Ukulele festival ‘an absolute success’

Invercargill’s Tamariki Uke players were the youngest performers at Invercargill’s first ukulele festival on Saturday. The inaugural event attracted a wide cross-section of performers from all age groups. Members of the group are (from left) Jacks McMurdo, Lily Wilkes, Pyper Bradley, Brook Ledington, Oliver Payne, Bonnie McIntosh, Teegyn Dillinger-Waldron and Jaymie Ledington. (Absent: Ruby Baird). Photo: Supplied

INVERCARGILL can add another feather to its international cap — it is now the location of the southernmost ukulele festival in the world.

Jeremy Knowles, of Te Anau, enjoys the strum-along at the first Invercargill Ukulele Festival at Hawthorne Gardens on Saturday. Photo: Toni McDonald

The first of its kind for Invercargill, the festival sold out and there had been a waiting list for tickets, Invercargill Ukulele Festival organiser Brenda Meehl said.

“It was an absolute success and a beautiful sunny day. I was performing on stage… All I saw was a sea of smiles and people playing their ukuleles and singing. It was absolutely awesome. I would have no hesitation in doing it again.”

The event’s success had left no doubt in her mind about organising more in the future. Plans and ideas were already developing for 2023.

She believed people were looking for some fun and more social activities after so many
events had been cancelled.

While workshops did not feature on the 2022 calendar, they were definitely an option for future events, she said.

Workshops tended to consume the one-day event’s limited time. However, any future events could possibly be spread over two days and incorporate workshops, she said.

Auckland ukulele tutor and seasoned national and international ukulele festivalist Paul Jonson said he was impressed with the southern event.

He had travelled to the event at his own cost so he could support and encourage the festival organisers and was looking forward to Te Anau’s festival in October.


Te Puna Waiora Kaumatua Ukurere Roopa members Bobby Tatham (left) and Robyn White join the strum-along after their group opened the festival.
Photo: Toni McDonald

He made the switch from the guitar to ukulele about 11 years ago and specialised in performing jazz and blues numbers on stage.

Learning the ukulele was usually an easier process than the guitar, he said.

He recommended anyone who wanted to learn to play should ‘‘make sure they buy the best uke you can afford’’ and have it set up properly.

“Have the set-up done right so it’s a nice, comfortable, soft thing to play.’’

It was also important to find someone who knew the technical side of playing so bad habits were not developed from the start, Jonson said.