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Clifton Green School gears up for GreenFest

28th June 2019

A YORK primary school is gearing up to host a fun-packed afternoon of live music.

Clifton Green Primary's music festival, GreenFest, is being held on July 6 on the school's field.

It will feature live music from a host of artists, including The Grand Old Uke of York, The Mothers and The Mix.

There will also be inflatables, fairground rides and food and drink stalls.

The school is expecting around 1,000 people to attend the event.

John Hattam, community liaison officer at Clifton Green Primary, said: "It's a community summer festival for all the family.

"We are also going to be raising money for York Against Cancer

"Last year was the first GreenFest we have held and it was a great success and we're looking forward to doing it all again this year."

Re-Cycle York are the official sponsors and have given the school £1,000 to help run the festival.

Review: Great Yorkshire Fringe, Grand Old Uke Of York, White Rose Rotunda, Parliament Street, York, July 20

20th July 2018

What's for sure, the sell-out crowd for York's best-loved uke band lapped up every beat.

It was just one of 20 numbers – all rock and pop classics – that kept the packed-out audience in the 1930s' auditorium tapping their toes and even swinging their hips (to Ricky Martin's Living La Vida Loca).

There were beachballs, glo-sticks and a jokes a plenty, as The Grand Old Uke Of York dialled up the entertainment value to the max.

But most were here for the music. Fans of the band were rewarded with renditions of firm favourites – including Kings of Leon's Sex On Fire, Crowded House's Weather With You and Queen's Don't Stop Me Now.

There was a burst of Britpop too: Blur's Park Life, Pulp's Common People and Supergrass's Alright.

But there were some new additions to the set list, including Paloma Faith's Living Upside Down and Pink's Who Knew.

The latter appears on the Ukes' new ten-track CD, Without The Tassels, which was launched at the gig.

The CD marks another milestone for the band who met eight years ago down the pub and have a loyal following – and deservedly so.

A date with the Grand Old Uke of York is 100 per cent entertainment.

Even Mr Weller would be on his feet.

Grand Old Uke of York prepare to launch debut album at Yorkshire Fringe

9th June 2018

The band is set to play at the Yorkshire Fringe Festival on July 20, where they will play some old favourites, but also tracks from their first album - Without The Tassles - which will be released that day.

Naomi Wells Smith said the album was the product of seven years of practice and was something the band had intended to do some time ago.

She said: “It’s a ten-track album we’ve been meaning to do for years, but we’ve never got round to it. It’s been pretty much ready to go since March, but we’ve been editing and waiting for the right time to release it.

She said: “Just getting used to recording is something in itself after playing in public. There are some who’ve never stood in front of a mic before and some who’ve never been in a studio.”

Tracks include the kind of rock and indie covers the band is known for, with a few numbers they haven’t played in concert. Tracks include Rock Star by Nickleback - the source of the album’s title - Dakota by Stereophonics, Common People by Pulp, Lola by The Kinks, Who Knew by Pink, X’s & O’s by Ellie King and I Predict A Riot by Kaiser Chiefs.

The album also includes a cover of Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild, which the band originally recorded for a Toyota television advert.

Naomi said the band had been building up to the performance since January, and will be performing at festivals this summer, including Chris Evans’ Car Fest North, and the album launch would feature a number of surprises for their “strong, loyal following”.

She said: “We’re doing the album launch at the Fringe because we have a captive audience! We always have a good time there and it’s a great atmosphere so we thought it would be a great time to do it.”

Tickets for the show are available at or for more information about the album email

Who's playing the Great Yorkshire Fringe in York? Here's our guide - York Press

13th July 2018

THE Great Yorkshire Fringe is turning Parliament Street green again as York’s festival of comedy, theatre, music and family fun returns for a fourth successive year from July 19 to 29.

Mounted by comedy impresario Martin Witts, the city’s annual entertainment festival is taking a more concentrated form, slimmed down to 11 days but still packed with a multitude of shows in the White Rose Rotunda, the Turn Pot and the Tea Pot tents, as well as at the Grand Opera House, in Cumberland Street, and The Basement, at City Screen, York, in Coney Street.

“It’s that time of year again: it’s nearly time for the Great Yorkshire Fringe 2018,” says Martin. “It’s our fourth year in Parliament Street and this year The Sunday Times agrees with us that York is ‘The Best Place to Live in the UK’!

Keeping it local

Plenty to choose from here, be it music, comedy or even a community show.The 13-strong ukulele collective The Grand Old Uke Of York return to the Fringe for a third time with a repertoire of uke-box favourites and a collection of 120 unusual ukuleles. On this occasion, on July 20 at 7pm in the White Rose Rotunda, they will be launching their debut full-length album, Without The Tassels, after a series of EPs and a Christmas album.


July 2018

The Great Yorkshire Fringe is set to take over York for the fourth year in a row – bringing some of the best in music, dance, comedy, cabaret and theatre to the city in an 11-day celebration between 19th–29th July

It took York a little while to believe that something this good can happen here,’ says Jane Veysey, producer of this year’s Great Yorkshire Fringe. ‘I know it sounds silly, but in our first year we opened the box office on site and our ticket sales pretty much doubled in the first week of us being there. Because people want to see it to believe it.’ 


It’s only two months now until the Great Yorkshire Fringe begins and already the line-up is creating a buzz; comedy headliners Omid Djalili, Ed Gamble and Reginald D. Hunter will be joined by the likes of musical extraordinaries Ronnie Scott’s Allstars (direct from London’s world-famous jazz club), multi-award winning vocalist Claire Martin OBE, the legendary Michael Palin CBE – who will be in conversation with comedy historian Robert Ross – and dramatic fringe phenomenons S**t-faced Shakespeare, and there’s still plenty more to be announced. Clearly, the festival has no trouble attracting big names. 

Building on the success of their first three festivals, The Great Yorkshire Fringe 2018 is undoubtedly the biggest yet. With around 40,000 tickets on sale across the 11 days of the festival, where visitors can see over 100 different acts in over 200 performances (with over 500 amateur and professional performers involved) the Fringe is set to take over the city of York in a way that’s only comparable to the Fringe festivals of Edinburgh and London. 

But in many ways, it’s what makes Yorkshire’s Fringe so different from the UK’s other big- hitting festivals that makes it so popular. ‘What sets us apart is the inclusion of all the local stuff,’ says Jane’s fellow producer, Adam Robinson-Witts. ‘This year our programme is a lot heavier with established local acts like Moulin Ouse and the Grand Old Uke of York. It’s all curated, so we strive to have the best programme possible.’ 

Ukulele club release amazing lipsync video

21st December 2017

The York based Ukulele club, known as The Grand Old Uke of York, has released a new version of the Nickelback hit Rockstar.

We think you will agree it works very well indeed as a piece for the Ukulele.

What makes it even more remarkable is that it comes with it's very own lipsync video too.  It was filmed in the summer of 2017 by club's friends and family around the world.

There are shots from New York to Shanghai, Ottawa to Goa and across London, California, Leeds, Harrogate, Sydney  and of course....York.


Stephen Hawksworth from the club says

"There about 80 people involved in our video, it's over 120 clips in total from all around the world.  We did it all ourselves, including the lipsync editing too.

