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Behind The Scenes….

There are always a lot of smiles in the rehearsal room in Cockermouth on Monday nights.

In between the light-hearted banter there are moments of deep concentration as brain waves connect to fingers and fingers feel their way tentatively across fretboards.

“What’s next?” asks John. “Somebody choose something.”

“How about ‘Meet Me on the Corner,” says Brian.

“Not another drug song!” comes the response from the usual jokers in the corner.

“That’ll do,” says Jenny, trying to bring some semblance of order to the proceedings.

“One, two, three, four. . . . ”

Cockermouth Ukulele Players (Cukes) are in session, but it’s far from a formal arrangement.

Fun is the order of the day even though there is a performance looming on the horizon.

Mike decides it’s all getting too serious: “I see you’ve painted your ukulele, Jenny,” he says with a smirk.

“Did you have to take your G string off to do it?”

A couple of hours and a few pints of shandy later a dozen or so songs have been played, revised, tweaked, rejected, put on the list for performance, perhaps deleted from the Dropbox site never to be performed again.

It’s all very democratic, but as in all democracies there are plenty of opinions, some freely expressed, others harboured. But everyone rubs along and tries to encourage the newcomers and learn from the old masters.

“I don’t think we should give the impression that we are a group of professional musicians. We aren’t and I don’t think we ever will be,” says Terry.

There was something of a hiatus after the founder and long-standing member Bob Smith had stood down after five years at the helm in order to develop his interest in guitar blues music.

During his time with the group there had been about ten performances each year, ranging from Cockermouth Live, a concert on the banks of Derwentwater in Keswick, Dean Scarecrow Festival and a variety of low-key sessions in residential homes and club nights. There had even been a brief appearance on Radio Cumbria.

Many of the events had been part of charity fund-raisers. And that is all part of the ethos of Cukes which sees itself as a community-based group which welcomes people into its ranks and reaches out to help build community spirit whenever it is asked.

Colin Webb, who is taking what we hope is a temporary break from Cukes, took over the leadership from Bob and helped raise the skill levels within the group.

During his time at the helm there was a particularly successful performance at Lanercost Priory which saw us join in a concert featuring Ukulele groups perform from across the North West.

Invariably, well almost invariably, performances seem to lift the mood of audiences. There seems to be something about the ukulele which makes you want to smile.

Comedian Frank Skinner, who is beginning to look like a reincarnation of George Formby,  calls it “a little happiness machine”.

As the late George Harrison once wrote: “It is one instrument you can’t play and not laugh.”

Sorry about the double negative, but we know what he means.

He went on: “It’s so sweet and also very old – some are made of wood – some are made of armadillos. I love them – the more the merrier. Everyone I know who is into the ukulele is crazy, so go get yourself a few and enjoy yourselves.”

But back to Cockermouth. Our small army of strummers carrying long dark cases usually attracts a wry comment or two when we arrive at gigs.

“Have you got a machine gun in that case marra?”

Is it the mafia convention in there?”

The old ones are the best!

So what’s stopping you joining in the fun? You can buy a basic soprano uke for under £20 and you can join us at 7.30 on Monday nights in St Joseph’s Hall.

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