Monday, 17 July 2017

Summer Strum Monday Missive - Last one for 2017 - THE END CREDITS


We are both just about back to normal - I (Em) actually feel very old after this year's festival! I'm still on the early nights - even turned down a glass or two of wine on Friday night! If you knew me you would know this is NOT NORMAL!! But it was all more than worth it, and besides my school have now broken up for the holidays so I can nap at my leisure ;-)

Officially the best Summer Strum yet. And it's all down to all of you ... in no particular order:

Ian Davies for literally everything he does before, during and after the event;
Kev Founds, Tracey Forrester and their Fanatic friends for volunteering their time and efforts erecting and taking down tents, hanging lights, selling raffle tickets, rattling charity buckets - the festival functions so seamlessly because of you guys; 
Ditto Sheila Ford, Barbara Woodward and Jean Pound - our three degrees on the information and merchandise table - the best saleswomen in town;
Ditto volunteers from the D'ukes and other groups - in fact EVERYONE who helped out selling and hawking;
Jack and Sue Kurton and their amazing family for letting us use the Rugby Club and its facilities again and for working tirelessly all weekend to feed and water the five thousand; same goes for Mary and all the volunteers behind the bar as we drunk you dry again!;  
The Rugby Club members who run the Barbie and are there right from the start marshalling  and looking after campers;
Dave the medic - your presence was invaluable;
Annie and volunteers from Wirral Hospice St John's;
Jules (Cools), Margaret and John for a spectacular Hootenanny Party Tent which will be talked about all year long - EVERYONE loves playing in there! We are lucky people to have you in our lives;
Garry V - the ONE and ONLY! The sound was surpassed this year! Top notch job. I notice everyone took our advice and fed and watered the sound man!! See - if you do that, you get great sound!;
Jess and Pete for excellent marshalling and generally being really really helpful - mwah, mwah;
Dave Cornett and Pete Barnes for taking the weight off our shoulders and being excellent stage managers/comperes - you couldn't get them away from the stage in the end! Thank you guys;
Chris Millard for kind use of his drums, even though we know that drummers are proper precious about their kit. Massive favour mate - greatly appreciated;
Tom Baker (graphic design extraordinaire) for his ever amazeballs posters, flyers, facebob graphics, programmes, tshirts, stickers - and for asking that his fees be split between the charities - TOP GENT!;
Karl Parry for an excellent Open Mic on Saturday - it was a bit of a gamble on our part but I think one that paid off! Brilliant job Karl (and Jules - again - for setting up the sound) - and really well attended. Same again next year folks?;
Which brings me to Toast and Jam - our breakfast sessions run by the lovelies from Wirral Ukulele Fanatics and D'ukes of Hazzard. Another unknown but I think they went down very well don't you? Thanks for the time and effort Kev, Dave and co - really appreciated - even Garry V joined in on Sunday :-);
Splintered Ukes for giving their time for free on Friday night playing us a bloody marvellous bodice-ripping party set - as you probably know by now: YOU GUYS ROCK! Thank you so much!;
Chester Ukes, Ukulele Club Liverpool and Wirral Ukulele Orchestra for donating busking proceeds and performance payments to the Summer Strum pot - and indeed EVERYONE who donated to the Crowdfund and bought tickets to the Race Night and Plink n Plonk fundraisers;
Elaine Kinsella for all her help and advice and for holding her Rock n Roll Workshop despite being at deaths door - you are a ROCK STAR lady!;
All stallholders and local businesses who donated raffle prizes and percentages of their profits to the charities;
Mary Agnes Krell for coming to see what all the fuss was about and bringing some pretty far out raffle prizes - congratulations Gary for winning the uke!! And whoever won the GNUF tickets - you are in for a great time!
Arto from Tropical Winter Ukulele Festival Finland who not only came to England to be with us but who also donated a ticket to his festival - it's well worth the ride!;
Uke East for their promo and tickets to their festival in September;
All our families for putting up with Summer Strum in their lives all year round and supporting us unquestionably!


Last but definitely NOT least - the players; the folk everyone comes to see ... everyone who gave their time for nowt to get up on stage and entertain the masses. Most special thanks to the Trellebelles who funded their own journey and stay just to be with us. They are beautiful, exceptional people with hearts as big as Liverpool!! We hope you all had as much of a blast as we did.



Well put the 6th,7th and 8th July in yer diaries!

SUMMER STRUM FOREVER - well for one more year at least!


P.S. We are still waiting for money to come in so that we can do the final tally but from the collection buckets, raffles, programme sales and contributions from the stallholders we have so far raised over £1000 each for Wirral St John's Hospice and Wirral MIND ... WATCH THIS SPACE!


Disclaimer : we are bound to have missed someone - if we have please message Pat or me and I will add them to the blog immediately xxx

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Summer Strum Monday Missive 12 - 26th June - All We Need is Love and Understanding

All We Need is Love and Understanding

This hostess is not happy! I am feeling decidedly sorry for myself. Snapping at the family (nothing new there maybe) and effing and jeffing a little bit more than usual. A proverbial bear with a sore head. I've been told that if you talk about things though - get them off your chest - then that's half the battle so here goes:

Last week I chipped a tooth when eating a mouthful of watercress - I kid you not! Great - I HATE going to the dentist. I got an 'emergency' appointment for Friday thinking that it'll just be an easy filling job. 

"Ooh yes you've really cracked the tooth there ... the position it's in is going to make it quite difficult to fill but we can give it a go" said the dentist. I should have just nodded in agreement BUT imagine the horror upon hearing the following words spill out of my mouth: 

"I can see this just becoming an ongoing problem - just take it out if you want'!!! 