The person who put it together was tearing her hair out a bit to put it all together but it worked very well"

For more information visit their website

Grand Old Uke of York 5* review

27 July 2017

There’s a lot wrong with the world at the moment, but I reckon if you gave everyone a ukulele then you could go a long way to curing all that’s troubling.

It's that sense of community spirit that pulls together an audience to witness nearly two hours of entertaining uke-inspired fun in The White Rose Rotunda. It was packed-out to see the local favourites live up to their pre-show billing as one of the picks of the festival. 

The “Titans of Tweed” walk out to Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ and that sets the tone for the night. They open with a “traditional ukulele folk number”, ‘I Predict A Riot’ by the Kaiser Chiefs before mining a collection of songs from a number of decades, but predominantly from the Britpop era of the 90s. Classics from Oasis, Blur, Pulp, The Beatles, Stereophonics, Prince, Bryan Adams and even Steppenwolf are repurposed for the thirteen-strong orchestra. 

It’s a night that also encompasses bingo, as members of the audience are given a card to tick off each song in the first half of the set. It’s the only disappointment of the night, as I thought that I had won. Seemingly, so did all the other audience members.

There was even a race around the venue involving the two sound guys during their take on The Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Keep on Running’. 

Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Holding Out For A Hero’ sees Tim from the back row of the Ukes disappearing, to return in a superhero outfit as Yorkshire’s very own superhero: Flat Cap Man


Even local celebrity Martin Barass was summoned from the audience to get involved to launch beach balls during ‘Great Balls of Fire’.

If this all sounds chaotic, that’s because it is, but in a good way. Watching the Grand Old Uke of York is no passive experience for the audience. You are expected to get involved. While the chaos reigns, the band carries on. There is infectiousness about the way that the orchestra perform. If you took away all the theatricality, you would still have a very talented group of musicians, but it is the putting on a show makes nights in their presence all the more compelling. 


Given the logistics of the orchestra of that size they don’t go off for a deserved encore, but stay on for a blast through Free’s ‘Alright Now’ to finish off a two-hour set that disappeared in the blink of an eye.  

Review: Platform Festival, The Old Station, Pocklington, July 15; Saint Sister, The Band Room, Low Mill, Farndale, July 14

15 July 2017

AFTER Kate Rusby's 25th anniversary folk lullabies on Wednesday, comedian Ross Noble's deconstruction of the Old Station building's design on Thursday and Levellers' sold-out rebel revelry on Friday, Pocklington's Platform Festival climaxed on Saturday.

Promoted as ever by Pocklington Arts Centre with street vendors outside, tokens to exchange for craft beers, ever helpful staff in Irish-green T-shirts and yellow-bibbed security staff with a smile at the ready, this festival has found its place on the Yorkshire calendar, drawing a full house to its three stages, or Platforms 1, 2 and 3 to be more precise.

Platform 3, in an open-ended tent, was given over to Access To Music's burgeoning talent, co-ordinated as ever by York's evergreen Charlie Daykin, a true hero of the Yorkshire music scene. Arrive early and you have would encountered Amy May Ellis, the North York Moors singer-songwriter later name-checked by York musician Benjamin Francis Leftwich in his late-afternoon set.

Co-ordinated by arts centre manager Janet Farmer and assistant manager James Duffy, inside the Old Station the focus alternated between Platform 1 and Yorkshire acts on Platform 2. On the latter, poised York singer-songwriter Rachel Croft, those splendid storytellers Buffalo Skinners and effervescent Beth McCarthy, in a duo with Robbie from These Jaded Streets, all drew a crowd that swelled still more for The Grand Old Uke Of York's boisterous, tweed-suited renditions of Kaiser Chiefs, Steppenwolf and Pulp's Common People. Bramble Napskins closed the Platform for the night.

Over on Platform 1, Bella Union's new country-noir discovery, the Yorkshire/Irish Holly Macve, lacked stage instincts at the piano and took a wrong turn in covering the ubiquitous Crazy.

Better by far was the ever-charming Benjamin Francis Leftwich, freshly arrived from a wild, "flying" crowd at Latitude and now distilling his songwriting magic for the quieter calm of Pock. Like Leftwich, Newton Faulkner played solo, huge voice, percussive guitar, persuasive new songs, and cheeky-chappy banter, topped off by his willingness to pose for photo after photo post-set.

Happy Hampshire country sisters Ward Thomas, the 2017 festival's equivalent of The Shires last year, were thrilled to be back in Pock after their rapid rise with their Nashville-tooled songs, and the night ended with an even more enthusiastic set by KT Tunstall, a consummate performer whose best songs nevertheless still belong on her long-distant debut album.

If Leftwich had done plenty of travelling, Band Room debutantes Saint Sister had done even more, playing Donegal on Thursday night, then setting off at 4am the next morning to make it across the sea to play the North York Moors' tin shed. They would be moving on to Latitude in Suffolk the next day.

Thank you Morgan MacIntyre, on keyboards, and Gemma Doherty, on electric harp, and your band members Shane Gough, on drums, and Dek Hynes, on bass and synth effects, for making the journey to become the most enchanting discovery at Nigel Burnham's Band Room since Eilen Jewell.

Imagine The xx, but with beguiling female harmonies, on such noir delights as Madrid and Corpses, here complemented by sublime covers of The Divine Comedy's Songs Of Love and Springsteen's Dancing In The Dark. Good news, Morgan and Gemma say they want to return to Low Mill, by which time the Dublin girls will have recorded their debut album in Kerry in August for release some time next year.

The Grand Old Uke Of York take to the county and country roads for summer shows

NOW the summer festival season is well and truly underway, there can be no let-up for York’s ukulele collective, The Grand Old Uke Of York.

Fresh from last Saturday's well-received set on Platform 2 at Pocklington's Platform Festival at The Old Station, they face a hectic schedule of performances around both county and country.

The Ukes kick off on Monday with their own headline show at 7.30pm in the White Rose Rotunda in Parliament Street, as part of The Great Yorkshire Fringe, when a York audience will have a rare chance to see the humorous, high-energy covers band perform anything from Kaiser Chiefs to Steppenwolf within their own city.

Next, the inaugural Selby Arts Festival invites these 14 titans of Yorkshire tweed to take to the stage on July 27 at 7.30pm at The Venue nightclub in Selby, just before the group travel over to the Bolesworth Estate, in Cheshire, two days later to play at Chris Evans’s Carfest North, in aid of Children in Need.

Band leader Naomi Wells Smith says: “We have come such a long way within five short years and have been lucky enough to play at many wonderful venues, accompanying and meeting some tremendous world-class musicians, as well as featuring in a Toyota car advert, performing for the Tour de France's Grand Depart at Leeds First Direct Arena and touring the village halls of Yorkshire this year.

"The Grand Old Uke Of York pride themselves on not only presenting an exciting range of pop and rock music, with seven types of ukuleles, but also on being able to showcase the musical talent of our members. We don't like to make what we play too obvious a choice for a ukulele group."

