Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Croydon Ukulele Festival

I know I don't post regularly on this blog but I do have a weekly Song of the Week on Facebook. However as I have just visited the Croydon Ukulele Festival I thought you might like a summary...

Croydon Ukulele Festival

I was initially interested in coming to the festival because of the headline acts. I have seen Phil Doleman as he is probably the UK’s top ukulele attraction. However my main reason for booking was because I hadn’t seen Jo Stephenson or Elliot Mason. Both were great. It was worth coming down from Morecambe for the three headline acts and this was helped by the intimate atmosphere of the Oval Tavern.

I had not seen the programme until a couple of weeks prior to the festival. I had guessed there would be opportunities for playing the ukulele and there were plenty. I thought I knew most songs that are sung by ukulele groups but it was good to find quite a few that I didn’t. Again it was the intimate atmosphere (of the Green Dragon) and Carol’s friendly strumalong leadership that brought out the best in ukulele playing – not to mention Neil’s professional sound engineering and computer skills.

The cost was a big factor for me. The hotel was not expensive and neither were food prices. I had a central location and walking between venues was easy. Workshops were mostly free and one was £3.50 which is on the low side even if a club is organising it. At major festivals you would be more likely to pay £15 or £20 for a similar workshop.

I was pleased to see Paul Redfern’s first solo gig. He has a great act and has an extensive knowledge of the ukulele.  I was also really impressed by the performances by the local clubs. The three groups were superb. I have seen the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and noticed many similarities particularly with the Brockley Group.

The weekend’s schedule was quite full but I did manage to visit Croydon’s museum and got to know the town because of the two main venues and the mass busk in the main shopping centre.
I can only think of one negative and that was the price of parking. I usually park for free wherever I go but parking for two days in Croydon cost me £26. Maybe this isn’t much for many people but it’s £26 more than nothing.

I met some really nice people and I’m sure paths will cross again and I will look forward to it when they do. Thanks must go to the efforts of those who organised the event. Well done. I probably got as much out of the Croydon ukulele festival as any other festival I’ve ever been to, and the the savings I made in the costs of the hotel and festival allowed me to buy a Noah ukulele!

P.S. If you book Merry Hell or Ukulele Jukebox I will definitely be there in 2017.