Punk rock ukelele festival returns
A celebration of the world's ultimate punk rock instrument returns for the third year running on Saturday.
Ukelear Meltdown is the nation's only punk rock ukulele festival.
The annual two-day festival of extreme ukulele draws acts from around the globe in celebration of a "30 dollar wooden box with wires".
The 2010 festival, at the Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle, will feature acts from Pakistan, Finland and the USA, and includes short films, ukulele workshops and a bar selling organic beer.
Festival director Craig J Wilson said Ukelear Meltdown was "about more than just George Formby". And he drew a parallel between the credit crunch and The Great Depression of the 1930s, which was the last time there was such a boom in interest in the uke.
He said: "It is about encouraging everyone to make music themselves, rather than just sitting and watching 'musicians' do it. I think when times get tough people do fall back on entertainment because they need a little light relief. I doubt there are many people going to see intense Brechtian plays at the ICA at the moment, but there's probably a lot who are going to see funny films in their local Odeon. The ukulele fits very naturally into that niche.
"It's so cheap you can thrash it about a bit and be completely disrespectful of it, and it is not something you have to spend years learning before you can make it make a sound. It is the ultimate punk rock instrument in that way. It is hard to be unhappy when you hear or play a uke."
The festival was inspired by a documentary about the instrument and America at the time of the Great Depression.
He said: "It was a terrible time; there was the rise in Nazism, Stalin was doing terrible things and people were struggling to find things to eat - so we don't want to bring everything back from the 1930s but on the other hand there was some great literature, some great music and great style; things we'd like to encourage.
"The festival is about bringing some of these things bang up into the present and the ukulele is very good for that."