Review: Great Yorkshire Fringe, The Grand Old Uke Of York, White Rose Rotunda, York 2017

24 July 2016

THE Fringe had another sell-out with this one-night-only gig from York’s “Titans of tweed”, the city’s amazing ukulele orchestra.

Fans of the 13-strong ensemble will know to expect the unexpected from a date with York’s Ukes – and the Fringe concert did not disappoint.

In the first 60-minute half, the audience played musical bingo. Each member had a square card with a single word from a song title in the grid and a pencil to tick them off in turn. It was a hoot, introducing an element of “Name That Tune” into the proceedings. It added some anticipation too. Would “Happy” be the Pharrell Williams hit, or even Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday? In the end, it was neither, turning out to be Happy Hour by The Housemartins.

After the interval, the “special guest” was revealed as Theatre Royal panto legend Martin Barrass, who bounded across the front of the stage to collect a bag of beach balls and throw them into the audience, Wagon Wheels style, as the Ukes nuked out a version of Great Balls Of Fire (along with plenty of innuendo concerning the size if Martin’s beach toys!).

The music is great fun too, from the Beatles mash-up of Back In The USSR and Get Back, to Call Me by Blondie (sung by the Ukes' own blondie, Jasmine Richardson), and Britpop classics from Blur, Pulp and Oasis (Champagne Supernova being a particular delight).

Stephen Hawksworth, a teacher by day and MC of the band at night,  took it in turns with the excellent Kyle Frazer to lead the vocals. Stephen is also the musical arranger and does a sterling job. Who knew the humble ukulele could sound so rich and varied and be all a band could need to perform such a mix of songs as Kaiser Chiefs' I Predict A Riot, Toto’s Africa and Kings Of Leon's Sex On Fire?

The layers of melody on Crowded House’s Weather With You flowed like waves of loveliness; just one of the many highlights from a super night in the Spiegeltent.

The Ukes will be performing at Selby Arts Festival on Thursday and at Woodthorpe’s Family Fun Day on August 12. Catch them if you can.

York Press

Review: Great Yorkshire Fringe, The Grand Old Uke Of York, White Rose Rotunda, York

19 July 2016

IT’S DIFFICULT not to smile when you hear the ukulele played well, even more so when there’s about a dozen of them, playing an innovative arrangement of a pop or rock classic. You’re pretty much guaranteed to be grinning and clapping along like a loon.

Such was the scene in the White Rose Rotunda on Monday, as the self-proclaimed titans of tweed, the Grand Old Uke Of York, wowed the crowd with a host of unexpected covers.

From the opening I Predict A Riot, through a Back In The USSR/Get Back Beatles medley, Prince tributes and even some Status Quo and Steve Harley, the band kept the crowd onside and the energy up – a feat all the more impressive considering the venue was essentially a tightly-packed tent on the hottest day of the year.

There was humour between and during songs, with running gags about raffling off one of the team – who was apparently related to a number of famous musicians – and beach balls were tossed around the audience to complete the festival feeling.

It’s not every day you hear The Kinks, Take That, Pink and Queen on the same set list as Bruce Channel, Labi Siffre, Free, Steppenwolf and Eurythmics, but when the artists are this entertaining and this musically accomplished – with great vocals from individuals and as a group, and a tightness that only comes from experience – those gigs are worth searching out.

York Press

York band become faces of advertising campaign

24 August 2016

A YORK band will be seen on thousands of computer screens from this month, as the new face of a major advertising campaign.

The Grand Old Uke Of York were approached by Toyota to film an advert for a new social media campaign promoting the Verso people carrier, and recorded new music for the film.

Naomi Wells Smith, from the band, said seven of the 15 band members managed to fit into the Verso for the video, which shot for two days around York, but the invitation was almost dismissed.

She said: “We just got approached out of the blue, we’ve no idea how they heard of us.

"They just emailed saying they wanted us to take part in an advert. We get so many requests, we take each one with a pinch of salt.

“Our member Tim was driving, and he’s the main focus of the advert.

"He’s done a really good job, we don’t know where this film star quality was hidden, but it’s come out now. He’s already insufferable.”

As well as recording a cover of Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild for the advertisement, the band were also asked to write their own original piece which ended up being used for the final cut.

Scott Brownlee from Toyota said: “We found the Grand Old Uke of York via their Facebook channel, and as they are a busy and hardworking group wanted to see if we could help them with their travel to and from gigs. “We filmed the piece on the outskirts of York, with a couple of visits to their studio for good measure.

"We were impressed by their music and their camaraderie and were pleased that they found our Verso MPV ideal for their needs.

"The fact they even composed an original piece of music for us was a real bonus.”

The band are set perform at this weekend’s Radio 2’s Car Fest South, on the same bill as acts they cover in their ukulele shows, including Status Quo and Stereophonics.

Naomi said they may or may not show off their covers to the artists, it's undecided.

She said: “Again, we’ve no idea how that came about.

“There are some really good bands so we’re quite excited.

"We’ve played our covers to artists before, we played Golden Brown before The Stranglers, but I don’t know if they all heard it at Galtres Festival.”

York Press

GREAT YORKSHIRE FRINGE: Our top ten pick of what to see and do

14 July 2016

Something musical...
Grand Old Uke of York White Rose Rotunda Tuesday July 19, £7.30pm Tickets: £8

Yorkshire’s most vibrant ukulele collective take on the sounds of Avicii, Stevie Wonder, Queen, ACDC, Olly Murs, The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, The Cure, George Ezra and more. Local legends, they have performed at numerous festivals and gigs including Grassington, Goole, Poppleton and Pocklington – now is your chance to see them in York at the Great Yorkshire Fringe.

York Press

Bumper weekend on offer at Beverley Folk Festival

15 June 2016

THIS weekend's Beverley Folk Festival boasts an impressive line-up of over 100 acts and artists, organisers are expecting music fans from both the local area and much further afield.

Festival Programmer and Manager, John Watterson, said: “This year we have a bumper line-up, with 30% more live music than ever before. Whilst we still have the main 1,200-seater marquee for our headline acts and the popular Wold Top marquee will be housing Area 2, Moonbeams and the Late Night Club, this year our smaller concert marquee has been replaced by a big top.

"Alongside a whole host of artists throughout the daytime, this will be the venue for energetic late night entertainment with Bop in the Big Top on Friday and Saturday, with a cracking party night on the Sunday."

He added: "Festival revellers have said in previous years that they would like more late night entertainment to compliment what happens in the Wold Top venue – we listened to them and hope they will be delighted to hear we have taken up that challenge.”

Headline artists include:

Friday 17 June:

Kate Rusby, Tim Edey, Anthony John Clarke

Saturday 18 June:

The Lindisfarne Story Band, Jez Lowe, The Animals and Friends

Sunday 19 June:

Steeleye Span, The Acoustic Strawbs, Churchfitters

This year, event organisers are also opening their doors to folk clubs from the area, who have been invited to run their own venue within the event itself and bring their music to festival-goers.

In addition, back by popular demand are The Westwood Sessions, a branch of the folk festival that is dedicated to young and emerging talent.

Also returning are the Dance Teams, Workshops and The Film Club, plus literature, poetry, comedy and activities for children.

