Saturday 5th March saw day one of Croydon’s inaugural ukulele festival.
Maria was the first of our number to arrive, attending the Mass Busk practice at midday, which she found very useful. I met up with her & the other players around 1.30pm outside the Whitgift Shopping Centre for the al fresco busk. Luckily they’d thought to erect a marquee, as it was rainy, & we nabbed the last two (front row!) seats. We worked our way through the songbook of well-known numbers for about an hour to a small but appreciative audience of soggy shoppers. Our fingers were pretty numb from the cold by the end but it was a fun gig!
We grabbed a hasty lunch then dashed back to the daytime venue – the Green Dragon pub along the central High Street – to catch the last part of the set from the Berkhamsted Ukulele Random Players (BURP). Here they are with their version of Jesse J’s Price Tag (filmed at a previous gig by John O’Sullivan):
The room suddenly filled as everyone arrived for the afternoon’s main session: Phil Doleman‘s Ukulele Player’s Bag of Tricks workshop (at a bargain group rate of £3.50 each). At this point we joined fellow PLUCers Bob, Ed & Kev, who were all equally keen to learn some fresh skills. As always, Phil gave an informative, fun and clear workshop, filled with handy little tips and detailed reference sheet to take away.
Carol from Croydon Uke Jam, who’d been busy rushing about as the main organiser of the festival, slotted in a quick free workshop on using tab and sheet music to play in ensembles, handing round three different parts of Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King for us to try.
Then we needed to head a mile or so through the back streets of Croydon to find the evening venue – The Oval Tavern – tucked away in a quiet residential road past East Croydon station, over the other side from all the central shops & trams.
The Oval’s claim to fame is that a few scenes for Peep Show were shot in there. They were kindly offering discounts on food & drink to anyone carrying a uke; the staff were friendly & they had a decent range of menu choices (including several vegan options, which obviously pleased me).
Phil Doleman played a two-part set, which was highly enjoyable & included numbers such as Police Dog Blues, Diddy Wa Diddie, Singing In The Bathtub, Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now) (which he’s recently recorded on wax cylinder), Mysterious Mose & many more. Colin – who also attends the Croydon group fairly regularly – managed to join us for the second half. Here’s Phil doing his own take on a number we play regularly (filmed by Ed):
Ed also caught his performance of Hesitation Blues.
After Phil finished, there was a strumalong where they used a projector & screen, which was unfortunately a bit tricky to see, especially as most of the numbers were totally unfamiliar. We all thought we’d be using the songbooks we’d printed out for earlier but found out on Sunday they had been so busy organising the festival & a lot of their members had been sick, that they were rehearsing the numbers they needed to play for their two sets the following afternoon. This explained the change of plan & it must have been a relief to finally get in some practice time after such a manic few weeks!
I think Bob & Colin were the last of our number left strumming in the pub as the rest of us departed, with Maria & me due to attend on the Sunday for more entertainment…