"WTF?!?!" said my inner voice. "Did you really just say what I think you just said?". Well yes it seems that I did because before I knew it the needle had gone in and I heard those fateful words "just go and sit in the waiting room whilst your mouth goes numb". Never mind my mouth I think my brain had gone numb. So surprised was I that I started shaking, felt dizzy and rushed to the loo to burst into tears. "That's quite normal", said the receptionist as she ordered me a glucose drink and a glass of cold water; "It's the adrenalin". "Don't worry" said the elderly lady sat next to me. "I had one out last month - it was over before I knew it". 

Well it wasn't over before I knew it - it took a good 20 minutes of knocking, wiggling, cracking, pulling, pushing, jaw-breaking trauma. That tooth was not happy about coming out and hung on for dear life. I felt like I had just been beaten up - and still do two days later. The pain is constant, despite taking the most pain killers I have ever taken in my life, and I am truly pissed off. PLUS I had to pay for the privilege! 

The thing about relating pain to others is that you just can't can you? They can never know how much it really hurts because they can't feel it. There's an angry looking hole in my mouth but nothing on the outside shouts "PAIN" - no bruising, no swelling, no blood - just a face like a smacked arse. I personally just wanted to curl up in bed for a couple of days, get asked if I was OK, if I needed some ice cream or soup perhaps, or a hot water bottle or a cuddle - these kind of things are what help a soul recuperate. But because I look okay it was business as usual but with a really bad temper - even worse than normal! 

So it got me thinking about invisible diseases and mental health and how hard it is to convey to people how you feel inside when for all intents and purposes you look fine on the surface. My pain will get better - it bloody better had -  but there are many many people out there who are suffering inside from debilitating illnesses and mental health issues who, because they look fine on the outside are assumed to be fine on the inside. These are illnesses that rule people's lives - their work and social lives suffer and they find themselves all too often stigmatised because of them - labelled hypochondriac, lazy, miserable, unsociable ...  And these folk don't necessarily want to draw attention to their illness but at the same time they need empathy to help them deal with it. All too often humans find themselves running out of empathy when it is really one of the easiest things to give - you don't have to do anything - just understand that's all. It's not a finite resource that can only be sparingly given for a day or two. It's something that should just spill out of our hearts unquestioningly and for as long as it is needed. 

It can be as simple as this - swapping these attitudes:

With these:

Pat and I have a lot of time for mental health, in particular, which is why we choose to support MIND as one of our charities for the Summer Strum. - 'For a Better Mental Health'.

Mental health care has come a long way with the development of psychiatry and psychology giving medical folk more understanding of how our minds work. Organisations like MIND work to increase public awareness and understanding about mental health issues, aiming to ensure that nobody has to face mental health problems alone or live with the stigma that is all too often associated with them. They offer information and support through groups and helplines and campaign tirelessly to highlight issues such as workplace stress, debt and depression and victimisation as a result of mental illness.

It's not that long ago that women, in particular, were being thrown into mental asylums for all manner of reasons that are now understood and attributed to such wonderful conditions as post-natal depression, PMT, menopause and my two favourites "fecking sick of doing EVERYTHING around here" and "I've had a tough week, pass me the gin" - ah the joys of womanhood ... 

I am sure most of you will have seen the list compiled from the admissions books of a Kentucky asylum in the 1800's but I'll post it here anyway. There's a few I could put a tick next to! Happy reading. And next time someone looks a bit glum just put an arm around them and ask them if they are okay and whatever comes out just offer them your ear and your compassion and understanding. 

I'm going to knock myself out with some extra strong painkillers and try to just 'bloody cheer up' tomorrow! Mouth pain and work - a heady combination :-) Steer clear! 

SUPPORT MIND and Wirral Hospice St Johns at this year's Summer Strum Ukulele Festival - all profits and all raffle proceeds are split between the two charities.

Em and Pat xxxx

Monday, 12 June 2017

Summer Strum Monday Missive #11 - 12th June 2017 - Welcome to the Family!

A New Family Member?

Why is it that one is never enough? Take red wine for instance - you buy a bottle telling yourself that you'll only have one glass with your tea, despite the voice in your head mocking you - "yeah, right, how many times have I heard that!". Then you finish that glass and it is just not enough. You have one more and then before you know it the bottle has been polished off between the two of you, leaving you relaxed on the sofa heedless of the muzzy head coming your way in the morning. If you had another bottle you would probably open it - let's be honest! Thank god we hardly ever do!

Yeah, you guessed it - it has been an alcohol fuelled weekend ending with the age old question "why?!" and the 'promise to self' of "never again!" :-/ We went to stay at the in-laws which always means a guaranteed babysitting opportunity and it was never the intention to have just the one - we planned on getting a little tipsy. It was a great night - playing pool, feeding coins into the jukebox and discussing politics surprisingly very little! Until, that is, the point where you make that decision (the other side of the double-edged sword) to have just one more - 'one for the road' ... that last drink that just tips you over the edge of 'just enough', ensuring you an appointment with the big white telephone (not me! I just slipped into a coma and woke up 6 hours later with a shovel planted firmly through my skull!). 

"Goddamn it - it's always that last beer!" No S**t! 

Not sooo bad if you could lie in bed for hours the next day; but not so good when you have a dinner date with the whole family to celebrate your mother in law's birthday :-) A heady mix of pain, nausea, loud children, polite conversation, big plates of food ... a proper family affair where you need to be awake, alert and able to make stimulating conversation! Well I managed the first one - just! 

Will we ever learn? It's doubtful! 