Jim Pybus, one of the festival’s voluntary directors, added: “It’s impossible to describe everything we have on offer in just a sentence or two. The best way people can get a flavour of what will be taking place is to either visit our website or just turn up to the festival itself. "

Other artists appearing on the Main Stage include:

Emma King; The Young’uns; Roger Davies; Maia; Steve Tilston and Friends; Gilmore & Roberts;

The Goat Roper Rodeo Band; Flats and Sharps; Dan Webster; Carrie Martin; and Wild Ponies.

In the new Big Top, you will find:

Sam Carter; Maia; Gilmore & Roberts; Billy Lee & the Swamp Critters; King Courgette; Jim Boyle & Dave Gray; Anthony John Clarke; The Grand Old Uke of York ; Tim Edey; Joe Broughton’s Conservatoire Folk Ensemble; Flats and Sharps; The Young’uns; Buffalo Gals Stampede; The Churchfitters; Mitchell & Vincent; Mestisa; Maddison’s Thread; Jez Lowe; Róisín Bán; Celtarabia; and Merry Hell.

There are also dozens of other artists performing in the Wold Top Marquee as part of the perennially popular Area Two, Moonbeams and Late Night Club – this is the perfect place to see tomorrow’s stars today, as the festival has an excellent track record for spotting and nurturing news musicians who have gone on to carve themselves professional careers on the festival scene.

Jim said: “We want to encourage as many people as possible join us this year to celebrate the diverse range of music and other entertainment we have on offer. This is Beverley Folk Festival’s 34th year and our fourth at the Racecourse, who are fantastic hosts. Once again, we look forward to seeing many old friends and new faces alike, as we join together in what promises to be a fantastic weekend of music, song and laughter.”

For more details about Beverley Folk Festival and to buy tickets online go to or visit Beverley Tourist Information Centre, Butcher Row, Beverley


York Press.

Archbishop of York holds party at Bishopthorpe Palace for Queen's birthday

13 June 2016

THE Archbishop of York invited along four pensioners who are celebrating their 90th birthdays this year when he staged a 'Party at the Palace.'

Dr John Sentamu opened up the grounds of Bishopthorpe Palace for the weekend event to mark the Queen’s 90th Birthday and to raise funds for St Leonards Hospice in York.

The new nonagenarians who were invited to be his special guests included Pam Shepherd from Copmanthorpe, who celebrates her 90th birthday in August and Elizabeth Lockwood from Harrogate, who celebrated it just days ago.

Mrs Lockwood said it was a privilege to join the Archbishop along with the other guests, adding: "It’s lovely to get together to mark occasions. I can’t believe I’m 90 – it’s remarkable really!”

York Press

Performances at the party included children from Archbishop of York Junior School, The Shepherd Group Concert Band, party band Huge, The Grand Old Uke of York and Adrian Lee-Stokes and his band, while the Shepherd Group Senior Band brought the evening to a close with a proms style finale and a spectacular firework display.

Ukulele band tuning up to perform at festival launch

21 March 2016

The Grand Old Uke of York and Pocklington Arts Centre’s choir, Forgotten Voices, will perform at the opening night concert of the festival at All Saints’ Church on 6 May.

The Ukes, formed less than four years ago, have already appeared at numerous festivals and concerts from Poppleton to Pocklington, York Racecourse to York Barbican, the Grand Opera House to Scarborough Spa and the Tour de France Grand Depart at the First Direct Leeds Arena. One of the highlight’s of the town’s Platform Festival last July, the Ukes have performed to thousands live, including Knights of the Garter and Archbishops, and to 300 million around the world on the small screen.

Forgotten Voices Community Choir were formed by Sam Dunkley and Pocklington Arts Centre in September 2010 and have performed at numerous charity events in the town in recent years. 

The festival raises much needed funds for Pocklington’s All Saints’ Church. The organising committee, made up of volunteers from the community, have raised more than £100,000 for this Grade I listed building, since the event was launched in 2005.

A committee member said: “We are extremely pleased to have booked the Ukes for this year. The band have a fantastic reputation and their live performances are both humerous and highly entertaining. Forgotten Voices have performed at the festival on several occasions and we are pleased to be working with them at the Arts Centre once again.”
Tickets for the launch event, on 6 May at 7pm, are £7.50 and available from All Saints’ Church and Pocklington Arts Centre. Visit for more information about the festival.

Pocklington Post

The Great Yorkshire Fringe promises to be bigger, bolder and dryer than before

21 May 2016

RAIN won’t dampen the spirits of visitors to York’s biggest arts festival this summer – and not because a heatwave is forecast.

Organisers will erect a marquee cover over the turfed cafe area – the “village green” – between venues in Parliament Street, offering shelter to the thousands of festival goers expected to attend the Great Yorkshire Fringe mark two.

Last year’s inaugural event attracted more than 120,000 people, drawn to a varied programme of comedy, music, cabaret, magic and theatre – despite poor weather marring a week of the festival.

For 2016, the Fringe has trebled in size, featuring some 150 acts and 300 shows running from Friday, July 15 to Monday August 1 – seven days longer than last year.

It has also expanded to take in venues outside Parliament Street, including the 100-seater Gillygate Shed at the Gillygate pub (with a late licence for the festival), the Black Swan in Peasholme Green (host of the Burning Duck Woodsduck Comedy Festival), and the Arts Barge Riverside Festival at Tower Gardens (from July 27 to 31 as part of the Free Fringe).

As before, the three main venues will be in Parliament Street: the White Rose Rotunda, a century-old Spiegeltent which seats 300; the 200-seater Turn Pot, and the Tea Pot, which has doubled last year’s capacity to 200 and will host the popular New Comedian of the Year competition.

Once more, street food will be on sale in Parliament Street, as part of Feastival – but this time, diners and drinkers will have cover from whatever the weather throws at them.

“We had six days of rain last year,” recalls Martin Witts, festival founder and artistic director, who lives in York. “It was difficult.”

Despite selling thousands of tickets last year, the festival still lost money. In fact, Martin doesn’t expect the Great Yorkshire Fringe to break even until year four. Such frankness illustrates the commitment to establishing this arts jamboree firmly in the York calendar in the future.

The trajectory is for the Fringe to expand, spreading into extra venues and attracting more acts. That is already happening this year.

Martin says: “The programme is more family friendly. There are more children’s events and free events during the day. There will be live music too as we will have pianos on site in Parliament Street and acoustic sets on the green.”

Many acts stop over in York en route to the Fringe in Scotland’s capital in late August – so it’s not surprising that the Great Yorkshire Fringe is earning the nickname of a “mini Edinburgh”.

As in Edinburgh, comedy is a popular draw for punters in York. Returning for second helpings this year will be Paul Foot, and Pocklington-born Richard Herring is York-bound too. Jerry Sadowitz is booked in for one-night only with his show: It’s All B*llocks!

Martin expects the New Comedian of the Year competition to be as popular as ever and predicts stars will be born with winners becoming “the face of the future”.

He says as alternative comedians become more mainstream, audiences are looking for something different and special. Comedians with skills, such as magic acts, are likely to become popular.

There is a nostalgia too, he says, for comedians and shows from the past. The masterly of Tommy Cooper will be revived in Just Like That! – a tribute show with John Hewer playing the man in the fez.

