Grand Northern Ukulele Festival 2014 - Main Stage Treats!

Only a couple of weeks to go now, and thought I would share some of the delights that you will see on the main stage at this years Grand Northern Ukulele Festival at Huddersfield this year.

In fact, the whole weekend has SO many act performing I have to apologise in advance as I can't list videos of every performer - frankly this page would then load so slowly it would be useless - but if you are thinking of going, this is just a taster. The event also has workshops, a full fringe event with many performers of true renown playing in unusual venues around the town and lots of other surprises too.

Anyway, I have to kick off with the totally awesome headliners. I believe I am correct in saying that this is their first Ukulele Festival appearance, so a true treat for those attending. They need little more introduction from me - its THE UKULELE ORCHESTRA OF GREAT BRITAIN!!!

Also on the main stage, a performer I am keen to see who plays sublime rhythmic blues and ragtime. Again I think this is her first UK Uke Fest appearance - its Del Ray!

Next up, a band I have not yet seen live, but love their arrangements. I suspect a good many people at the fest know at least one third of the band in the shape of Paul Tucker of the Southern Ukulele Store - its Mother Ukers! ( I had to share this one - anyone covering Janes Addiction on uke is ok by me!)

One of the youngest performers at the festival, Zoë Bestel has the voice of an angel and has already been recognised as a huge talent, with comparisons being drawn to KT Tunstall and Amy MacDonald

Next, somebody I am really looking forward to meeting in the flesh - I've interviewed Tricity Vogue on this blog and also reviewed one of her CD's - she performs with her All Girl Swing Band.

And for those wanting a dance - returning to the festival since they absolutely nailed their 2013 performance at GNUF, its the Anything Goes Orchestra!

Beyond that, they also have the  likes of the Mersey Belles, Krabbers, Andy Eastwood, Chonkinfeckle, Phil Doleman, Some Like It Ossett, Ukulelezaza, Lionel K Hubert, Vonck and Vlam, Peter Moss, Michael Adcock, Eek, Uke Of Carl and more surprises to come.  What I really like is the variety across the acts - really is something for everyone.

There are some tickets still available, but I believe it is now already the biggest uke festival in the UK with sales to date! 13-14 September, Huddersfield, UK



Ukulele Hangers - REVIEW

Sometimes things come along which are just so simply brilliant that it is a joy for me to write about them. Such is the case with Ukulele Hangers.

ukulele hangers

Hanging ukuleles (or, indeed, other instruments) is something a lot of people like to do. It keeps them off the floor, off stands that can be knocked over, and it also makes a music room look just great in my opinion. There are a range of yoke type hangers on the market, but I have never really been a fan. Most of them require some pretty heavy duty screwing or bolting to the wall for security and that is a hassle I don't really need. I would also be concerned about the cheaper ones as to what sort of foam padding is used on the part you hang the ukulele on - with vintage finishes this foam can react and destroy the gloss on the back of the neck. As such, i've never done it.

ukulele hanger attached to tuners

Then Jon from Stable Yard Music got in touch with me asking that I take a look at his ukulele hanging product. As I say above, its so simple it's brilliant!

They are made from tough 550 Paracord and come in a range of bright colours and just simply slip over the top two tuners of your uke with pre knotted loops. These can be tightened by hand to secure them (though I didn't really find that necessary) and that leaves another loop sticking above the uke for hanging on a wall hook. And that is it! You can also leave it on the instrument when you are playing as it really doesn't get in the way of anything, and the tuners are still perfectly useable.

hanging ukulele

And rather than over charge for something quite so simple, they only cost £1.49 and can be shipped worldwide.

I suppose they sit in that 'why didn't I think of that?' category, so hats off from me to Jon. And at that price, you can also put them in the 'why would I not spend £1.49 on these?' category too! I think they are great for just leaving on the uke or keeping in a gig bag - you never know when it will come in handy and they weigh next to nothing.

The Ukulele Hangers can be purchased through his website at http://www.ukulelehangers.com. Highly recommended.

ukulele hanging on wall


Ka1a1aika - Amelie Ukulele duet - Comptine d'Un Autre Été

I dont blog YouTube ukulele videos anywhere near as much as I used to. Simple reason is that YouTube is awash with bedroom recordings of Jason Mraz and others, and its quite hard to find something really nice in between it all.