During my hungover state I made a decision - that I must get myself a new electro acoustic ukulele - a soprano. Inner dialogue as follows: "Why? You already have a concert one" - "I know but when they put the screw in, so that I could attach a strap, they did something to the connection". "Well why don't you get that fixed instead?" - "Yeah I know but I'm not sure where to go and there might not be anything they can do and I need one for the Summer Strum which is only in four weeks and besides I like my soprano acoustic so I think I want a soprano EA". "Well why don't you just borrow Tom's like you always do?" - "Well it's just that I am not used to playing Tom's in between gigs and I would like to have one of my own that I am used to playing". "Why don't you just stick one of those external pickups on the acoustic one?" - "well, people say its not as good and that plugging straight in makes a better sound". "Well - it sounds like you have made up your mind and I won't be able to change it. It's not like you have enough ukuleles hey*?" *sarcastic tone

Yes - like most ukulele players I have a little library of ukuleles (one in every size!) secreted around the house! You never know when the urge will come over you! Sometimes I forget I even have them so when I come across one it's a lovely surprise! Got to have these pleasures in life haven't you? One is definitely never enough when it comes to ukuleles!

It's not that I am even very good at playing the ukulele (I'm a blower by trade) so to have so many is often a struggle of conscience! But they are so pretty and it's not like I ever spend a vast amount on any of them and I usually function on a one in-one out basis. My first one was a purple Mahalo I got for Xmas; then I bought myself a slightly nicer sounding wooden Mahalo for £40 odd. These have since both gone to another home with the hope of encouraging a friends' kids to take up the uke. I also bought a BUG uke which, despite its cuteness, I didn't like playing so I donated it to a charity raffle for Cystic Fibrosis (*virtuous*). 

So my current collection consists of:

A Laka soprano - the one I play the most. I bought it as a xmas present for my father-in-law with a view to encourage him to learn to play. But it sounded soooo lovely I couldn't part with it! Listen - he got tickets to the golf Open instead which wasn't a bad alternative and, to be honest, probably more appreciated. Imagine - that little Laka would be sitting neglected in a cupboard now if I hadn't rescued it! A caged uke cannot sing!

A Lani Concert Electro-Acoustic - a Xmas present from hub and VERY pretty! But like I said - it was damaged the moment that screw for the strap went in. Sounds lovely unplugged though. Any recommendations for ukulele fixers please send my way and I promise I will sort it! 

A Clearwater plastic Concert - played it twice. Anyone want it? One in - one out! 

A Makala Tenor (donated by my Uncle Bob - yes, Bob is my Uncle!).

Makala Baritone - I bought a cheap one to see if I liked the size and sound. As it happens I do! If it was electric I would definitely play it more! Santa - get looking! 

And my newest baby - an Ozark Banjo Uke. I bloody LOVE it! If I could get away with it it would replace my Laka as most played on stage! It just looks so rock n roll man! I don't care what it sounds like!

Here is a family portrait. Ahhhh: 

All that's missing I guess is a sopranino but I will draw the line there. If I was Andy Eastwood or Joe Brown then yes, maybe, but I'm not and will never be!! That's my Gretsch Parlour Guitar in the background by the way :-) Now that is a thing of beauty!

Anyway I have a £100 budget (that's not too over the top is it?) for a new EA ukulele and am willing to go slightly over. So it's a toss up between one of these two: 

To the left - a Laka VUS50EA - as I say, my acoustic soprano is a Laka and it has a beautiful tone :-) But does this necessarily mean that an electro version will have the same properties?

Or a much prettier Kala KA-SEME to the right? I have never played one before but I do like the way it looks :-) 

So if anybody could offer some learned advice this week I would be very grateful. 

Yes - a new soprano EA to complete the family! And then "no more" I promise. When I had my second child I said THAT IS IT! I said it exactly like that - in great big shouty capitals! NO MORE! I still only have two children so that proves I can say "No More" and mean it!! Just not when it comes to alcohol clearly!

I hope I get to introduce you to my latest family member at the Strum. In the meantime please post your family photos on the Strum Facebook page. Ooh - and btw we are thinking of setting up a trading post at the festival - literally a post on which you can stick/pin/staple ukuleles/instruments (well pictures of them - don't nail a ukulele to the post!) you want to sell/swap/give away to better homes. Bring your adverts (no bigger than A6) with a photo and contact name/number and see if you can strike a deal. 

See you next week

Em & Pat xx

Monday, 5 June 2017

Summer Strum Monday Missive #10 - 5th June 2017 - a big ball of Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey

The Secret of Time Warping is Teamwork

Aagghhhh! There are just not enough hours in the day. I have what I have wished for for so long - a three day weekend and whilst the Strum organisation is in full swing it has been a true godsend. For now Monday has become my full-on Summer Strum day, or as I now call it my "sit on my arse in front of a computer screen or three (if the ipad is out as well!) day. Last Monday I sat on my arse for literally 7.5 hours. I then got up and spent 15,000 steps walking the long way round to a friend's house to collect the boys! I nearly killed myself it was so hot! Today I have sat on my arse for a little less (5 hours but counting - actually I am standing up at the kitchen counter right now). I will try to write a moderately entertaining missive between now and cooking tea, have a bath and then go to uke practice. Sorry kids - you'll have to entertain yourselves ... at least there are no after school clubs to go to on a Monday - phew - every cloud!

What have I done in those 5 hours and counting? I was going to time how long I took just sitting around waiting for websites to load, for computers to switch on, for documents to save, for photographs to upload but I figured that would be a bit sad! It was a lot of time btw! Well - today I are be mostly (sic *Fast Show*) sorting out the Festival Programme: writing copy, finding photos, chasing folk for bios, chasing other folk for advertising - if you know any local businesses that you think could benefit from an advert please feel free to push them in our direction**! It is all coming together nicely and is a job well done so far :-) I just wish there were more hours to get it well and truly ticked off the list.

Can you believe where the time goes? It's June already and the 5th of June at that! Five days have elapsed since the month changed from May to June! I know that's how it happens but why does it have to happen so quickly? That means one month and 2 days until we blast into action and pull off another fabulous festival! My planner says ADVERTISE ADVERTISE ADVERTISE and that's just what we will be doing between now and then.

