Festival Q&A:
The Grand Old
Uke of York

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Yorkshire’s most vibrant ukulele collective play Beverley Folk Festival (17-19 June) and headline Grassington Festival’s Festival in the Square (2 July). No prizes for guessing what instrument is in their festival survival kit.

How would you describe your sound?
I’d say we were quite eclectic. There are a lot of other ukulele groups out there so we like being different with our song selection. A guitarist and double bass player have tried to join us but we want our group to be 100 per cent uke! There is such a diverse range available now and with over 120 ukes between us, we’ve got them all pretty much covered – bass, electric, baritones, tenor, concert, soprano, sopranissimo ukes. Sometimes if the mood is right we slip in a banjo uke as well. I love it when we play songs that people don’t expect us to play.

Tell us what you’ve been up to since last summer?
It’s been non-stop really and last year was the busiest ever. We played at the Tour de Yorkshire opening ceremony, Grassington Festival, Poppleton Live and Pocklington Platform Festival. We’ve played at a burlesque evening and we had our very own Christmas concert at the Friargate Theatre, which sold out almost twice over. Along with headlining at the York Ukulele Festival (power cut during our opening number included), our regular slot at Yorkshire’s largest beer and cider festival in York, the City of York Folk Weekend, a charity gala at York Barbican, we’ve also had a secret gig (which we can’t tell you about). Oh, and we’re soon to feature in a TV advert.

What festivals are you playing this year?

This year we are very, very excited to be playing at the Beverley Folk Festival – it’s such a great atmosphere and in sunny, sunny Yorkshire too. Well, we hope it’s sunny as we’ve got two six month old “band babies” going too. Then we’re off to Underneath the Stars festival, where it’ll also be sunny and dry. We are delighted to be closing the Grassington Festival in the square again and a new one for us this year is the Flying Man Festival in Pocklington. Poppleton Live have once again invited us to play in May. Glastonbury – we are still available if Coldplay pull out.

Who else are you excited to see at the festivals?
As a group we have very different tastes in music and can be found scattered amongst all the festival stages if you look hard enough. We obviously have our favourites. Kate Rusby is a family choice (Baby Phoebe loves her lullabies) and we can’t wait to see her at both Beverley Folk Festival and Underneath the Stars this year. I love Hope & Social and Holy Moly and the Crackers. Since working with Hope & Social we have made so many friends and tend to follow them around. Being on the same bill as the Animals and Friends, the Lindisfarne Story Band and Steeleye Span is of course very exciting.

If you could curate your own festival what would the line-up look like with artists dead or alive?
Where do you start? As a group we would probably have the Beatles, the Stones, DJ Yoda, the Levellers, Shania Twain (ask Stephen!), Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney. Throw in a bit of George Ezra, John Otway and our own beer of course.

What’s your best festival memory?
Playing in the beer tent at Galtres when no more people could fit in it. We were the only act to get a tent to full capacity all weekend apparently.

What’s in your festival survival kit?
A ukulele (of course), a smile and probably access to gin. Then solar fairy lights for the tent, wet wipes and after a giant water zorbing pool deflated and flooded the tent we were performing in – wellies!

Apart from music, what should the ideal festival have?

Great people. Good food and drink. A party atmosphere, day and night. Morning yoga. Dogs. A silent disco. Sunshine.

Antonia Charlesworth

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The Grand Old
Uke of York

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