from these guys.
Or maybe I should say... I did...

Oh Mr Teeth!

I did say that Mr Dennis Teeth was a bit of a star with the King Uke household.
Here's something I spotted whilst killing a bit of time before the mass busk. I
don't know, but it reminded me of Mr Teeth, perhaps in his later years?

Here's the video of the ending...

It's a little bit blurry, but here you can see a panorama of the Town Hall.
The venue was great.

I didn't attend any workshops, but there were a number being held.

The songbook for the mass busk was
published ahead of the festival for all
likely participants to learn the tunes.
I printed it off, but didn't take part.
If I'd have taken part it would have been
for Dirty Old Town or King of the

 I don't know if these guys had one of the
stands? The advert was in the brochure.

This was the room where the stands were held on the Saturday. I must
have walked round it about 20 times. It was mainly new-fangled acoustic
ukes. I enjoyed the number of people that were wandering around with
their ukes strung across their backs. Uke and proud! Ha ha.

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain weren't at the festival that I know of.
They were there in spirit though... trying to get some money to allow them
to produce a video of their recent trip to Oz. I think that the deal was a
short slot on their 'extras' dvd in exchange for some moolah. I didn't
contribute but there seemed to be a lot of interested people mooching
about their stand.

Ever one for surprises, the Queen took time out from her hectic Jubilee
celebrations to attend the festival. It was good to see her there!

Rob from Tin Guitar had a stand selling his beautiful ukes. I'm meant to be
interviewing Rob for Electric Ukulele Land (my other blog) but we've
never managed to finish the interview. I was going to introduce
myself on the Saturday, but he always seemed to be closing a deal.
Oh well... next time!

Our hosts...

It's been a long time since I've done all this
festival malarky. Here's the arm-band I
had to wear. It could have been worse...
My bro was trying to convince me that we
needed matching uke tatts as a momento.

My last picture and you know that uke can't touch this!

That's it guys. The festival was great. I enjoyed it at the time and more so now as I've stuck the photos together for you. There will be no festival next year. Thank you to all the performers over the weekend. I learnt a few things, but more importantly I enjoyed myself! Cheers!

Update 04-Jul-2012

I posted a copy of this review on my "other" blog Electric Ukulele Land. Andrew Robinson of Aisling Out Walking was nice enough to drop a comment. I'm posting it here because it's got some useful links. Thank you Andrew and good luck at the Ukulele Hooley!

Andrew wrote: "A fairly comprehensive summing-up! Thanks for the link to Aisling Out Walking! We now have a facebook page,

The next Ukulele Hooley will be in August, 18th and 19th, in The People’s Park, DĂșn Laoghaire (that’s right below Dublin, joined on in fact). See"

Update 05-Jul-2012

I recently got in touch with Gerald Ross to try and get some answers to some questions I had. He was kind enough to reply - what a great bloke!

Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm a fan of slide guitar. I've been promising to do a song for a while now. Other than time, the thing that's holding me back at the moment is the lack of a decent slide. The one I have is just too heavy. I thought I'd go to the master and find out what he uses. He gave me details of his whole set-up at the festival: "I use a 1954 Fender Champion six string lap steel guitar tuned to C6 ( C E G A C E low to high). I had a Yamaha TR10 battery powered amp. I use a steel (slide) made by the Tribotone Company.  It's 2.75" long and .75" in diameter. Look up the Tribotone company on the web."

Gerald also answered a few questions I'd asked above in this post. "The steel guitarist from the Winin' Boys is Marc van de Veire... And yes, it was truly my first time in the UK. I hope to be back!"

So there you have it! Thanks Gerald. Let me know when you're coming back and I'll gladly buy you a pint!

Update 07-Sep-2012

The Ukulele Festival of GB 2013 - June 21st to 23rd 2013

Hi All

Some of you may recall that we were going to have a "year-off" but........ WE'RE NOT!!!!

We are pleased to announce that the festival will be going ahead in 2013 and the dates you need to put in your diary are: Friday 21st June to Sunday 23rd June 2013

We are busily working on putting together a fantastic lineup - definitely with some real surprises so keep an eye on the website for updates as we hope to announce the first details of the lineup in October. Tickets will be available soon too, but you may want to start looking for accommodation to grab your preferred place to stay.

Loads more news coming soon. Please pass this news on to your friends and family.

See you soon
The Ukefest Team


  1. Looks like it was a fun festival.
    And regarding -
    " Can you guess what tune she
    was playing? My bro was admiring this uke for quite
    a while.
    Anyone know what make it is?
    Looks like she was playing
    "Tip-toe Through The Twolips"
    to me.
    (did I spell that right?-)
    And I think the make is Hummingbird.

    or was that a Huppingbird uke?-)

  2. Yeah it was fun Daz. I think you got that song title spot on - spelling and all! Ha ha! Did you spot the Bigsby custom uke on that link you put up! Now that's a thing of beauty!!
    Hold on! I think she might have been playing "Arse you lonesome tonight"...

  3. I had a great time at the festival. The Friday evening pub jam and Saturday's main event were brilliant! Southern Ukulele did have a booth there and are actually putting on their own festival soon. Should be a good one too. I didn't make it to Sunday's busk or bbq which was a shame.

    You mentioned no festival next year? Any more info on why?

  4. Glad to hear that you had a great time Lefty-man! If I'd known you were going I would have hooked up. The Southern Uke-Fest sounds like a great idea. It was a real journey for me getting there and back, so this may be it for me. I don't know why they're not doing the festival next year. They said they were going to do something else and then come back in 2 years. No details. Anyone else reading this know any more?