For a variety of reasons, paid-for classes often come to an end - a teacher leaves or the course finishes. But if there's a desire to keep going, developing into a self-led group is a great way to stay connected, keep improving and continue having fun together. As this group of Bristol-based ukulele players discovered . . . 

The F’ukes are an amateur group based in Fishponds in Bristol, that plays an interesting and alternative mix of songs on the ukulele. They meet every Tuesday at The Cross Hands pub to practice and play together. One of the founding members, Nicki Townsend explains how the group started and transitioned from a paid class to a self-led group:

“The group was started four years ago by Danielle Greenwood from the Uke Lift Project. I originally met Danielle at the Fishponds Craft Market where she was selling Mexican Day of the Dead arts and crafts. I got chatting with her and happened to mention that I wanted to learn to play the ukulele and she said that she taught it. I jokingly said ‘you wouldn't be able to teach me as I haven't got a musical bone in my body’ and she replied ‘I absolutely guarantee I can teach you’. So I had a few private lessons with her to start, but she soon decided to start up a regular class in Fishponds.  

“We started out with a beginners group at 6.30pm and a more advanced group at 7.30pm, which allowed Danielle to do two consecutive classes in one evening. This meant people were able to progress to the more advanced group after a few lessons in the beginners. Then COVID hit so we had to stop meeting in person and moved on to Zoom. Unfortunately it wasn't possible for Danielle to keep the beginners class going on Zoom as it was too difficult to teach people from scratch, but the advanced group met regularly on Zoom throughout the lockdowns. Since the COVID rules came to an end, we have gone back to meeting regularly in the back area of the main bar downstairs.  

“A few months ago, due to personal circumstances Danielle took the sad decision to stop running the group. She suggested we keep meeting on our own as she felt she had taught us enough that we could continue to learn and practice on our own. I was surprised that everyone agreed to keep meeting, so we have kept it going and we now meet every other week in the pub. Danielle provided us with loads of resources and encouraged us to take part in the Bristol Ukulele Festival which took place on 25 June 2022. This really gave us the impetus to keep going and practising, and really that's how things have evolved and it’s been fantastic.

“We’re a small group, with eight of us who performed at the ukulele festival, and then another three or four people who come along on a regular basis, but weren't available to do the festival. Not everybody is there every week but there’s always a good core group.

We weren't sure how being a self-led group was going to pan out, so we try to be as democratic as possible.

"But sometimes people do need to take the lead with things, for example I am quite a practical person so I’ve taken on some of the practical side of things like liaising with the ukulele festival and with the pub. We've got someone else who's taken on setting up and managing our Google Drive where we share all the music and things like that. But we mainly communicate through a What’s App group so I think we're still quite democratic. 

“We've got a couple in the group who have been together 54 years, so I think they're probably in their early 70s and they are super reliable at turning up. They practise loads too, but they don’t seem to be interested in taking a lead role, but they'll always be there and they are always positive and support everything. And then we've got people who just enjoy dropping in and out. We've also got people who are better at singing. So yeah, I think it's actually still evolving.”

For more and follow The F’ukes via their Facebook Group