So: one week on, and the comedown is just about over. The inevitable blues and emptiness that hit after a great, great, time have just about gone. Can it really be a whole year till the next Hollesley?
Every year about this time, there is a gathering in Suffolk of uke folk on a truly international level at the famous Hollesley Ukulele Jamboree. What started out as a fairly casual gathering of friends six or seven years ago has now become (to its devotees at least) THE premier ukulele event anywhere. Visitors come from as far as the USA, South Africa – even Australia – though most are from the UK and Europe (with a curiously high proportion of Swedes…).
There’s about 120 of us in the group photo – including partners, kids, friends…It’s a very inclusive thing. Most of us know each other through the Ukulele Cosmos – the thinking person’s uke website – though not all. It all started when Ray Shakeshaft, who did his national service in the RAF at Bawdsey, suggested a few of us meet up at a campsite he visited near there every year.
We turned up, played a bit… the campsite owners, Andy and Michele, helped out with a few haybales to sit on in a small marquee, and we all had a rare old time. The next year, we decided to repeat it – and by now, the word had spread. Each year, some pretty stellar guests and performers turn up and play for the love of it, with the modest fee from people attending the Saturday night concert just about covering their expenses.
But the key thing about Hollesley isn’t really the star cast or the concert – it’s the wandering round, playing in groups; the open mic (or this year, the open NO mic for people who might be a little shy of sharing their songs through a PA); the friendship and banter… and, let’s be honest, the beer. There’s also a fabulous raffle where good folk donate great prizes. It’s glorious.
Total immersion – a festival without the hassle; a mass singalong on the Sunday afternoon. Next year will be… the eighth? The ninth? Who’s counting? I haven’t missed a single one – and I hope I never will.