Talented ukulele players from all over the world will be converging on Huddersfield in early May for one of the country’s biggest festivals celebrating the music of the small guitar-like instrument.
The Grand Northern Ukulele Festival – this year from Friday, May 5, until Sunday, May 7 – attracts hundreds of enthusiasts to the town. It began in Pontefract back in 2013, but has been hosted in Huddersfield ever since.
Festival organiser, Mary Agnes Krell, says this year’s event will be the largest yet, with a line-up of musicians – more than 30 acts in total – from as far afield as Australia and America.
“On this year’s line-up we also have a huge amount of young talent, bringing the brightest young stars to one of the country’s biggest ukulele festivals,” she added.
Headlining the festival is Victoria Vox, from Wisconsin, who is world famous for her blend of pop and ukulele-infused music. She will be joined by Ryo Montgomery, from Australia, who is one of nearly a dozen artists aged under 25 performing at the festival, and Amelia Coburn, a BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards nominee.
There’s talent from Europe, in the shape of the Italian Jashgawronsky Brothers, and home-grown performers from Yorkshire, Biscuithead & The Biscuit Badgers, who are making a return to the festival.
The three days of the festival will be hosted at a variety of venues. On Friday, there’s a jam and open mic session from 8pm at the Head of Steam; gig at the Sportsman pub (7pm) and two workshops at Cambridge Hotel; Saturday will see players at Vinyl Tap Records and the Lawrence Batley Theatre; and on Sunday venues are Head of Steam and the LBT.
The festival has gigs, concerts and workshops on everything from folk and rock to reggae ukulele as well as audience participation cabaret. As Mary says: “Bring your uke and join in.”
Ticket details are available from northernuke.com or thelbt.org A full weekend ticket is £46 for adults and £32 for children aged 12 to 18 (under 12s free). Workshops cost £15 and need to be booked on the festival site.
Sales of ukuleles are soaring. It’s possible to pick one up for less than £20. Children can get lessons through Musica Kirklees; Ricky’s School of Rock in Linthwaite offers classes, as does Hot Banana in Holmfirth and Dawsons Music Shop, Marsh.
It’s often said that ukulele means “jumping flea” in Hawaiian (named after the way fingers jump over the strings). However, the last queen of the Kingdom of Hawaii, Liliuokalani, translated ukelele as “gift from afar”.
Many famous people enjoy strumming a ukulele. Beatle George Harrison collected hundreds of the instruments and the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, played while in quarantine after the moon landing.