In the latest edition of the excellent ‘Uke magazine' the editor Matt Warnes (Follow them on Facebook) posed the above question. Despite running a club for the last five years I don’t suppose I’d ever actually tried to crystalize my thoughts on this. For sure I was confident that I’ve always tried to run things as professionally as I could to give me a good night out, but this got me thinking.
How I run U-Kew-Lele at Ritz Music
In running the club in at Ritz Music Richmond (West London) needless to say very keen to try keep it in what is thankfully seen to be the 'good club' category. Our format seems to work and is a bit of hybrid as the first half is an actual more of a structured lesson and the second half more a jam/singalong.
There’s clearly a great many reasons why a club does or doesn’t quite work, but I think the key to success is some genuine balance in the organiser / attendees dynamic. For instance as a gigging musician with interests playing blues and Americana, I have to be clearly respectful that the majority of the group are keen on a much wider range of songs and genres and also want to have a nice social sing along.
However I do try and keep things nudging along in terms of musicianship so that we're not just playing C, F and G7 all night and people (particular the more advanced players) feel they are also progressing on the instrument. i.e. by learning a blues riff or jazz rhythm strumming technique etc.
The work involved in running ukulele clubs
Alongside that as anyone running a club will know, it takes quite a lot of work to get all the song sheets prepared, dropbox updated, arranging gigs for the group etc so its great when people are supportive on that side too and chip in to spread the load, which is always appreciated. There’s so much to think about in getting what is often a large group (20+) out to a gig (not least the weather for a lot of them!) so all extra help is always gratefully received!
On the support front, it’s also great that other uke enthusiasts out there in the blogsphere like Barry Maz (http://www.gotaukulele.com/ @bazmaz_ukulele) who go to such great lengths to write such helpful articles on things like what insurance cover you should have in a band or arranging a gig.
Keep it open
Lastly, from my point of view, keeping things open in terms of it not just being 'all uke' is important. We've had all sorts of other instrumentalists turn up (including one of Johnny Cash's ex harmonica players!) and think they can really add a lot to a club night - particularly in this case when playing Folsome Prison!
Uke, banjolele, sax, mandolin, tenor guitar - you're all welcome in Richmond!
To find out more about joining U-kew-lele
To join us at the next Uke-Academy (the first Monday of every month) check the events calendar