CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Lancashire Life today CLICK HERE

Lancashire is at the forefront of a ukulele revival

PUBLISHED: 00:00 06 May 2015

Maddison, Daniel, Ryan and Leo

Maddison, Daniel, Ryan and Leo

Archant

The ukulele has seen a huge surge in popularity with many youngsters following in George Formby’s footsteps.

Paul Nuttall, MD of Reidy's Home Of Music playing a ukulelePaul Nuttall, MD of Reidy's Home Of Music playing a ukulele

At first glance American pop star Taylor Swift doesn’t seem to have an awful lot in common with Wigan’s king of the saucy song George Formby. But they are united – and so are Neil Young and Jimi Hendrix – by an instrument that was overlooked for years but is now enjoying a huge surge in popularity.

All four star names, and plenty of others besides, started out playing the ukulele and sales of the instruments have doubled in the last five years, while Amazon reported an increase of 1200 per cent from 2013 to 2014.

Some of the sales boom may be down to the fact that ukuleles are rapidly becoming the instrument of choice in schools, partly because the sound of a class learning the ukulele is far less eye-wateringly hard on the ears than the screeching of 30-odd recorders, but they are also easier to learn.

Ukulele clubs have sprung up all over the country and even not-particularly musical beginners can pick up the basics in a few days and the skills learned on a uke can be transferred to guitars, making them a kind of gateway instrument.

A selection of Ukuleles at Reidy's Home Of MusicA selection of Ukuleles at Reidy's Home Of Music

Some people though, stick with the uke – the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain will clock up 30 years of performances next month – and Julie Martin hopes some of the Year Three pupils at Westwood School in Clayton-le-Woods will keep it up too.

She’s the headteacher there and introduced ukuleles to the school four years ago. ‘I used to work at Stubbins in Ramsbottom and that was a very musical school, with a lot of pupils playing brass instruments,’ she said. ‘The headteacher wasn’t musical but could see the value in music and how it could enrich the curriculum. It gives the children another string to their bow.’ Boom, boom.

Year Three pupils at Westwood can rent a ukulele for the year for just £5 – refundable at the end of the year if the instrument is still in working order – and have a 45 minute lesson each week.

Mrs Martin added: ‘I’d see the children struggling into my previous school with their great big instruments and when I came here I wanted something easier for the children to carry and easy for them to learn. The ukulele is a good size for them to hold and to play and I like the fact it’s quite northern.

‘In the first year the children played in assemblies and the teacher thought the group the next year were ready to enter a competition. They went in for the Penwortham Music Festival and played the George Formby song Leaning on a Lamppost and they won a trophy. Last year we were runners-up.

‘I think playing an instrument helps with their learning in other areas of school. It gives the children an opportunity to perform and can help improve self-esteem as well.

‘At the moment it’s only the year three children who play ukulele but it would be nice to have a group so that children with a talent for playing can stick with it through school. That would also enable us to take it into the community.’

The instrument is commonly associated with Hawaii, but arrived there in the 19th century with Portuguese immigrants. By the 1920s it was common in homes across America and spread around the world. The most famous player, certainly in this country, was George Formby, who also often played a cross-bred instrument called a banjolele.

Since the 1960s the instrument fell out of favour until its recent revival, which has been inspired in part by the success of folk-pop acts such as Mumford and Sons and Johnny Flynn.

And Paul Nuttall of Reidys Music in Blackburn, where they have been selling musical instruments for almost 100 years, says it’s easy to see why there has been a surge in the ukulele’s popularity. ‘It’s a great community thing to do, they’re portable and not expensive to maintain,’ he said.

‘There are lots of societies and groups around now. Even if you’re not particularly musical you can play a ukulele. They’re a lot easier to play than a guitar. You can play a chord with one finger.

‘The cheapest one we sell is at £19 but we have one for £1,099 – they look pretty similar but there’s a difference when you play them. One is hand made of genuine mahogany and has more bearings and better strings.’ w

There are ukulele groups across Lancashire, to find one near you go to ukulelehunt.com

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Lancashire Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Lancashire Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Lancashire Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Having 10,000 students on the doorstep is helping this West Lancashire town centre to thrive

Read more

In 1972, a hoard of ancient silver coins was discovered in Prestwich. These days, they’re hoping to strike gold with an unbeatable mix of community, creativity and independent shops but for one craftsperson, silver is still the way to go.

Read more
Friday, October 12, 2018

Pendle Hill is one of the most iconic landmarks in Lancashire and you can enjoy the beautiful countryside, spectacular views and fascinating from a number of starting points in the Ribble Valley.

Read more
Pendle Hill Ribble Valley Walks
Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Our walks expert John Lenehan plots a scenic course that also provides a little Lancashire history.

Read more

Steps are being taken to bridge the divides that have grown between communities and made Blackburn one of the most segregated towns in the country.

Read more
Blackburn
Monday, October 8, 2018

With the countryside turning stunning shades of red and gold, this is probably the best time to pull on your boots and go for a heavenly hike.

Read more
Lake District Walks Autumn

There is always something surprising in this old Lancashire village which attracts visitors from across the world

Read more
Cartmel
Thursday, October 4, 2018

Many youngsters their age are content to play with their toys, but a Bowness brother and sister are happiest in their walking boots.

Read more
Thursday, September 27, 2018

Britain’s biggest independent flower show attracts huge crowds and the admiration of BBC celebrities

Read more
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

When it was announced The Willow Garden Project in Fleetwood was to be the recipient of BBC North West Garden created for The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Tatton Flower Show, there were cheers all round.

Read more
Friday, September 21, 2018

The first ever National GetOutside Day takes place on Sunday 30 September with the aim of getting 1 million people active outdoors across the UK.

Read more

Meet some of the devilishly successful people who make this glorious Ribble Valley town tick.

Read more
Clitheroe
Friday, September 14, 2018

The site was designated Lancashire’s first ever ‘Local Nature Reserve’ in 1968 and is also designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Read more
Lytham
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A striking sculpture attracts John Lenehan to this circular walk through some oustanding scenery.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Subscribe or buy a mag today

Local Business Directory

Property Search