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Chance to try wonderful yet weird ukuleles; WHAT can you do with a uke? More than you might imagine, as JACK MAIDMENT finds out.


AUKULELE may be forever associated with George Formby and his cleaning windows song, but a Newcastle festival is aiming to show this versatile instrument is capable of so much more.

The third annual Ukelear Meltdown, dedicated to extreme ukulele, will take place this weekend at the Star & Shadow Cinema at the top of Stepney Bank, Newcastle, and it promises to be a diverse experience.

The festival, which kicks off tonight, prides itself on the weird and wonderful, with the line-up this year ranging from a 1930s-inspired artist called Lady K to the sonic maelstrom of American performer Williwaw who uses amplifiers and all his limbs to produce a truly unique sound.

A wide selection of interesting and thought-provoking performers will showcase their music, which festival founder and director Craig Wilson hopes will inspire people.

"My hope is that people who come will pick up a ukulele and discover some of their creativity," he says.

"It's not a festival where you just sit about and watch. We try to encourage people to get involved."

Workshops will be held over the weekend.

Craig, who lives in Byker, says the festival tries to "find people who do unusual things with the ukulele".

Lady K and her Kooky Kitchen are one such group.

The Newcastle collective describe their style as very tongue in cheek with a dash of 1930s Mae West naughtiness. They are due to play tomorrow afternoon.

Lady K, whose real name is Krista Puranen-Wilson and who is originally from Helsinki, Finland, believes that the Star & Shadow venue makes the event extra special.

"I think it suits the festival really well because it's so down to earth; it's perfect.

"When it's sold out and everybody is singing and dancing, the atmosphere is great."

Leon Millar, a 22-year-old music teacher and the guitarist, couldn't agree more.

"I love the venue. It's amazing," says Lee, a member of Newcastlebased three-piece Vacation Pioneers, an acoustic folk pop group which cites The Smiths as a major influence.

"It has so much character and a really nice homely feel to it because it is run by volunteers."

Vacation Pioneers will be one of the bands opening the festival this evening.

The festival also includes film screenings as well as the workshops and musical acts.

Spread over two days, it starts tonight from 7.30pm and goes on all day tomorrow from 11am-11pm.

Tickets are available on the door or from Newcastle Music: 0191 221 0595.


EXTREME SOUNDS last year's Ukelear Meltdown festival CROWD-PLEASER Ira Lightman , one of the performers at last year's Ukelear Meltdown festival
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Feb 27, 2010
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