Then I fell across this video of a duo under the name of Ka1a1aika covering this Yann Tiersen piece from the soundtrack of the film Amelie (also one of my favourite films which helps).

I think it is really rather lovely. Uke spotters, that is a Kanilea K1T and a Kala solid Acacia tenor)



EEK For Eurovision - Bingy Bingy Bangy Bong.

I can't resist getting behind this song.  A little while ago the excellent Omega Music launched an online competition called the Ukuvision Song Contest 2014, in which people submitted videos of original songs which then went to public vote to win a Kala Uke.

Matt from Omega got in touch today to tell me that Martyn 'Eek' Cooper who wrote this one is going to submit it for the actual Eurovision Song Contest 2015. And you know, he is just about crazy and loveable enough to pull it off.

Martyn, better known as his clowning alter ego 'Eek' is a well known face on ukulele circuits over here in the UK, and has performed at the largest festivals. He's also a very funny and jolly nice chap. Here he is on stage at the 2013 Grand Northern Ukulele Festival (thats him on the left!) with Phil Doleman, Tony Casey and Mary Agnes Krell. He also compered the Saturday.

Anyway - enough waffling, here's the video.  Give it a like!


Workshops With A Difference at The Grand Northern Ukulele Festival

One thing that you will always find at a ukulele festival are players workshops. Its something of a peculiarity that goes with the instrument I guess, but they are always hugely popular with those attending. The most common sort of workshops are the 'learn how to play' type, where you can often learn along with some of the headline acts from the show. This year though, the team at the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival have decided to offer some extra workshops with a difference which certainly look exciting!

In fact, GNUF this year are promising that EVERY playing workshop is brand new - they have never been done at other UK festivals, ever! Their workshops cover three distinct types this year - playing, performing and making. Check out the full listing on the grid below.

GNUF Workshop clash finder
Click to enlarge

Phil Doleman ukulele workshop
Phil Doleman

On the playing side you can learn tips and tricks from the likes of Phil Doleman (who has created brand new classes for this festival covering unlocking the fingerboard and blues) and Chonkinfeckle's Les Hilton looking at open tunings, this year based around the Van Morrison classic, Brown Eyed Girl. Ken Middleton also makes a return to the workshop section.

Andy Eastwood
Andy Eastwood

GNUF also have new workshop additions from the likes of Del Ray (one of the festival headliners, with a Jug Band Blues party), Andy Eastwood  (one of the most technically gifted players I have seen on stage) who is teaching Formby styles, and the magnificent Ukulelezaza teaching the 12th Street Rag. Also recently added is a workshop from Peter Moss - a hugely talented player and well respected tutor who is teaching chord sequences, minor chords and timing.  Like your jazz? Adam Franklin will be on hand to teach 20's and 30's hot jazz rhythm picking styles.

The Mother Ukers
The Mother Ukers

On offer are a singing / busking workshop with the Mersey Belles in which you will get to perform on stage with them, musical clowning with Vonck and Vlam, and one I particularly like in which you will get to learn to record a song with the Mother Ukers, and then get a download of it after the festival. It will also appear on a future Mother Ukers album!

And finally, what a delight it would be to appear on the main festival stage with Tricity Vogue and her All Girl Swing Band! Yes, you can do that too.

Tricity Vogue
Tricity Vogue and her All Girl Swing Band

And then on to 'making', GNUF returns with two great hands on workshops from last year which were HUGELY popular last year. Making a wash tub bass or making a Diddly Bow with master UK Luthier Rob Collins. At both you get to keep the instrument you made!

Rob Collins with Diddly Bow

So why am I telling you all this? Well places on these are going really FAST, with some I didn't mention sold out now, so not long to go. The festival takes place on 13-14 September in Huddersfield. If you want to attend a workshop, DON'T leave it until you get there as you may be disappointed.

All details on the workshops can be found at http://www.northernuke.com/2014-festival/workshops/

I will be at the festival too if you want to come and say hello! Roll on September!