Video: Norwich’s burgeoning ukulele scene

A small instrument is fast gathering popularity in Norwich.

Since it started two years ago, the Norwich Ukulele Society has seen its members swell as more and more people decide to take up the inexpensive instrument.

Gemma Cullingford, co-founder of the society, first started playing the ukulele two years ago because she wanted a fresh challenge after feeling that playing the guitar and bass guitar had become a bit stale for her.

She had also recently taken a teaching course at Access to Music, and soon realised that the four-string mini guitar would be a brilliant instrument to teach.

She and a friend then set up the Norwich Ukulele Society 18 months ago and it has been growing in popularity ever since.

The 31-year-old from Bury Street, Norwich, works for three days a week at Aviva, but for the other two she is busy teaching the ukulele, and even holds classes at some schools.

She said: 'Sales of ukuleles are up by 400pc and in shops round here they have been selling out.

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'The reason is because it's fun and it makes you feel good when you play a ukulele.

'It's quite easy to get a tune out of one.'

The society aims to be inclusive and has members of all abilities and ages, and the songs they play reflect that with material ranging from Eric Clapton to Johnny Cash, and Kraftwerk to Kylie.

Members have performed most recently at the Red Card Comedy Club's Laugh in the Park comedy festival in Chapelfield Gardens, as well as at Norwich Beer Festival.

The society meets every other Sunday at the York Tavern, on the corner of York Street and Leicester Street, in Norwich.

From 4pm there is �5 workshop for ukulele players who would like some extra help, and it is followed by a free meeting from 5pm to 7pm.

Artist Darren Smith, 40, from Cringleford, bought his four-year-old daughter a ukulele and then decided he wanted to learn the instrument and he started playing in January. He said: 'I love it. You can't help but smile when you play one. It's a lot easier than the guitar, which I also play.'

Kim Mayfield, a 52-year-old accountant from Chedgrave, started playing a ukulele 18 months ago after being inspired by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. He said: 'I have never learnt an instrument before but I've found it very easy to learn.

'It's nice to come along and play and sing with the other and they are good sociable bunch.'

Brian Warden, 37, from Silver Street, Norwich, started playing the ukulele a year-and-a-half ago because he hadn't really played a musical instrument since he was at school and it was something he wanted to take up again. He said: 'There are some songs that when you hear them played in a group sound much better than an individual ukulele player. I think it's popular because you can pick it up and start to play almost immediately.'

Playing the ukulele in our front page picture is Mabel Lea aged just six.

A beginners workshop is planned to take place on Tuesdays in August, with exact times and location to be confirmed, but anyone intersted in taking part can call Gemma Cullingford on 07762 303662.