Families will be entertained with Tiddler & Other Terrific Tales, an hour-long performance for pre-schoolers based on the stories of Julia Donaldson, which will have 30 shows across the festival. Martin expects this to be a hit following its success in London.

There’s plenty of quirky too. The Great Yorkshire Fringe Dog Show will take place on the first Saturday of the festival, with prizes for the dog with the nicest eyes and the pooch with the best fringe.

Look out too for the Great Yorkshire Fringe double-decker bus which will act as a box office and will be parked in the city centre from Wednesday, June 1.

For full details and the festival line-up, go to

Fringe highlights


Pete Firman: The TV magician (star of BBC1’s The Magicians) previews new jokes and tricks for his next show. Expect his own trademark blend of crowd-pleasing comedy and jaw-dropping magic.

July 20 at The Tea Pot


Austentatious – An Improvised Jane Austin Novel: Performed in period costume with live musical accompaniment, this Regency treat improvises a new Jane Austen work before your eyes, based on a single audience suggestion. Previous ‘lost’ masterpieces have included Sixth Sense & Sensibility, Double 0 Darcy and Mansfield Shark. No two shows are ever the same.

July 20 at The White Rose Rotunda


Baby Loves Disco: Following its sell-out seasons in Edinburgh, this is where dayclubbing takes the place of nightclubbing with resident DJs spinning chart floor fillers from the days before parenthood for families to enjoy together.

July 17 at The Turn Pot


Grand Old Uke of York: Yorkshire’s most vibrant ukulele collective take on the sounds of Avicii, Stevie Wonder, Queen, ACDC, Olly Murs, The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, The Cure, George Ezra and more.

July 19 at The White Rose Rotunda


Coquette presents…Moulin Ouse: Glamorous showgirls, amazing variety acts and top cabaret performers from across the UK will fill the spiegeltent with glitter, feathers and a few surprises.

From July 22-29 across two locations


Taiko Drumming Workshop: Learn the exciting, energetic and dynamic art of Japanese Taiko drumming.

July 16 at The Turn Pot

Beverley Folk Festival – 2016

15 January 2016

Beverley Folk Festival launch their line-up for 2016 with an eclectic mix of traditional English and Celtic music, combining current favourites and emerging acts with Folk Rock legends from earlier years and a liberal dose of Americana.

Headliners at Beverley Racecourse from June 17th to 19th include multi-award winning Kate Rusby and her band, the ever-popular Steeleye Span, “musician’s musician” Tim Edey and current “must-see” trio, The Young’uns.

Attractions under the “legends” banner will also include Acoustic Strawbs, the 1970’s progressive rock band, who later turned to folk rock with songs like Part of the Union, and the stage show, The Lindisfarne Story, featuring founder member, Ray Laidlaw, and former lead singer, Billy Mitchell.

Ray and Billy will also be appearing with the Lindisfarne Story Band for a live performance of the iconic album, ‘Fog on the Tyne’. This will form part of a ‘Tyne Treasures’ concert which also features Geordie legends, Animals & Friends, and Durham-born singer-songwriter, Jez Lowe.

Beverley has a justifiable reputation for a healthy dose of Americana and 2016 will be no exception with a line-up that includes US bands Billy Lee and the Swamp Critters, Wild Ponies, plus The Goat Roper Rodeo Band, The Durbervilles from Leeds and King Courgette from York! (Hee Haw)

Unsurprisingly, “Yorkshire Folk” feature strongly in what will be the 33rd annual Beverley Folk Festival – the fourth on its magnificent and relatively new site at Beverley Racecourse. For example, world fusion band, Celtarabia, whose origins are surprisingly in East Yorkshire.

Others include the award-winning duo Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts, who met at Leeds College of Music, Róisín Bán, the Irish band from Leeds whose name means White Rose in Gaelic, and The Grand Old Uke of York, whose origins and instrumentation can be readily surmised.

From further afield (and travelling by coach) are former Albion Band’s fiddle player, Joe Broughton’s Conservatoire Folk Ensemble; upwards of 50 young folk musicians (it can be as many as 100) who have already earned accolades from festivals such as Towersey and Cropredy.

The “Spring Special” full weekend offer is currently on sale on the website http://www.beverleyfestival.compriced at £105, a saving of £10 on the full price with Concession and Family deals also available plus add on camping option.

Festival FREE for the under 12’s!

The Yorkshire Times

LETTER: Hold Back The River concert was a fantastic evening

15 March 2016

CONGRATULATIONS and thanks to Ian Gillies and all the team for a fantastic evening of joyful music, love and laughter at the Hold Back The River event.

At the brilliant opening of the show, the youngsters from Les Miserables were perhaps some of the best young singers ever heard. Delightful sounds.

All the individual acts excelled. The York Civic Choir captivated me with the little ones especially cute.

The Grand Old Uke of York – only been together four years? Unbelievably entertaining. We tend to only think of George Formby, but they took the uke to a new level.

York Press

Lord Mayor of York’s Gala concert plans unveiled

14 November 2014

THE Lord Mayor of York is drawing up plans for a charity gala featuring a specially created choir and civic orchestra.

The concert, which takes place at York Barbican at 7pm on Saturday March 29, is part of Cllr Ian Gillies’ drive to raise funds for his two charities, York Against Cancer and York Teaching Hospital Charity.

York Civic Youth Choir is a specially commissioned choir of more than150 children, which will perform under the leadership of Molly Newton, a local music teacher and lecturer of education.

The York Civic Orchestra has also been specially commissioned, and will perform under the baton of Tom Marlow, who has been involved in many local musical concerts and shows.

Also appearing will be York Concert Band, who travelled to Paris to perform at the final stages of the Tour de France and the Grand Old Uke of York, who appeared at the opening ceremony of the Grand Depart at the Leeds Arena.

Rachel Croft and Leo James Conroy, often seen busking in the city centre, will also tread the boards, along with Sam Johnson’s Big Band, whilst Ish Herd will perform some musical comedy to entertain the audience.

A group of young male singers from Archbishop Holgate’s School, “Archies Boys Aloud” have also been added to the programme, and further guests are expected to be invited in time.

Cllr Gillies said the concert would be a ‘wonderful showcase’ of the local talent in York and surrounding areas.

“The event itself and the planning done so far is a testament to the many individuals and groups who have a real pride in their city and fortunately for us, a civic pride,” he said.

 *Tickets costing £14 for adults and £12 concessions and children under 14, are on sale at York Barbican’s box office.

York Rocks Against cancer raises more than £5000

16 October 2014

HUNDREDS of people attended a sell-out show to help raise money for a local charity.

More than £5,000 was raised as part of the York Rocks Against Cancer concert, which was held at York Grand Opera House on Saturday, and was the second annual show of its kind, organised by the charity with the help and support of local artists and performers.

The show included performances by local television contestant Beth McCarthy, Emmerdale’s Barmaid and the Vets and White Van Man, and other artists including the Grand Old Uke Of York.

A spokesperson for the charity said: “This is a local charity for local people and helps patients and their friends and families in many ways.

