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).