Nice review of Norwich Ukulele Festival

22 Sept 2010

Nice review of Norwich Ukulele Festival

Courtesy of Norwich Evening News

Norwich hosts first ukulele festival

Last updated: 19/09/2010 12:31:00
The ukulele festival in Norwich
The ukulele festival in Norwich
Fans of the ukulele packed into the Ten Bells pub in St Benedict's Street on Saturday for the city's first ever ukulele festival.

Best known as the instrument played by 1930s and 40s entertainer George Formby, the ukulele is enjoying a surge in popularity - and is picking up converts in Norwich.

The Norwich Ukulele Society was set up in February and now attracts more than 40 people to its fortnightly sessions.

The mini-festival witnessed the first time Guitar George has played a ukulele on stage and also saw a rare solo set from Noel Dashwood (of Dumbfoundus), who has just played the O2 in London.

The Norwich society was founded by Gemma Cullingford and Amy Wragg, both of whom attended the festival.

Amy said: “The last time ukuleles were so popular was during the depression of the early 1930s.

“They're cheap to buy and easy to play, and I think their resurgence is probably down to the current economic recession.

“They work well for introducing children to the joy of music and similarly for those of us whose small hands tried the guitar, but couldn't quite reach those interesting chords (like me).”

The society is led by ukulele teacher Gemma Cullingford who said: “It's quite a sociable instrument and it brings people together. It's very easy to play so that's satisfying for people who may have struggled to master the guitar, and it's great fun.”

The Norwich society rehearses fortnightly at the Ten Bells and Amy said a neighbour recently complimented them on the sound after hearing David Bowie's Starman played on a ukulele.

James Maas, 17, who makes up ukulele duo The Two Ukes with Doug Archer, and was playing at the festival, said: “I really like the sound. We are a ukulele covers band and play rock covers in a different style.”

The two-piece's biggest gig to date was last year in front of 8,000 fans when they supported Britain's Got Talent winners Diversity, who turned on the Christmas lights at Chapelfield shopping centre.

Nationwide, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain has been putting a unique spin on contemporary tunes, inspiring ukulele players to take on more inventive material, covering everything from punk to hip hop.

What unusual musical classes do you run in Norwich? Email reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email


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