Today's installment comes to you from the Welsh coast with a bad internet connection :-) Disclaimer: may ramble and contain mistakes!
Is Summer Strum the best ukulele festival of the year? Nah - that's GNUF! Do we want to be the best ukulele festival of the year? Well, maybe in our dreams - but that will always be GNUF! Is Summer Strum the best ukulele festival in the Northwest? We are certainly a contender! The best on the Wirral? You bet!!
A few folk have actually said that Summer Strum is a highlight of their ukulele calendar - and that'll do us!
For better or worse we at Summer Strum don't have high aspirations - we just wanted, and still want, to provide a platform primarily for ukulele players from the Northwest who would otherwise not get the chance to play at a festival or who just don't have the flexibility or money to travel to get their ukulele fix. That some people travel from further afield is an added bonus! We are truly privileged! I admit I have only ever been to one ukulele festival outside of my immediate surroundings - Nukefest, a fabulous day in a sunny beer garden. As a family woman, I could not possibly make a convincing case for trekking off to ukulele festivals all over the country (although in a rare, possibly drink fuelled moment I have persuaded my husband and children to come with me to GNUF this year! Therein lies a whole blog in itself!) - so creating a festival on our doorstep was the next best thing! Just a short walk from a mainline Mersey Rail station!
At Summer Strum we do what we can within the time, money and personnel constraints we are under. And so far so good - like a 'field of dreams' we build it and you come. Would it be nice to have a bigger stage? Of course; would it be nice to erect a huge marquee in case of those inevitable showers? Yep. Would it be nice to be able to pay every performer and perhaps buy in some big names? In an ideal world - perhaps. But actually, we quite like putting this festival together on a shoestring. It makes us focus on the things that count, ensures we never forget our aims and ethos and shows us just what local community is capable of. Being given free reign of Hoylake Rugby Club, a decent discount from Handy Scaff on a stage; having a bass player who can rustle up a second sound system from the boot of his car, a community of amazing people who offer their help all year round and musicians who play just for the love of it - that's what helps make the Summer Strum happen. How long will it continue? Who can tell. All we know for now is that there is still a call for Summer Strumming in 2017.
People ask "are there really that many groups to make a weekend of it?". Well apparently there are. And more! We function on a first come first served basis. All inclusive, no airs. And the main stage fills up within days - that's thirty 20 minute slots.
We are of course very lucky to have some local big hitters and are privileged that they have joined in at our request - seeing how it is done gives us all inspiration doesn't it? Ukulele Uff and Lonesome Dave Trio ("We love you Dave!") have rounded off Saturdays with style over the past two years and the Mersey Belles have spread their sunshine since Chester. We are also over the moon that some bands, and uke fans for that matter, do travel on their own steam from afar to spend the weekend with us - Scotland, Hartlepool, Wales, Finland (what a fantastic rendition of Nothing Else Matters!), London, Kent - and this year Sweden! Yes, our great friends Trellebelle Ukulele Orchestra, well known for their Beatle covers, are travelling over to headline Saturday - in a potentially damp field in Hoylake! How cool is that? A modern Wirral/Viking link!
We don't want to sound complacent. We do work very hard to get this show on the road within those constraints and are always thinking of new ways to keep you entertained and finding people who can help us carry them out for free (!) - nobody wants the same ol' song and dance year on year after all. So - alongside the staple main stage and party tent there will be more food (yes we listen!); there will be morning jam sessions with local ukulele clubs, Wirral Ukulele Fanatics and D'Ukes of Hazzard, giving everyone a chance to dip their toes in the ukulele pool and play alongside veterans; there will be a songwriters spotlight featuring 6 performers (from near and far) playing their self-penned tunes (initially an idea to try for a grant - but grant unforthcoming we decided to run with the idea nevertheless!); we have local heroes Splintered Ukes kicking off the party on Friday night with a Clubhouse set; and open mic, also in the Clubhouse, to be run by the very lovely Karl Parry on Saturday night. Lots of ways to get your ukulele fix we hope you agree.
No matter what we change or add, however, the Summer Strum is still free to enter in 2017 and remains open to EVERYONE - local or not!
And remember ... there will always be spacehoppers!