I am just so glad that Pat and I don't have to do all this alone! Because, you know what? We couldn't ... there are just not enough minutes in the day! So a hugemungus (made up word) thank you to you folk who have helped out with all this -  designing, tweeting, facebobbing, emailing, bike deliveries - you are all truly wonderful human beans (and shouldn't truly be spelt with an 'e'? Truely - it looks so much better!). We cannot express how much we appreciate you.

If I could have a super power it would be a mash up (cos I like a mash up, me) between altering time and SuperSpeed(TM). Between the two I could get all the mundane jobs out the way quickly, then expand time so that everything that needs to be done for the strum gets done in a timely and meticulously-organised fashion (instead of repeatedly saying stuff like "oh bugger we didn't get those flyers printed again". I would create bigger pockets of time to practice the ukulele (!!), exercise (would I though?), plan lovely things to do with the kids, see more of my family - all the stuff that takes back seat to the mundane. Of course I would get to pick people to enjoy this time warping with me because where's the joy of doing everything by yourself? I like my own company I really do but there's a beauty in teamwork - triangulating problems and ideas, brainstorming over a drink or two (that, of course, is not how the Summer Strum is organised! No sir!). Together, with the right team, is the only way to get stuff done well and we are super lucky to have a damn fine team of folk working behind the Summer Strum scenes :-)

So there is one last bit of teamwork we want to ask of you ALL this month - pretty please. Can you shout about the Summer Strum wherever you can - if you need flyers to hand out or posters to put up please holler and we'll get some to you. The more people that know, the more people will come to listen to you play, will come and buy things from the hard-working craftspeople selling their wares, will attend the workshops (more on these soon); will buy raffle tickets and pop their spare change in the charity buckets. By working together as a great big team let's make this Summer Strum the busiest yet where we make everyone feel welcome and part of something bigger :-)

That's all I have time for folks! My tardis awaits - see you next week xx

Em and Pat xx

**We are now offering a quarter page for eating establishments that wish to offer a voucher for all you hungry Summer Strummers.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Summer Strum Bank Holiday Monday Missive - 29th May 2017 - Ain't Music Great?

Ain't Music Great?

Music. Ain't it great? Like what we wear, music is pretty personal stuff! So, what does music mean to you? Answers in the comments please! Summer Strum would like to know!

Here's what it means to me ... whether you care or not!!

When people ask us about music they almost always say "what sort of music are you into?" It's always been a question I have found quite hard to answer so I say "oh I like all types of music" except I don't really! I don't particularly like Northern Soul having had it blasted at me (literally it is used as a weapon!) by the next door neighbour every summer for 6 years; I'm also not a fan of 'grime' which the 6th formers seem to be so fond of - it really does 'give me a headache. Please would you turn it down!'. Neither genre speaks to me but obviously it does to them! For the neighbour he is obviously pining for his teenage dream remembering that life was once sweet - I just wish he would do it with a pair of headphones on; for the 6th formers the music fills them with energy and it must be played loud in order to pierce their very core - and my eardrums! People's boats are floated by all kinds of music - some we like, some we don't. That's why there is so much of it! Music literally caters for everyone.

When I was an introverted youngling I found that music was my main way of engaging with the world, or perhaps disengaging with the world! When I played music it meant that I didn't have to talk to people and if I am honest it's probably why I was drawn towards joining a ukulele band as an adult rather than, say, a book club (although I like books just as much as music)! From the moment I heard my granddad's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik on vinyl, from the moment Bing Crosby crooned his way into my life in all those musicals, from the moment the awesome music of John Williams made my heart soar I knew music was going to be important. Then came James Galway  - playing Vivaldi's Four Seasons on a golden flute! OMG! I wanted me some of that. It became an obsession and I still remember the joy I felt when I opened my Christmas presents and James Galway LP's were among them! Some might say "that's some mixed up kid"! Hey - I played with Sindy dolls too and climbed trees, had water fights - but I had found James and it was good! Not until I learnt to play the recorder would my parents buy me my first flute (not golden!) and I would play along with James for hours! He was, and still is, EPIC!

Then came 'pop' - first it was the pop my mum listened to (Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Eddie Cochran) then Abba (listening to those little singles with the orange centre as they dropped down one by one onto the turntable and Super Trooper - the first LP I bought - on New Year's Eve with the babysitter), then came Buck's Fizz (my first ever gig at the Stour Centre! Bobby Gee soooo dreamy!). Top of the Pops! Smash Hits! Look-In! Taping the Top 40 in my bedroom! Growing up in the 70's and 80's was a musical privilege full of wonderful memories.

I obsessed over certain groups that spoke to me over the years, as we all did -  Duran Duran as I crossed from primary to secondary School and my hormones developed an almighty crush on John Taylor; The Cure as I gratuitously wallowed in my teenage introversion and let Robert Smith's lyrics speak for me; Julian Cope who broadened my mind in so many ways - a true Floored Genius! Nirvana as I moved away from home and life got a bit scary and panicky; then Americana, most notably Neal Casal whose songs just tapped into my mellow soul (yes it was still there somewhere!) and chilled me the hell out!! But throughout, my musical taste remained eclectic and I listened to music across the spectrum.

What about the mixtapes given to you by other people, and treasured because it feels like someone has let you see into their soul? Hearing new music that sometimes felt like the missing part to a puzzle - click - "ah! that's what I have been missing all this time". The Doors, The Beatles, T-Rex, The Kinks, Love, Family, Television, Nick Drake, Black Sabbath, Nine Inch nails, John Martyn, Vetiver, John Prine, Hank Williams - I could go on! For all of this I thank all the people in my life who love great music and have shared it with me! 

There is so much music out there it makes your head whirl thinking about it doesn't it? Do you sometimes regret that you are never going to hear it all; that what if there is something really really extra special out there that you are never going to hear? I do. And it blows my mind like physics or life on other planets.  

