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Ukulele Group #1 – Purbeck U3A, Dorset

Earlier this week I asked for people to get in touch to tell me about their Ukulele Group. Thank you so much to everyone who has already emailed with lovely descriptions of their own ukulele community. It’s been great to read such positive emails and quite inspiring to see how you are all supporting each other and, in some cases, still managing to jam together online!

The first person to get in touch was Alan Neal, who told me all about the Purbeck U3A group in Dorset:

“Let me tell you a little about PUUG – the Purbeck U3A Ukulele Group.

When I retired a few years ago I joined the Purbeck U3A – the University of the 3rd Age.  This is a wonderful charity, run by volunteers, which provides courses, talks and activities across a wide range of topics, from science to the arts, from boules to walks, etc.

Early in 2018, a ukulele group was set up by Maxine.  Initially there were about 20 members, but since then our numbers have grown to over 40, and now we have a waiting list to join as we are limited by the size of the village hall we meet up in.

The group was incredibly fortunate to have Richard, a semi professional musician and guitar and ukulele teacher, join us. Richard has been our tutor, mentor and guide over the last 2 years and is principally responsible for the amazing progress the group has made.  Richard gently pushes us to improve our technique and will drip feed in musical theory so we become more knowledgeable and better musicians almost without us really noticing.

The organiser, Max, works tirelessly to ensure that venues are booked, gigs arranged, whilst her husband, Clive, produces and circulates all the new music that we use, including chord shapes and other helpful hints.

Having started in around February 2018, we played our first gig in May.  Given that many of our members had never played any musical instrument before, this was quite astonishing.  Since then we have played regular gigs particularly around Christmas time, in venues ranging from village halls, pubs, village fetes and even a garden centre.

Over the 2 years we have been together our repertoire has increased to over 100 songs ranging from simple 2 or 3 chord songs to much more complicated ones that combine both strumming and picking.

We meet on Thursday afternoons and for many of us, this is a highlight of the week, both to play music together, but also to chat to friends, old and new.  We break for coffee and often members will bring in cakes or biscuits which are highly appreciated.

The group has a wonderful ethos of inclusion and fun.  The playing ability of our members ranges quite widely from some very competent players to some who are a little further down the learning curve.  But this doesn’t matter. We want people to come along and have fun whether they can play 3 chords or are ukulele virtuosos (OK, I got a bit carried away there – we may not have any virtuosos other than our tutor!)

After we had been playing for about a year, we decided to adopt a charity, so that any payment or donations we got for our gigs could be given to a worthy cause.  In our first year we able to donate over £1,000 for CLIC Sargent , a charity that helps young people suffering with cancer.  This year our nominated charity is Dorset Air Ambulance.

Over the 2 years we have been going, I think we have moved from being a group of people who wanted to learn to play the ukulele, to becoming a group of friends who get together to play music.

With the Corona Virus pandemic now preventing us meeting together, our uke community is still very active.  Some members have attempted to play together using video conferencing (Skype, Zoom, etc.) but slight time delays make this a little difficult.  We are still proposing to use this method to discuss and demonstrate techniques and to have Q&A’s with our tutor, Richard. 

One of the first songs we learnt was the Bobby McFerrin song, ‘Don’t Worry – Be Happy’.  I think that is the motto of our group” 🙂

A big thank you to Alan for taking the time to send that over to me. I’ll be adding more on from other groups in the coming days. If anyone else would like to get in touch and tell me about their Ukulele Group, send an email to :

Take care