“Once again the people who organised this event put in a remarkable amount of effort, time and energy which was reflected in an outstanding show. The performers gave their time freely and a thoroughly enjoyable time was had by a full house.”

York Press

Big Issue North: Festival Q&A; The Grand Old Uke of York

09 May 2016

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, Big Issue

Uke can be happy – music and massage at mental health day

08 October 2014

Wherever they play, the Grand Old Uke of York make people happy. So they have joined with the Healing Clinic in York for a special event to mark World Mental Health Day.

Healing Rocks will see York’s ukelele orchestra playing a selection of feel-good songs at the Basement On Thursday, October 9, from 8pm.

That is the eve of World Mental Health Day, which the World Health Organisation promotes globally on October 10.

The ukulele is easy to pick up, it makes you smile and is good for the mind, body and spirit. So organiser June Tranmer, founder of the Healing Clinic thought, why not promote mental health day with the uke?

“People love to talk about music but we’d like to get people to be more open about mental health issues and talk about those too,” she said.

At Healing Rocks there will be Healing Clinic practitioners on hand to give mini massages for those who buy ten or more raffle tickets.

York Mix

Big names help Galtres Festival celebrate 10th year

14 August 2014

GALTRES Parklands Festival takes place at Duncombe Park, Helmsley, next week, marking its tenth anniversary in style. GALTRES Parklands festival Running from August 22 to 24, the festival will feature more than 100 acts, including Levellers and Bellowhead on the first day, Tricky and Morcheeba on the Saturday and The Human League and Public Service Broadcasting on the last day, as well as comedy, dance, theatre and seaside-themed family entertainment…….

Among the other musical acts will be York buskers Blackbeard’s Tea Party; North Eastern folk troubadour Martin Stephenson; Foy Vance; Sadie Jammett; The Lumberjack Heartbreak Trucking Company; Gilmore & Roberts Band; Blue Rose Code Trio; The Jim Jones Revue; John Otway and Louis Barabbas & The Bedlam Six.

Plenty of York musicians will be performing too, such as busking favourites Blackbeard’s Tea Party; Boss Caine and Guests; The Voice’s Beth McCarthy; singer-songwriter Chris Helme; Littlemores; …And The Hangnails; ukulele band The Grand Old Uke Of York; Holly Taymar & Chris Bilton; The Buffalo Skinners; Holy Moly And The Crackers and David Ward Maclean and Friends…….

York Press

Can a ukulele improve your sex life?


With the constant growth in popularity of the ukulele, for us none-converts we question what all the fuss is about. The Grand Old Uke of York enlighten us with the answers.

The Grand Old Uke of York, (of which I am proud to be a member), rehearse in The Habit on Goodramgate every Tuesday evening from around 8-11pm, and also play a host of gigs. Yet people constantly question us about what makes this particular instrument so fun? So looking at the questions (and answers) above, there you have it by three votes to two with one undecided: it’s time for you to buy your first ukelele. ‘First’ is said quite deliberately because you can be absolutely sure it won’t be your last! York’s premier ukulele group, the Grand Old Uke of York, (of which I am proud to be a member), rehearse in The Habit on Goodramgate every Tuesday evening from around 8-11pm, and also play a host of gigs.

The ukulele is the “People’s Instrument”! It appeals to all ages and backgrounds and the truth is, you can play absolutely any style or musical genre on the ukulele. At one end of our spectrum we might play ‘Rockin’ All Over The World’ whilst at the other end we might play ‘Sweet Home Chicago’.

We have previously played at a Burlesque event in The Basement followed by the Remembrance Concert at The Barbican. We also played to packed audiences in back to back performances on two different stages at the Galtres Festival, again at the Knavesmire for the annual CAMRA Beer Festival and throughout a glorious day at York’s first and very own Ukulele Festival ……to be held again this year on Saturday 12th July, so don’t miss it!

You can see that we’re very attached to our ukuleles; at any given rehearsal or gig you will find us playing from a huge range of ukes including Piccolo, Soprano, Concert, Tenor, Baritone, Bass and Banjoleles, all of which, of course, come with their electric siblings. Just as the range of ukuleles is wide and varied, so is the range of people who play them.

We love our ukulele group, affectionately known as GOUY (pronounced Gooey!) ie the Grand Old Uke of York. We’re of all ages, male and female, and modes of employment vary widely. Over the two years we’ve been together we’ve become one big family, caring, sharing and eating cake together! If you don’t believe me, come and hear us play! But more importantly, get down to your nearest music shop, buy a decent ukulele and join a group. You’ll never regret it and life will never be the same!

One & Other

Go on, show some pluck!

29 August 2013

Whoo-hoo! Hurrah for another pluckin’ music craze! And this one has gone global. From Bondai Beach to Bognor, Mississippi to Margate, the humble, once derided ukulele (don’t mention George Formby) is pluckin’ up a storm.

It is being strummed and twanged worldwide in clubs, pubs, schools and, I must confess, in my own living-room where I twang away for hours on end practising my fretting and finger-rolls.

Although I say it myself, Bob Dylan would probably punch the air and rasp ‘Cool, babe’ if he could but hear my rendering of Blowin’ In The Wind. So you can certainly take it from me that the inspirational Ukulele Handbook is destined to become the official new ukulele Bible.

Brilliantly compiled by two uke-playing fanatics, it incorporates how-to-play instructions for beginners, chord charts, handy fingering tips, a medley of easy-to-learn songs, and the absolutely gripping history of the small, adorable four-string mini guitar which was born in Hawaii in 1879 and which you can now buy for as little as £15 in your High Street music shop.

Here, lavishly illustrated, are details of the great uke pioneers – Honolulu’s Manuel Nunes who crafted the first official uke in 1880, acclaimed groups of uke-twanging Hawaiian lovelies in grass skirts and hibiscus garlands, King ‘Happy Dave’ Kalakaua (1836-91) at his lavish palace, flanked by his uke-picking Singing Boys as he entertains Scottish author and uke fan, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Queen Liliuokalani (1838-1917) prolific songwriter who famous love-song Aloha Oe was immortalised in 1961 by uke-playing Elvis Presley in the Blue Hawaii movie.

Ukelele King: George Formby

Fast forward to the 1920s, when the uke captivated America. There followed an explosion of teach-yourself manuals. U.S. instrument makers jumped onto the bandwagon producing thousands of fancy ukes, and everyone was singing along to songs with titles like Oh How She Could Yacki Hacki Wicki Wacki Woo.

When the craze hit Britain, Nancy Mitford strummed and even Edward, Prince of Wales, enraptured by a trip to Hawaii, took uke lessons (and, no doubt, crooned Yacki Hacki Wicki Wacki Woo to the long-suffering Wallis Simpson).

But as authors Prater-Pinney and Hodgkinson explain, the uke took a spectacular dive in the 1930s. It began to be seen as a joke. Hawaiian imagery became the stuff of comedy. Enter Laurel and Hardy, with bowler hats, hibiscus garlands and pineapples, twanging their ukes in Sons Of The Desert.