I feel sorry for the people who find themselves in a rut (next door neighbour again!). They think they know what they like and like what they know and will never venture outside the genre but if they would only just open their minds and see there is so much more out there - the possibilities to expand their souls are endless. But if their rut is keeping them happy then who am I to judge?

Whether your musical tastes be eclectic or limited, though, there is one cardinal rule. Don't ram your music down other people's ear canals. What may be sending you to seventh heaven may not have the same effect on others. And its simple - all you have to do is turn it down - music doesn't have to be heard at 2000 decibels to make it better or, if you believe it does then listen with earphones - don't use it as a weapon to stake your territory! It's called respect for others. I personally keep Julian Cope to myself and make an effort not to play his music when the family are at home because I know they don't appreciate his greatness (for whatever whacked out reason!?). Likewise I wouldn't blast out Metallica in the back garden ALL day. It's just polite isn't it? Okay you can see I have a problem with my neighbour can't you!? It's cool - really! 

I'll leave you with a heart-warming tale instead. I am sure she won't mind me telling you this (it is very unlikely she will read it anyway!) but it always makes me smile when I think of my mother-in-law in the 80's doing the housework singing along to Motley Crue's 'Bastard' thinking they were singing "Faster". Whatever the word - this song, way different to what she was used to listening to, was giving a 50* year old woman the drive to get through the mundane before her husband returned home to tell the kids to "turn this bloody rubbish off".

A quick Summer Strum parallel!

Come to the Summer Strum - open your mind! You will be surprised (pleasantly we hope) at the eclectic mix of music you will hear. There is definitely something for everybody - that's a promise!

Love Emma (the awkward one) xx

* she was probably younger actually - my age in fact - but back then 40-50 seemed really old! Eek!

Monday, 22 May 2017

Summer Strum Monday Missive #8 - 22nd May 2017 - We're Going Through Changes

A change is as good as a rest

Welcome back to normal service following an unscheduled week off. I think I got myself into a bit of a Blue Funk coming down from the excitement of a couple of really good weekends - GNUF, Eurovision, al fresco times in the garden! Lol! Good times overload!! And then I had my hair cut and hate it. Nothing like a bad hair week to throw you off balance. Why do I never learn!? Change ... as good as a rest they say. Not when it comes to my hair!

So - what's changing (or not) about the Summer Strum this year? Here's a rundown of the weekend for you all.

We've still got this great website which is updated regularly by Ian Davies in between caravanning in Wales and flying his drone. Oh, and working a lot! He does work a lot!

Pretty much everything you need to know can be found on here and our Facebook page:

but let's take you through it anyway!

Here's where to find out who's playing (to be updated asap):

The same two stages will be running smoothly alongside each other manned by two great guys who give up their time and skills for peanuts and prosecco (Gary V the Sound Man and JulesCools (I listen, Hazel!). Midday til late.

I remember fondly the panic that beset the first day of the first Summer Strum in Hoylake when the MerseyRail SoundStation Tent set itself up pretty much opposite the main stage! How the hell is this going to work we asked ourselves? I remember Pat, Tracey and I hurriedly re-jigging the timings so that folk in the Tent played their 10 minutes during the changeover of the main stage acts - it was the only solution and it happened to work like clockwork! Phew! So we tried it again last year - and it worked. So we're doing it again this year! 20 minutes if you play on the main stage; 10 mins in Jules' Hootenanny Party Tent. CHECK!


New to the Main Stage is a mid afternoon showcase of Summer Strum Songwriters - folk new and old to the festival, who spend large amounts of their precious time writing brand new songs, are going to play them for us. How cool is that? It's a skill that I am certainly appreciative of (I still haven't written that song yet by the way!)

We will still have food stalls (more of them to choose from this year - including BubbleBox champagne and prosecco van! well - it's technically 'food') and Artisan stalls (that's what everyone else calls them!). There will still be facepainting (everyone loves their face painted right!?) and more stuff to do with the kids (and big kids) - spacehoppers, bouncy assault course and tag archery (I assume this doesn't involve sharp projectiles!). Hopefully junior rugby taster sessions will be on the menu this year and Andy Johnson will also be back in his storytelling tent with his whimsical tales - It's going to be a real family affair :-)
Please just ensure you keep an eye on your littluns and make sure they are safe.

Dogs are also welcome but please ensure they are on a lead at all times and pick up any smelly pressies they may leave behind them!

We still have free run of Hoylake Rugby Clubhouse and its spacious grounds thanks to the very wonderful Jack and Sue Kurton and their family who help out all weekend - from breakfast in the morning until 1am when the bar closes. Here's a map link:,-3.17313/Hoylake+Rugby+Club,+Carham+Road,+Hoylake,+United+Kingdom/@53.3917915,-3.1745454,590m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m8!4m7!1m0!1m5!1m1!1s0x487b2909971d4cf5:0x636afb9416a1d538!2m2!1d-3.1720098!2d53.3924461?hl=en.

Camping, and facilities, are still available from Friday night to Monday morning so get your pitch booked NOW and Holiday Inn has given us discount again for anyone not into camping - find the code on the homepage.
NOTE: Campers - please be mindful of your fellow campers who might want to sleep at night! Please also don't leave any valuables unattended in, or around, your tents.

Everything is within walking distance of Hoylake Station, the main street and a lovely beach. Remember folks - public transport ROCKS, as does foot and pedal power. Although there is parking (for campers and traders uppermost) do try to come by any of the above means :-) Find timetables here:

NOTE: Please use DUE CARE if crossing the trainline behind the Rugby Club.

