How HUG began…

One Wednesday evening in 2006 I was enjoying the ABC’s Spicks and Specks as usual when on the segment “Look what they’ve done…” appeared some members of MUK – the Melbourne Ukulele Kollective. The segment was great. But then…at the end of the show, the original members were joined by countless other MUKers to play the show out with Long Way to the Top. They kept coming…and coming…and eventually seemed to take over the entire studio! All ages, all abilities…all seeming to have the time of their lives! It was fantastic and I thought, “I want what they’re having!” (You can view the Spicks and Specks closing segment here.)

My now retired, nearly 50 years old, little red uke...decorated by my friend Primrose.

My now retired 50-year-old little red uke, decorated by my friend Primrose, stars in HUG’s logo

I spent the next little while rummaging about looking for my old red uke that I’d brought back from New Zealand 40 years before. I knew it had to be somewhere as I would have never thrown it out! Eventually I found it, hit Google to refresh my memory of tuning and chords, dug out our old Buskers music books and started strummin’!! Over the next few months I returned regularly to my happy little instrument and was surprised to find how much had remained hidden in my memory banks from all those years ago. The really neat thing was that while playing, along with lots of great memories from my youth flooding back, all daily stresses dissipated! It’s simply impossible to feel stressed while strumming a ukulele!

After several spectacularly unsuccessful months endeavouring to find someone to start a ukulele group in Hobart it eventually dawned on me that it would have to be me…or not at all! So, the first step was to secure a suitable venue. I decided the criteria would be free of charge, a separate room, free of charge, centrally located, free of charge, staff who were friendly and sympathetic to our cause and, did I mention, free of charge? Some friends I managed to rope in and I traipsed around the Hobart pub scene and finally found all the criteria satisfied at the Republic Bar & Cafe in North Hobart who gave us their Green Room on Monday nights.

The next step was to publicise the (yet unformed) group. I made a flier to put on notice boards, in windows, etc of music shops, cafes, the university, and other establishments around town…and waited nervously!

The first HUG-in on 28 February 2007 consisted of 3 people and 2 ukes…but it was a start! The very next week there were 7 people and 7 ukes and HUG has continued to grow ever since. We eventually outgrew the Green Room and the brilliant management of the Republic simply gave us their upstairs function room…still for free! What a great bunch!

When HUG began there were only 8 Australian uke groups (that I was aware of). Now there are 111 (that I’m aware of)! See them here. The world-wide ukulele revolution has certainly taken off in Australia and means that almost wherever you live or travel in Australia you can find somewhere for a ‘uke fix’.

Happy strummin’

My growing family of ukes

On a personal note – after 40 years with 1 uke, my family of ukes has grown to 9 in 9 years. My family of cats is not growing at the same rate and this one, Chat Noir, is always front (& almost centre) as soon as the iPad camera app opens!


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