Ukulele festival first for the region

Southland’s inaugural ukulele festival will take place this weekend, put together by local uke group Don’t Fret. (From left) Pauline Gillan, Brenda Meehl, Philip Jackson-Cox, Wendy Ellis, Lyn Kelliher, Sue Swinbourne, Lisa Gear and Karen Goffe. Photo: Supplied

INVERCARGILL’S first ukulele festival is set to take place on Saturday.

Festival organiser Brenda Meehl said that the festival would also be the southernmost ukulele festival in the world.

The festival will begin with a combined sing and strum-along, followed by concert performances and then an open mic, where performers are encouraged to get up and showcase their musical talents to the audience. Ukulele players from school-aged to retired from throughout the region will take part in the first-of-its-kind in Southland event.

Unfortunately due to Covid restrictions, the outdoor event has been limited to 100 people and reservations have been booked out, although there is a waiting list in case attendees cannot make it.

Mrs Meehl said the festival was a community event designed to promote participation in
music and performance in the region, and it was hoped it would become an annual event in
the future.

‘‘It’s had a huge resurgence over the last two years.’’

Mrs Meehl said she had been playing the ukulele for about 20 years, buying her first ‘‘uke’’
after hearing Izzy Kamakawiwo’ole playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow on the radio.

‘‘It’s very hard to be unhappy when you’re playing the ukulele,’’ she said.