After talking to you good folk and getting your views here's some new stuff that will be happening in the Clubhouse this year:

  • Friday night will still remain meet and greet night in the Clubhouse but Splintered Ukes are also treating us to a set of stonking tunes to start the weekend off with a bang. Bring your ukes along to jam with all your new friends afterwards!
  • Morning workshops are out and Jam 'n' Toast sessions are in. From 10am both days we have the mighty Wirral Ukulele Fanatics and D'ukes of Hazzard ukulele clubs running jam sessions, open to everyone. Beit campers wanting to blow out the cobwebs and warm up with a darn good singsong or members of the public who are curious about how uke clubs roll. Spare ukes will be on hand and songbooks will be shared.
  • Ukulele Club Liverpool will be holding their Summer Strum Blues Writing Workshop in the early afternoon of Saturday (details and time tbc) either in the Clubhouse or in a BUS! Ooooooh! Workshoppers will have the chance to get up on stage with UCL at 4:30.
  • On Saturday evening, by popular demand, Karl Parry has kindly offered to run an Open Mic session once the music has finished on the Main stage. So if you haven't already here's is your chance to perform! Details for signing up to follow.
Sunday will end, as always, around teatime with a buskalele. You will already be pumped up having danced for a good half and hour or so with Parker:Schultz so let's finish this festival off with the same bang it's going to start with - a good ol' bang sandwich!

Anyone who can stay behind and help take tents/gazebos down or sweep the site with bin bags are very welcome to do so!


Lots of Love

Em and Pat xx

Monday, 8 May 2017

Summer Strum Monday Post GNUF Missive #7 - 8th May 2017 - A bit on the side

A Bit on the Side* 

(*a nice short missive because I am happily knackered after an absolutely fab weekend in Huddersfield!)

I don't know if it is the same for every uke band/player but I have found it is common amongst the uke players I know for one's other non-uke playing half to develop a quite severe disliking for our bit on the side - our uke obsessed other life. It takes us out once a week (sometimes more); it sometimes takes us to places at the weekend; it gives us pleasure and makes us smile; it gets us drunk; it introduces us to new people that we otherwise would never have met; it enriches our lives.

It doesn't mean that we don't love our family and enjoy spending time with them; that they don't give us pleasure or make us smile too. We DO! And they certainly DO!

The two things needn't be mutually exclusive? Opposite ends of the pole. Hobbies add to our lives and should make us better people to live with! Everyone in a family should have at least one hobby! They relieve stress; they make us more interesting and keep life fresh; they are great for self esteem as you accomplish new things; they can lead to new life opportunities; they introduce you to new friends; they are FUN! If you have the same hobby then all the better but if you don't then that's more than okay. We are, after all, individual people and different things float our boats and fill our souls.

For the non-uke playing partner and family of a uke player you get the chance to become ensconced in some rather splendid events like GNUF and meet lots of amazing, friendly, happy, accommodating, polite, warm, eclectic people and you realise that the world isn't all bad. Whether you can play a ukulele or not suddenly doesn't seem to matter; the sound of ukuleles is sweetened by all these gorgeous folk that you find yourself surrounded by. You may find yourself accepting why your partner makes such a fuss about their 'bit on the side', even if you still don't want to become fully entangled! Threesomes aren't for everybody after all :-) 

From a personal viewpoint - my husband and boys have already signed up for next year!! I think they actually almost loved it! My eldest got himself a uke from the lovely, gentle man on the Forsyth Bros stall. Those who know me will agree that these are complete breakthroughs in the Owen household and I only have the good good people of GNUF to thank for that. It made coming to Huddersfield more than worthwhile!! So .....


Ukes, peace and love

Emma and Pat xx

Monday, 1 May 2017

Summer Strum Bank Holiday Monday Missive - 1st May 2017! - I want to write you a song

I Want to Write You a Song

This year I started a bullet journal - nothing fancy - just a way of keeping track of all those little jobs that mount up and swamp me on a daily basis. It has mostly worked fine. I have kept on top of the tasks that move life in what is mostly the right direction. I have the occasional longish gap where I file nothing - sometimes there is literally nothing really pressing that I HAVE to do (bliss) or I sometimes sink back into that CBA feeling that I started a bullet journal to get out of.

At the top of my April tasklist was "Write a Song"! As if it was something that I could just get done and tick off with a feeling of accomplishment. On the first of May there is no 'done' tick against that bullet! For a start I cannot write lyrics - deep, meaningful, clever, funny - nothing comes. I have written out a number of chord progressions but they all sound too familiar. 

I have 'written' songs before as a student up in my room with a battered ol' guitar. My favourite was called 'You Bastard' - it was about a former boyfriend who cheated on me with a petite, clever and non-gothy psychology student who definitely did not shop in Oxfam or Quiggins *. I believe they ended up getting married so I forgave. Another was about a guy who looked a bit like Judd Nelson, titled, very imaginatively, The Other Judd Nelson. I can't really remember how either of them went - not keepers then! So it's not looking promising is it!?

I am quite nifty at putting a medley or a mash up together - check out Wirral Ukulele Orchestra's banging Oil in My Lamp/Marylou/Blue Moon medley:-) But when it comes to anything original my head just won't let anything out - maybe it's too scared about what might happen if it did!

I thought I would ask for some top tips from people who can write songs. Here's what some of them said:

Stephen & Rekha Fowler (fabulous poets of Ooty and the Cloud fame and playing a set of their own songs at this years' Summer Strum as Wild Pear) say to write a song that you like; that has meaning to you, not what you think other people want to hear - "It is possible someone else may like it too".

For Mike Flaherty (The Boy with the Greyhound Tattoo) lyrics are of the utmost importance - "re-write and re-write until you're 100% happy". Same for the music - he advises to keep re-visiting your song and not to be afraid to experiment with the musical structure - "work on your song as much as you can to get it perfect before you release it into the wild". Mike will be showing us what he means during his main stage set this year.

