As some of you might remember, I went to the UFoS at Dumfries last year & said it was the best-organised uke festival I’d attended, so was excited to make my second trip there over the May Bank Holiday weekend.
It was glorious weather, which showed off the fine landscaped Crichton Estate grounds at their best. Founded by Elizabeth Crichton in the 1830s, the buildings were originally built as a forward-thinking psychiatric hospital (which included gardens, arts & music therapy & a farm that the patients could work in) and it’s now a university campus, with Easterbrook Hall conference centre and Holiday Inn hotel.
The Festival was sold out, with around 740 participants, a large Purple Army of volunteers and over one hundred performers. As before, on arrival early Friday afternoon, people were being checked in efficiently & issued with wristbands, UFoS Songbooks & Programmes plus a very handy single-sheet at-a-glance schedule. Most of the organisation was done by Linda Butterworth, who does an amazing job, along with her husband, Stuart Butterworth, who leads and teaches many of the local ukulele groups.
In addition to those staying at the Holiday Inn, many people had brought their motor homes, which were parked along two of the roads, & a number of others were camping in the grounds. I was in an Airbnb in Dumfries town centre – above a whisky & wine merchants with the strapline ‘The Drambusters‘ – &, as I’m teetotal, their stock was safe with me!
Attendees were arriving from all over the UK, Europe and even further afield, all carrying at least one ukulele. Some folk had already travelled to nearby Caerlaverock Castle, a moated triangular fortress about seven miles from Dumfries, for an open air strumalong, the first event of the Festival. But it was all about to get into full swing.
Some of my photos from the first day of the Festival
After checking through the documentation, I sauntered to Crichton Memorial Church for the first workshop I’d booked – Harmony Singing, with The Naked Waiters (who were neither naked, nor waiters!). They come from Utah & premiered at last year’s UFoS. They sing close, tight harmonies, so I knew this would be an interesting session. They demoed a few of their songs, took us through their arrangement of Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours (in simple terms, you can play the chords of the tune, split into four groups & each group sing the notes that occur on a specific string to create four-part harmony) and gave us other tips on how they work out their arrangements.
I then strolled round the site & relaxed for a while in one of the Jamming Tents at the rear of the hotel (the other was totally full). There were mats, cushions & solar-powered lanterns to make them comfy.
After an evening buffet had been served in the bar, amongst other options, there was a Jam With The Stars strumalong from the eighty-two tune Festival Songbook, led in turn by different performers. It was so packed, folding chairs & music stands had to be brought in from elsewhere to fit everyone in the room.
Later on, I left the jamming & walked across to the Candlelit Concert, back in the Crichton Church. There were candles lining the pathway into the entrance & every arched window had several more flickering at the bottom. More were arranged on the stage behind the performers. The gig included Astraluna, Mike Haysom & Zoe Bestel. It was all very spectacular & atmospheric.
Mike’s performance is below & the others from the evening are linked above (all on his YouTube Channel).