P.G. Wodehouse, in his 1934 novel Thank You, Jeeves had the titular manservant threatening to quit his job rather than listen to the ‘infernal din’ of Bertie Wooster playing his uke and warbling ‘I Want an Automobile With a Horn that Goes Toot Toot’. One anti-uke wag at the time remarked that ‘a gentleman is a man who knows how to play the ukulele – but doesn’t’.

Which brings us to George Formby (1904-61). Let us not sneer. It is a fact that Lancashire-born Formby was a ukulele great, a dazzling uke player, and his own life story is worth several volumes.

His formidable wife and business partner, Beryl, was certainly the major force behind his success, but she made him wretched by not sleeping with him and, at the height of his popularity when he was earning the equivalent of £5 million a year, allowing him only five shillings a day pocket-money.

Formby’s innuendo-laden ditties were huge hits. Remember With My Little Ukulele In My Hand and his Little Stick Of Blackpool Rock? Typical of the Formby format is Chinese Laundry Blues, about the activities of Mr Wu. A sample couplet goes: Now Mr Wu, he’s got a naughty eye that flickers/You ought to see it wobble when he’s ironing ladies’ blouses’.

By 1939 Formby had become Britain’s highest-paid entertainer. His song When I’m Cleaning Windows – a great favourite of the late Queen Mother, incidentally – sold 150,000 copies in a month.

After it was banned by the BBC, Lord Reith describing it as a ‘disgusting little ditty’, bossy Beryl marched into his office, gave him what for and made him broadcast an apology. But he still didn’t lift the ban.

Packing them in: The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain can fill the Albert Hall

A boom began again in the 1950s onwards. Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Tiny Tim, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young and Joan Baez were all avid pluckers. One outstanding uke hero was Hawaiian-born Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (1959-97) – morbidly obese, addicted to food, booze and drugs – who made the uke cool again. After becoming a born-again Christian and renouncing ‘substances’, his album Facing Future sold two million copies in 1993.

Current British uke stars are the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain, who can fill the Albert Hall and play to 170,000 people in Hyde Park, and who play anything from Bach and Handel to the Sex Pistols and the Kinks.

People may scoff at the uke, but to strum in a room packed full of fellow pluckers all singing along to Honolulu Baby, for example, is as good as it gets for uke enthusiasts. Just check the web for the clubs springing up – The Grand Old Ukes Of York, The Herne Bay City Ukers, hundreds of ’em… – and see, also, how tuition and sheet music are just a click away.

As the authors point out, you can master four chords in as many hours, and with just four chords you are able to play hundreds of songs. OK, it’s true that my ex-neighbour used to bang on the wall when I was practising. He once quipped: ‘If music be the food of love, then ukulele music is the syrup of figs.’ Miserable git.

No matter. Until recently I played in a ukulele band – The Funky Pluckers (as seen on CCTV), our coast-to-coast tour of the Isle of Sheppey being the stuff of myth. The Pluckers’ version of Freight Train, incorporating spoons, kazoos, washboard and whistles, was a triumph.

Alas, we disbanded after two gigs, as is the way with bands. But the legend lives on. Better to quit while you’re at the top. As the authors promise, ‘We can all become music-makers’, and their fab book helpfully tells you how.

Yay! Uke can play too. Anybody can. Just think Yacki Hacki Wicki Wacki Woo and get pluckin’.

MailOnline By Val Hennessy

Review: Galtres Festival, day three: Pirates, lumberjacks and Stranglers

26 August 2013

I’m woken at 6.30 by that same soul destroying sheep. I try my best not to cry, but I’m so hungry and exhausted that I can’t help it. I need constant access to a kettle in order to be happy.

I need structure to my days and home comforts to feel mentally stable. Needless to say I throw a massive strop, pack up the car and demand to be driven home tonight.

The fact that I’m going home, and the long-awaited appearance of the sunshine, makes this the happiest day of the weekend for me. I kick start the morning with a pot of tea and a slice of carrot cake from the Deliciousness Mobile Teashop, and wait for Grand Old Uke of York in the Arts Barge tent.

Well, what a lovely way to start the day, a gang of pirates and parrots playing covers of The Monkees, and even headliners The Stranglers, on Ukuleles. Inflatable Ukes are handed out to the best dancers, my half hearted clapping didn’t make the grade.


Rocking… the Arts Barge stage

I decide to have a wander around the stalls, where I accidentally become a member of the RSPB. I feel like a bit of a do gooder, even if it was purely to receive the free great tits T-shirt.

Then I’m lured over to the Physics In The Field tent to play with some experiments, a group of youths laugh at my limited knowledge. I got a B in Science GCSE I’ll have you know. I head back to the music, where I feel ever so slightly more comfortable.

Holly Taymar and Chris Bilton are playing The Black Howl stage. I think she’s the loveliest woman around. She even shares with us how self conscious she is about her chin. There’s nothing wrong with it, but I’ve got some exercises I could teach you Holly, so get in touch…

They’re playing a sedate set today, to get everyone through their sunday morning hangovers. It goes well with my tea. They perform a cover of Pumped Up Kicks that they learnt last night. It’s not fair that they’re this good.

On the way over to Pirate Village I give the camel racing another go. They still won’t let me ride one. But I do learn that the noise of Chewbacca was actually a camel.

I’m a little bit early for the York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir so I catch the last ten minutes of a Snickelway Theatre production called Captain Comet, the children are loving it, and I wish I’d seen it all. The general message seems to be appreciate what you’ve got.

The lads from the choir take to the stage all clutching their pints. This is my kind of choir. They sing a few sea shanties, fitting as we’re at The Galleon Stage, a couple of their personal favourites, including Bobby Shaftoe, and as if they’d known I was coming they end on Do You Hear The People Sing? from Les Mis. Emotional.


At Camp Lumberjack with Alfie’s stag do

I get a little self conscious about spending too much time in Pirate Village, there’s only so much time a woman can lay on a hay bale surrounded by children before someone get’s suspicious. So I head to The Duke Stage to see Hull based ska band The Talks.

There are 30-odd men in denim bum skimmers, checked shirts and bum bags skanking like their lives depend on it. It turns out their on a stag do and the theme is Camp Lumberjacks, they know the band, and Alfie, the stag, is invited up on stage. Soon enough everyone is up dancing, even me.

I have another wander about, and find myself back in Pirate Village. There’s a grown man dressed as a pirate dancing around on the Galleon Stage. It turns out he’s the Bhangra Pirate, and he’s teaching the kids to dance. He is absolutely hilarious.

The kids dance, the parents laugh. He’s got such choice moves as the “scratch your armpits like you haven’t showered in days” and the obligatory “screw in the lightbulb”. Children and a grown man dressed as pirates Bhangra dancing to The Final Countdown. Only at Galtres.

Martin from The Lake Poets is about to play The Black Howl stage. Now, this was a personal highlight for me. Maybe it’s the over tiredness, but I have a little cry.

He’s a Sunderland boy and his accent comes through just as much as you’d want it to. He’s of the same ilk as Chris Helme. Really beautiful acoustic songs. The ones about his grandparents almost kill me.

A man a row in front of me has clearly had a big weekend, he’s swigging from one of the four pint kegs, wearing two hats and fist pumping along to every strum. What a guy. He really loves The Lake Poets.