Zahra Lowzley thinks that melody and harmony are what she finds most important in a commercial song; it has to be catchy; hummable. I tend to agree - I LOVE a lot of songs for their musicality alone and would not have a clue what the lyrics are half the time. There are also songs that are really really catchy musically but its often for the best not to think too hard about what they are singing about.

"Creating songs can be very therapeutic" says Zahra. Lyrics can be a great way of venting without confronting people face to face and upsetting them - well "You Bastard" works on that level! Zahra asks the pertinent question - "why are you doing it and what are you trying to express?"

To be completely honest with you I think I just want to write a one hit wonder that is played on the radio for all of eternity and leaves a legacy for my family with a bit left over to help others!! The JK Rowling of the musical world! A musical philanthropist :-) I don't want to do it as a means of self-expression - I have no desire to let people into my head! LOL! There's a catchy song out there and I am going to find it! As I write "Every Rose Has It's Thorn" has come on the radio - the second time this week - I am taking that as a sign from the God of Rock! "We are Wild Stallions"!

Not to be beaten then - I have migrated "Write a Song" to the top of May's tasklist to give it another go! Maybe I'll let you know if it happens!

Thanks to Steve, Mike and Zahra for the tips. They are all playing as part of the Summer Strum Songwriters Segment on Saturday and Sunday mid afternoons alongside Nicki Walton who is coming all the way from my home county of Kent with her cleverly penned and very funny songs, local lovely Alison Benson who has been raising her profile in the ukulele world these past few years and David Swann coming from Yorkshire with his gorgeous folk songs based on local tales. More about these good folk to follow on Facebook.

Hope you have had a great Bank Holiday weekend - I know I have. Maybe I'll write a song about it.

Peace and Ukes. See some of you at GNUF next weekend!!

Emma & Pat xx

(*cool alternative market in a 3 storey building demolished to make way for progress - Liverpool One).

Monday, 24 April 2017

Summer Strum Monday Missive #5 - 24th April 2017 - Does my bum look big in this?

Ukulele Dress Code - "Too Much?"

Just a ramble about image - *may lose its thread along the way and unravel - *puns intended :-) and apologies that the layout isn't better. Can't figure it out man ...

Despite doing it for 6 years it never gets any easier deciding what to wear to a gig ... every single time I twirl in front of my husband asking "Too much?" he always replies "you are going to play the ukulele, nothing is too much". Actually I am citing him to the fashion police as an accessory to my tragic outfit decisions for over half a decade!

I cannot believe the amount of awful clothes I have accumulated since starting to play the ukulele! I have a drawer dedicated to 'clothes I wear for ukulele gigs' - skirts, leggings, tops, dresses -  covered in flowers, Hawaiian prints, pineapples, chilli peppers, squirrels playing banjos (oh yes!); all colours of the rainbow. None of them would I wear on a day to day basis. But when it comes to playing a ukulele on a stage in front of lots of people anything goes - yes siree!

And don't forget the accessories to match! Flowers hair clips, hair bands, leis, wacky sunglasses, hats, bags shaped like pineapples ... cupboards rammed with the stuff!

I have only been adhering to the band dress-code though, which up until this year specified wacky/colourful/FUN/hawaiian!

Recently though enough has become enough! There is dissent in the ranks and we are trying for a new look that doesn't make us feel like we are dressing up for a pantomime every fortnight. The discussions we have had ...

So how do you settle on a look guys? Take a group of fairly disparate people, different tastes, different sizes, different ages. Do you go down the 'uniform' route with everyone wearing the same thing? It'd be easy wouldn't it? There it hangs in the cupboard gig ready; no need to try on countless outfits until finally declarng "sod it, that'll have to do" before rushing out the door. 

Will the same outfit suit everybody? I mean, when it's right it's right: 

But when it's wrong... (Man on right: "well, I don't see what your problem is - I think these white slacks are rather slimming. Just stand up straight man")

How about a colour scheme then? Colours are a very personal thing - "what is your favourite colour?" is one of the earliest questions children learn to answer; its one of the most common questions you learn how to answer in a foreign language too. Your favourite colour can say a lot about you according to pop psychology! How do you choose a colour to suit all tastes and complexions?

For instance would you have chosen these outfits if you were these boys?

Green and cerise combo - daring at the best of times - and pastels tend to make one look washed out don't you think? 

It's like dresses for bridesmaids ... Do you choose the same dress regardless of whether it suits everyone? After all its your big day and all eyes will be upon you anyway! You would think ...


But it can be done well - striking and fun with mix and match accessories:

Or different dress styles to suit each person:

I feel I am gradually getting to the bottom of it though as I write! A little bit of uniformity but with scope for each individual member to project a bit of personality? Not sure how the fellas would look in the dresses though ...

Should we try a theme? We've all tried the Hawaiian look - admit it! Yes the ukulele has Hawaiian links; yes it's bright and colourful and makes people smile. And hey there is nothing wrong with that. I'm not a Hawaiian-hater. But, unless you embrace the floral and brightly coloured in your everyday life, you end up with a bunch of clothes taking up room in your chest of drawers that you would not normally be seen dead in - back to the beginning of this missive! This is a girl who wore only black for most of her formative years.

80's? Yes - great if you play 80's  music. Punk? Yes if you play punk songs. Cowboy? Yes if you play country and western. But we mostly play covers from many different eras. 

Perhaps we could dress according to venue: church - black and white; summer strum - festival gear; Floral Pavilion - full on colourful; Farm - rustic.

Or just have a 'throw on anything, devil may care' attitude? After all - isn't the music the most important thing? "Who cares what we wear", I hear you cry? I think that works well for a smaller group, but when a large number of you are doing it there is the tendency to look like a load of teachers on an inset day. And there will always be one or two of you that just go a little too devil may care!


