Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The GFS, June Convention 2012 - What a Serious Ukafrolic was That!

LSH (long-Suffering-Husband)and I returned yesterday from Blackpool. We've been up there for our first visit to a meeting of the GFS, the George Formby Society.

When we got to Blackpool on Friday, Blackpool had not got the red carpet out for us - gale force winds swept the country and the Blackpool Promenade, and the town was presented in her dowdiest clothes. Sadly, we saw there not a tree, a flower or a blade of grass to lift the spirits. On Saturday morning, to news that in Wales a thousand people near Aberystwyth had been evacuated from their homes and others awaited rescue from floods, we battled our way against the wind up the Prom to the Imperial Hotel, the traditional meeting place of the society.
From then on, it all changed. There early to get a good seat, we sat on the second row. Next to us sat a couple whose home for the last forty-five years has been in Australia. Back in Blighty for a visit to relatives, they had determined to take in a meeting of the GFS as John (Lee) is a uke and banjo-uke player.

John Lee entertains Australian style

He had brought his instruments with him all the way from Oz; they included an impressive cigar-box uke that he had made himself - I really regret not taking a photo of it.

The front row filled up, just in front of us. As the people there took their seats, they turned round and started to chat to all of us... how warm and friendly are ukulele people! We had read about how friendly the folk are at the GFS, and how it's just like one one big family, and it is absolutely true...

Four things that blew me away...

1. The friendliness and kindness of the people
2. The talent and skill of the performers
3. The vintage ukes and banjo-ukes I saw and even played a bit!
4. The Thrash! Where everyone pics up their ukes, comes to front and joins in! Just amazing!

I think the best way I can write about all this is to simply tell you the great things that impressed me and stuck in my mind.

The people...
The Richards family, whose warmth welcomed us from the start and made us feel as if we belonged.

Chris Richards with her Gibson Ukulele

The chairman, Dennis Mitchell, who, without being asked, took me on one side and took time in the break to look at my little Slingerland Maybelle, and tell me what to do with her to optimize her playing condition - I'll be coming back to that later. What a lovely man...

The President, Gerry Mawdsley, who took the tuition class on Sunday morning, full of tips for newbie players.... super stuff, all of it - including - the Formby split-stroke de-mystified! Something else I'll be coming back to!

Gerry also did compering. His one-liners are wonderful, what a sense of humour! The raffle - "Look, she's smiling - wait till you see what you've won!"

The backing trio of Matt Richards on keyboard, Tony Thornton on bass guitar and Dale Norman on drums, who played anything and everything, in any key, at a moment's notice for the performers...

Dickie Speake, who wrote "Riding on a Blackpool Tram", took over from Matt Richards on keyboard on Sunday evening and is the owner of the most engaging smile, which never seemed to leave his face! Here holding a very special vintage Abbott - or was it a Monarch? Now I know I should have written everything down.....

And one young woman standing next to me with her 1920's "Baby" Gibson banjo-uke in the first Thrash, who, when I muttered "God, my uke's gone right out of tune" turned and informed me that "They tune in D for the Thrash!" Ooops! We swapped names and there I found another friend, a kindred spirit...

I'll post again about the talent and the instruments. I like to do "bite-sized" posts and this one is getting to be quite a mouthful.

But if any of those lovely people find themselves reading this, I want to say "Thank you" for the best weekend LSH and I have had for a long time!

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