zoe bestel uke fest

First Ukulele Festival of Scotland deemed a massive success!

Ukulele Festival

Sarah Kelly (Photo by James Millar)

Over the weekend of 6th to the 8th of May 2016, Dumfries hosted Scotland’s first Ukulele Festival and it has been deemed a great success, with organisers already planning the next one.

More than 400 people descended upon the Crichton, Dumfries. The Easterbrook Hall, the Crichton Memorial Church and the Holiday Inn were the venues for this new annual festival for the region.

The sun shone – in every respect – on this first Ukulele Festival of Scotland and it lived up to its promise of being a most fantastic event, bringing some of the best in worldwide acts to the south of Scotland. Zoe Bestel, Dumfries & Galloway’s own home-grown talent commented “It is great to have so many international artists here.”

On Saturday and Sunday there were three main concerts and two additional shows with internationally renowned performers from the ukulele community. Acts included local artist Zoe Bestel from Wigtownshire, Canadians James Hill, and Manitoba Hall, the Lucky Leles from Germany, as well as Ceci N’est Past Ukolollo from Italy, Tobias Elof from Denmark, Bernard Massuir from Belgium, Mike Hind from Bermuda and so many more!
The Earlston Ukulele Club won the ‘Club Together’ competition, showing best cohesiveness.

Alongside the concerts, 16 workshops were run by the artists catering for all playing abilities. There was a chance to learn how to pick Scottish dance tunes to playing the blues – a far-cry from George Formby’s ‘When I’m cleaning windows’!

Mersey Belles

Mersey Belles (photo by James Millar)

Friday evening started off with Open Mic and jam sessions on the lawns outside the Holiday Inn and then carried on inside, well into the night. With the weather showing itself from its best side there were impromptu jam sessions taking place all weekend. Wherever you looked the ukulele sound was reverberating across the Crichton site!

Artists and guests were overwhelmed by the weekend. Sarah Kelly, who won the New Performers Competition said about the festival: “A new level of Uke Festival – a new bar has been set! It’s the little things that have made the difference. It has been the most open, most welcome and happiest festival we have been to!”.
This was echoed by Lucky Leles, who had travelled all the way from Berlin to perform in Dumfries: “This was the nicest and best organised Ukulele festival we have been part of. Everybody has been so friendly and welcoming. It was so well organised and everything went like clockwork!

The artists and London-based compare Paul Martin, also commented on the high quality acoustic in the venues and the highly professional sound engineering support provided by local company SW Audio.
The ‘purple army’ of volunteers from the local D.U.K.E.S. groups helped with the smooth running of the weekend, acting as runners, sound engineers, wardrobe assistants, raffle ticket sellers – you name it, they did it!

Linda Stuart Butterworth

Linda and Stuart Butterworth (photo by James Millar)

But none of this could have happened in the first place, had not been for the tenacity and determination of Linda and Stuart Butterworth from Rockcliffe, Dumfries & Galloway.
Stuart is Mr Ukulele – he runs D.U.K.E.S., a number of ukulele workshops across parts of Dumfries & Galloway, with over 100 members. He also teaches music and together with his wife runs a number of local children nurseries. Linda and Stuart have four adopted children themselves and although not from Dumfries & Galloway, have taken the region into their hearts and are giving a lot to the local communities. The Mersey Belles from Liverpool summed this up: “What a brilliant first festival, organised by probably two of the nicest people and in one of the most beautiful settings. So grateful to have been part of it!”.

Over the weekend over £2000 was raised for the Ukulele Kids Club UK, which provides ukuleles and music therapy to children in UK hospitals.

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3 Responses

  1. So many people said that it was the best uke festival they had ever been too. I’m not just saying that because it was in our beautiful Dumfries & Galloway, it really was something special. We were delighted and honoured to be a part of it. Congratulations to Linda and Stuart and their Purple Army of volunteers for making it a huge success and roll on next year. It’s going to be a highlight of the uke calendar for sure!

    • Melissa Gunn says:

      I’ve heard nothing but good feedback about it! Pleased to hear the organisers are planning the next one too. Such a good thing for Dumfries.

  2. Tony Brimson says:

    I came down from East Kilbride to see the Saturday night show with my friend Sandie Keggans and her mum, Moira. To say I enjoyed the night, was an understatement. All of the artists were amazing, James Hill showed his talent with the Ukelele, but it was the Lucky Leles who stole the night for me. I will definitely return to the next Ukelele Festival.