The Ukulele Festival of Great Britain, June 2013, Cheltenham.... reigns as one of the best Ukafrolics of all so far, and likely to remain up there for some time, methinks... because it was simply FABULOUS.
It all started with the Friday evening welcome and get-together at the Exmouth Arms... this was the first big ukulele festival I had been to, and didn't know quite what to expect... I had thought this part of the proceedings would be in a big room... it would have to have been a very big room, if everyone turned up..... but no, as we reached the pub, having walked half-way across Cheltenham to find it, the fun was already starting to take place, outside in the beer garden and under a marquee. We were very early. But many were there before us.
The first person I spotted was Barry Maz, of Got a Ukulele blog, with his little party of N'Ukers... strategically well-placed opposite the entrance, so as not to miss anyone coming in... clever, that... we hadn't met before, but were great pals in no time. One by one, other familiar faces and ukey pals were spotted. Ale bought, seats found, tee-shirt purchased... and already, little groups were strumming and singing. What to do, but to get up and join in. I had only taken one uke, my Kiwaya soprano, but a lot of people had several ukes with them, including banjoleles. There were ukes and people everywhere, everywhere the sound of strumming, and soon there were no seats left... a few more songs from the Big Busk Songbook..... a blues jam with Barry and the N'Ukes....
They said James Hill would be there... and eventually I spotted him - a ukulele hero indeed - if you've been asleep up a corner somewhere, just look on YouTube for his version of Billie-Jean, and be amazed.... I was introduced to him... oh, my.... I told him how I'd booked tickets and a place on one of his workshops the minute they'd gone on sale in November - he is SO nice, so pleasant and unassuming. I was hugely impressed. I'd have loved to have taken a photo but it seemed so.... crass. So I didn't. I should have - he would not have minded, I know.... but my evening was made, I had met my idol, and many more lovely people besides.
The longest day of the year, and the weather had kept a friendly countenance for us but eventually the dusk began to fall and so did the temperature... it had been a long day, we had a fair walk to do back to our hotel, and the Saturday promised to be simply magnificent. It was. I still smile just to remember it..... I'll tell you all about it next time. Don't go too far, now!