Quick tea break then back in time for Chris Helme. The tent is absolutely packed out, and I’m not sure he can quite believe it. He plays some tracks from previous albums,Darkest Days sounds incredible, and then debuts some new material.


The Stranglers headline the final day. Photograph: Galtres Festival on Twitter

It sounds great. Really great. It’s a pretty thrilling set actually. The audience are clearly impressed. Honestly, you could have spent all weekend in The Black Howl tent and never have been disappointed.

Finally it’s on to headline act The Stranglers. Alfie’s stag do are all there, slightly worse for wear. It’s the largest and most animated crowd I’ve seen all weekend.

Everyone is dancing, people are throwing glow sticks, which I’m a little scared of being blinded by but rather that than bottles of you know what. As with The Talks earlier in the day I can’t help but dance.

Peaches shortly followed by Golden Brown goes down amazingly. The friendliness of the crowd echoes the friendliness of the whole festival really.

I leave everyone dancing and head to the car. I just can’t wait to wake up at home.

York Mix

Northern Sky Radio: York Ukulele Festival 2013

30 October 2014

Sunny with a very good chance of heavy rain. That was the forecast for Saturday 15th June 2013 in York. But, as puffs of off-white cloud tickled the twin bell towers of the city’s scaffolded Minster, nobody really seemed to care what the skies had in store. From 11am, every alley and snickleway of this ancient city would be filled with the sunny sound of that most delightful and ever-popular of instruments, the humble uke.

The first ever York Ukulele Festival was presented by Red Cow Music – the best music shop in the city to discover the uke or feed your obsession for the instrument – and attracted a bustling crowd of curious onlookers throughout the day. The main stage in St Sampson’s Square boasted a host of strummers – from individual pluckers to sizeable uke orchestras – from mid-morning to late afternoon with the Black Swan pub in Peasholme Green taking over in the evening.

The Grand Old Uke Of York – the city’s most vibrant ukulele collective who meet weekly at Victor J’s Bar in Finkle Street – opened the festival in true Live Aid style with a fifteen-strong uke rendition of Status Quo’s Rockin’ All Over The World. Soon, the weathered slabs of the old Square were flooded with crowds, each unable to stifle that traditional uke-induced smirk. And the smiles were only lengthened by the collective’s buoyant versions of Queen’s Fat Bottom Girls, The Beatles classic Eight Days A Week and a show-stopping Rawhide. A gently enchanting version of Randy Newman’s You’ve Got A Friend In Me was performed by two of the group’s members and another Disney favourite, I Wanna Be Like You, introduced the giggling passers-by to the kazookulele – a uke with a luminous green kazoo pegged to its headstock. And while the music itself laid the foundations for what would be a day of merriment, a brief and unanticipated interlude to let a booming uniformed marching band pass through Parliament Street, during which the entire collective stood in acknowledgement, created an infectious ripple of guffaws that failed to evaporate all day.

Kyle Frasier’s folk-flavoured uke set was next up, featuring a four-stringed rendition of Dirty Old Town as well as a selection of self-penned songs. Kyle also paid tribute to George Harrison – the late Beatle and ukulele-obsessive – with an admirable re-working of If Not For You – the Dylan song that Harrison covered on his All Things Must Pass album.

After a colourful performance and rousing version of Rainbow’s Since You’ve Been Gone from the Harrogate Ukulele Group, the seven-piece Ukulele Sunshine Revival rattled off a lengthy set of well-known numbers such as Fisherman’s Blues, Hello Mary Lou and a beguiling version of Mr Sandman. And, as those grey clouds began to let go of their first stinging drops of rain, pupils from York’s Headlands School took to the stage for an impressive showcase of cleverly-reworked songs, including a fitting rendition of It’s Raining, It’s Pouring.

Thankfully, the charming little pub The Habit was on hand to save us from getting drenched with a ukulele open mic session. The boards of the pub’s first floor were put to the test when hoards of uke-lovers assembled to sip local ale and listen to impromptu performances from a long list of diverse strummers. Performers as young as fourteen shared the bill with more seasoned ukulele players in front of the pub’s open upstairs window, filling not just the room with that adorably happy sound but the whole of Goodramgate, too.

And the happiness continued well into the evening with further performances at the city’s six-hundred year old Black Swan, sealing the lid on York’s first ever and clearly very successful Ukulele Festival. Let’s hope the dancing fleas will descend upon us again next year.

Liam Wilkinson, Northern Sky

Passion for the humble ukulele shared at York festival

17 July 2013

YORK’S first ukulele festival attracted visitors from all over the world to share a passion for the humble musical instrument now rediscovered by some of the biggest names in pop and rock.

Event organiser and York resident Steve Morrison, 56, managing director of Red Cow Music, in Goodramgate, said: “York has never had a ukulele festival and it is a large city for ukuleles.

“We are the second biggest supplier of ukuleles in the country and the rise in demand has been huge. It is relatively easy to start to play and you do not have to plug it in. It does not take up much space in the house, you can take it on holiday with you, and you can buy one for as little as £18.”

The musical instrument was famously associated with entertainer George Formby. But chart-topping bands became interested after George Harrison wrote his Beatles classic Something on one.

Now there are ukulele song books covering every form of music from classical to punk, including hits as diverse as Jimmy Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and Bob Dylan.

More than 150 people from all over the country and as far afield as New York took part in Saturday’s all day event which included the Military Wives choir singing along to songs from the shows played on the four-string instrument.
It’s name means Little Flea or Jumping Flea in Portuguese.

York Press

Yorks Ukulele Revolution

17 July 2013

Ahh, the ukulele. Diminutive and unpretentious cousin to the guitar, this plucky wee instrument has enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years, thanks in part to a storming performance of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ from the British Ukulele Orchestra on Jools Holland back in 2007. The Royal George pub in Soho, London has long hosted a weekly ukulele club in its basement which is never anything short of brilliant fun for participants and listeners alike, with merry players belting out classic pop and rock standards to the trebley, nylon-strung jangle of a score of ukes. Until recently, York has lacked any such group of real prominence.

Enter stage left, The Grand Old Uke of York. This colourful gang meets at 7.30PM every Tuesday in the ancient confines of The Royal Oak pub on Gillygate to play songs from an eclectic and accessible repertoire that includes the likes of Dolly Parton, Jessie J, James Brown, AC/DC, Randy Newman and George Formby Jnr. Far from positioning itself as an exclusive club or clique, GOUY are actively seeking new members to join in with their weekly shenanigans, advertising their existence via Twitter (@gouyclub) and a WordPress blog. Anyone with an interest in ukulele-based fun is invited to bring their uke along and “strum until you can strum no more!” We get the impression Tuesday nights at The Royal Oak are pretty bawdy.

If you’re a hardcore ukulele demon then rest assured, The Grand Old Uke of York isn’t all about child’s play – the club has a dedicated ‘advanced’ sub-sect, ‘GOUY Gig’ who rehearse at The Habit, also on Tuesday nights.

The scale and ambition of this club seems to be on the rise, with a York Ukulele Festival planned for June 15th and an ever-increasing social media presence plugging their activities. Could 2013 be the year that the guitar’s smaller relative becomes huge in York?

York One & Other 

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