How about checking out the bands that you think do it right and copying them. Here are a few of my faves:

(I realise that video probably won't work - it's Human Error - my fave band of SS 2015 :-))

Copying is supposed to be the sincerest form of flattery after all ... but even that can get a bit annoying:

Or just downright creepy:

My conclusion? Uniform, theme, colour ... it all works with different bands. 

You know what the most important thing to wear when you are up there on stage is?


Because at the end of the day it's just a bit of fun. Nothing is "too much"! Go for it! And if all else fails get some great looking people on your front row!

I'm off to spring clean my drawers! Anyone want some floral clothes?

Keep Strumming. Love you all! xx

Monday, 17 April 2017

Summer Strum Monday Missive #4 - 17th April 2017 - Bloody Weather

Bloody Weather!

Wow! That was a quick week. Just back from Wales. The weather was okay for the time of year - only two days when it rained a bit but that didn't stop us messing about on the beach. playing crazy golf or walking up a hill. The thing about a Welsh holiday is that you pack for every eventuality - which can be rather hard when your family of four car is a Fiat 500 - flip flops, swimming gear, sun tops, body boards, raincoats, boots, woolly jumpers. The thing about our welsh holidays (we go several times a year!) is we have certain rainy day places - towns with shops and nice cosy cafes, craft centres, steam trains, swimming pool - and less rainy day places - the beach, crazy golf, walking up hills and around lakes. All activities are tackled with a cagoule wrapped around our waists and a jumper slung over our arm just in case. Love it!

When the weather grates it always brings to mind the Monty Python cartoon that crops up in their Holy Grail film. A scribe is sat in the top room of his house neatly writing out the title page for the Tale of Sir Lancelot when all of a sudden loud bangs shake  his house, making him spoil his page. He mumbles and heads downstairs. When he goes outside, the sun and three clouds are jumping up and down on the ground ('hey-up'). "Clear off", he cries and they sheepishly sidle off. "Bloody weather", says the man as he heads back indoors. Makes me laugh out loud every time - even then when I was just thinking about it!

For 'bloody weather' read rain, wind, sleet, freak showers of frogs - anything sent from the heavens to try and make life a little more trying.

Its the one thing we cannot control at the Summer Strum and practically the only thing that makes us nervous! "Get a big tent" we hear you cry. Well big tents cost a lot of money - not only do you need to hire the tent but you also need several trained and burly men (hmm - actually ... but, no, think about the cost Emma!) to erect it in order to meet the proper health and safety criteria. Besides where's the fun in that (well - several burly men for a start!)? We want to commune with nature at Summer Strum, breathe in the fresh air, wake with the larks, catch the rays that do shine down upon us from time to time, unicycle through the crowds if the mood takes us ... Farmer Eavis doesn't pitch up a mahoosive canvas edifice to keep his crowds dry. On the contrary - it is encouraged to revel and cavort in the rivers of mud that inevitably plague the biggest music festival in Britain (yes - I know rather a disproportionate comparison!).

The roof over Centre Court is only a recent thing - although it was about time I suppose and they could more than afford to do it. It takes 10 minutes to close and a further 30 minutes for the atmosphere to be stabilised before play can resume. It weighs 3,000 tonnes, the equivalent of 7,500 Wimbledon umbrellas (according to the Times). It benefits the play and players, not so much the spectators, who would happily shelter under those 7,500 umbrellas to watch Timmy play tennis in the 'bloody rain'; Football fans and players weather the storms (meteorological or otherwise) on a weekly basis throughout the season to support their clubs. Even at primary school age, parents (of which I am one of two) stand committedly on the sidelines week after week huddled under someone's golfing brolly, hoods up, wellies on, flasks of hot chocolate in hand watching their progeny trudge up and down on a field of mud (That's love for you). I am certain that ukulele players are just as fanatical and committed! You prepare your body and soul and its not so bad if it rains a bit is it?

I watched the very delightful Danny Mac on Sunday Brunch yesterday talking about the new production of On The Town (New York, New York, Its a helluva town) in Regent Park's Outdoor Theatre. "It's been a while since I've been" said the interviewer who is not Simon Rimmer. "Does it have a roof?". Danny scoffed at the thought and waxed lyrical about hardy theatre goers knowing the risks and preparing themselves accordingly with booze, food, raincoats, umbrellas and a Blitz mentality that the show must go on. Rain only pauses play (rarely cancels) for health and safety reasons (slippery stage, say).

The first Summer Strum in Hoylake was shifted seamlessly indoors only when it became evident that the heavens were to remain open for the rest of the second day thus threatening the sound equipment and making electrocution a real risk - at the time Fagin's Boys were playing so we didn't want to be responsible for that old institution Gerald Williams being shot out of his welly boots by a 2000 volt shock. The boys carried on the proceedings indoors with great panache and the show miraculously ran to schedule! But it wasn't the same was it? Although still great fun we had gone from a spacious outdoor arena into a cramped and humid room. Good job us ukulele players don't mind getting up close and personal.

So when we get asked "what are we going to do if it rains?" we say we will carry on regardless until we have to move indoors. In the meantime there will be ponchos for sale and gazebos to shelter under. For Summer Strum 2017 we suggest you pack for a holiday in Wales to include one, or a combination, of the following:
  • a rain proof coat
  • a brolly
  • welly boots
  • flip flops
  • sun cream
  • a hat
  • a plastic ukulele
  • a warm jumper
  • a picnic blanket
  • a Viking spirit
If those namby pamby southerners can do it at Regents Park then us Northerners can sure as hell tackle the 'bloody weather'! And it's all for charity after all!

Come - show your commitment to a great event and support some great charities - don't let the 'bloody weather' put you off.

For 'British weather' read 'chances of rain'!

Over and out. Enjoy the wet bank holiday!

Em and Pat xx