A UKULELE group has been spreading joy across Staffordshire, Worcestershire and beyond during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as managing to raise money for charity despite the difficulties posed by the virus.

Ukulele Friends was formed during the first lockdown after Ukes On The Edge, Kinver U3A Ukulele Group, could no longer meet at the Senior Citizens Club in Kinver as they had done every Friday afternoon.

As a result, one of the members, John Henley, came up with the idea of forming a WhatsApp group to enable members to continue to keep in touch.

Following on from the success of this group, members suggested that they start online Zoom sessions. Due to his technical and musical knowledge, John took up the challenge and Ukulele Friends Zoom sessions were born, keeping to Fridays and the 2pm time they used to meet before the lockdown.

Thanks to the success of the smaller Zoom meetings, it was decided it might be a nice idea to invite people from other ukulele groups such as Worcester, Kidderminster and Wyre Forest, but it did not stop there as the word spread and people joined in from Wales and as far away as Saffron Walden in Essex.

There are usually well over 40 players who go to these friendly and fun sessions. Members are encouraged to perform live and join in with making collaborative recordings, which are then presented at the meetings. Both of these are things which many probably would not have considered doing prior to lockdown. They also play along with selections from a large collection of popular songs on video, even suggesting their own ‘Top Tens’!

John said: “The group isn’t just about performing together, it’s a fun time with people making new friends and seeing old ones that they might not have seen otherwise when we were forced to stop all our face-to-face meetings and gigs.”

The sessions are free and it was decided that instead of subscriptions Ukulele Friends would support Pancreatic Cancer UK in memory of Lesley, John’s wife. Charities have really struggled during the pandemic but so far, the Friends have added nearly £1,000 to funds raised before the virus, bringing the total amount to more than £5,000.

Contact: Ukulele Friends: ukulelefriends@gmail.com

Pancreatic Cancer UK: www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk