Arts & Culture Events

Hoylake’s Summer Strum festival launches ukulele amnesty

By Emma Gunby at

A ukulele ‘amnesty’ is being launched as the organisers of Merseyside’s biggest free festival dedicated to the instrument aim to get more people playing.

The Summer Strum festival is celebrating a landmark five years in Hoylake with 2,000 music fans expected to enjoy more than 50 ukulele acts play on two stages on July 6 & 7, including headliners the Splintered Ukes and the D’Ukes of Hazzard.

Organisers Pat Ross-Davies from West Kirby and Emma Owen from Birkenhead, say this year’s event at Hoylake Rugby Club is set to be their biggest and best yet, with entertainment also including artisan food and drink stalls, singalong jams, a busking bus, open mic stage, yoga and Tai Chi.

Summer Strum organisers

There will be a jug band workshop from world famous uke player Phil Doleman on Saturday morning, followed by a children’s workshop to get young beginners strumming, and a song-writing workshop from Liverpool musician Alison Benson.

Pat and Emma, both musicians with Wirral band the Broken Strings, launched the Summer Strum in 2014 with the goal of spreading wellbeing by providing a free event for ukulele players from across the region to come together.

This year they want to spread the message further and have launched a “ukulele amnesty” appeal asking anyone who has a spare ukulele, percussion or other instruments that are not being played, to hand them over.

Camping at Summer Strum

Camping at Summer Strum

The donated instruments will then be redistributed to community projects across the North West, in to help spread the smiles which Beatle George Harrison famously associated with playing the ukulele.

The Summer Strum has so far raised more than more than £10,000 for its nominated charities Wirral MIND and Wirral Hospice St John’s, to which all profits are donated. This year’s event has received £1,500 National Lottery funding, and there are still opportunities for sponsors to get involved.

The idea for the ukulele amnesty came about after thinking about a way to spread the positive effects of playing music to more people, who may have not picked up an instrument before, or had the opportunity to play with a group.

Pat and Emma want to pass on as many donated ukuleles as possible to those who could benefit from a musical boost and are asking for any groups who would like to receive donated ukuleles to get in touch. 

Summer Strum

Summer Strum 2016

Inspirational Pat is living with secondary breast cancer with support from Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, after 18 years in remission, and says playing music helps her to keep a positive outlook.

Pat, 60, said: “Playing music has a very positive effect on the brain, it improves creativity, confidence and connection.

“There is something very special about the ukulele. As George Harrison said you can’t help but smile when you pick one up.

“Playing music helps me stay positive, and we want to help spread that to as many people as possible. “

Pat explained: “Lots of ukulele player will have started out on a beginner instrument and then gradually moved on to more expensive uke as they improve.

“A lot of people might have a spare ukulele at home that might not be being played, and perhaps someone else could benefit. We would love to help more people to start playing.”

The Summer Strum festival was set up to promote wellbeing by spreading the joy people feel sharing a love of playing ukulele together, and sponsors are still needed to help make this year’s event even bigger and better than ever.

Emma, 47 from Birkenhead, said: “We are very excited about this year’s festival.

“We’re celebrating our fifth year and with 50 acts lined up from all over the UK and beyond, it’s set to be our biggest and best event yet!

“There will also be lots of workshops and jams throughout the weekend, so anyone who is starting out or who hasn’t even picked up an instrument yet will have lots of opportunities to learn.”

“We’ll have all the usual food and drink stalls, and some exciting new ones too – we’re very grateful to all of the local businesses who support us. If anyone wants to be a sponsor, we still have opportunities to get involved that way too.”

More than 50 bands will be playing on two stages at the 2019 Summer Strum from 12pm on Saturday and Sunday July 6 and 7.

Among them will be the Broken Strings, Wirral Ukulele Fanatics, Phil Doleman, Secret Ukulele Band, Ukulele Club Liverpool, Jefferson Milkfloat, Huyton Ukulele Troupe, Ukuleighties, Chester Ukes, River City Ukes, Neston Strummers, and Grateful Fred’s Ukelear Deterrent, to name a few.

Saturday headliners the Splintered Ukes are regulars at the Handyman Pub on Smithdown Road in Liverpool, and earlier this year supported world famous Jake Shimabukuro at Grand Central Hall, when he signed a ukulele which will be raffled off at the festival.

Sunday headliners the D’Ukes of Hazzard are known for their popular weekly ukulele jams at Ma Egerton’s pub in Liverpool city centre.

Three workshops will take place in Melrose Hall on Saturday July 6, just a short walk from Hoylake Rugby Club. In the true spirit of inclusion there is plenty for non-ukulele players to get their teeth into including a morning family pop song workshop, and Diddley Bow making and songwriting workshops in the afternoon.

World renowned ukulele player Phil Doleman will also be running a morning Jug Band Workshop in the Clubhouse on Saturday. There will also be jam sessions, and an  open mic stage will run in the afternoons inside the Clubhouse and people can sign up on the day.

Yoga and Tai Chi from Liverpool based wellbeing experts YinYan will be on the menu for Sunday morning in the Wellbeing Tent, open to all on a ‘just turn up’ basis their aim is to lift vibrations and prepare players and audience for the day ahead.

Spare ukuleles will be available at a Toast & Jam session run by the D’Ukes of Hazzard from 10:30am on Sunday, but all instruments, voices and dancing are encouraged no matter your level of skill.

Emma added: “The main aim of the Summer Strum is to promote wellbeing and inclusion in the community. We would like to thank everyone who gives their time all year round to help make the festival the great success it is. We are grateful to all the local businesses who support us throughout the year and over the weekend itself.”

To find out more visit the festival website: www.summerstrum.com and keep up to date with all festival activities throughout the year on social media by searching Summer Strum Hoylake on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.