Thursday, October 30, 2014

The post-Newkulele Festival, TALAUG and Ukulele Leadership LetDown

Is this what success looks like? Exhaustion? and dreams of overflowing ukestras in holiday resorts?

This morning's dream was a slight anxiety one, about trying to run a beginner's ukulele session prior to one of my normal weekly regional ukestras (Tomaree Ukestra up at Port Stephens). Except instead of having the expected 2 people show up for the beginner's session, there were about 20 new people, including teenagers who should have been at school at 9am on a Monday morning. What was I going to do with them? As the 9:30 Ukestra start time encroached, this was my concern...

The Ukulele Professional Development Marathon

And then I woke to my first day of not having to rush and do something. I'm still awake with the sun just after 6am, but I don't have to rush off and be a well loved and familiar figure in my own lunch-time at a Festival or swathe of training days. I can sloth, and greet Jane slowly with our normal morning rituals, and then get into the piles of washing and administrative work that await us after a full week of full-on-ness.

The endurance marathon started last Wednesday night. We discovered that our Ukestration Manual was something like 35,000 words and 100 pages, and that it needed a final edit. So off I go (alone) at 8pm to our favourite third place to ensconce myself at a table and read the tome. Start with a double pot of chai (Bengali), quaff for an hour, order dinner, keep editing, a glass of water, eat dinner, keep editing for hours, drink water, drink peppermint tea (with honey and lemon). If I were polite I could have helped the staff (Richard, Tilley, et al.) stack the chairs at midnight, but I hadn't quite finished. At home I finish the last few pages, then start collating the edits onto the computer. Another four hours later I am done. Finally I can say I have 'pulled an all nighter', charged up on Chai Tea and a work ethic that won't let me sleep except for a snippet after 4am.

It wasn't me!

Even genius's practice. Photo: Bob Beale.
Thursday is tired and shambolic shards of work, but the famous person / new friend arrives, and the not so famous (old) friend arrives, both from distant entrepĂ´t. On Friday begins a full-on weekend of Newkulele fun, music, direction, assisting, running, ukeing, and way too much sleep deprivation. It is giant success, but people are constantly praising me for a great festival (it wasn't me, it was a committee), telling me what a wonderful thing I have done (I wasn't on the Committee! It was the Committee!), telling me that it was much better than this or that festival, and what great things I have achieved (IT WASN'T ME!!!!! I LEFT THE COMMITTEE IN FEBRUARY!!!!!).

It was others.
My new shirt. Thanks Mum. Photo: Penny Creighton
It was Christine, it was Jane, it was Martin, Susan, Marie, Pam, Ron, Lindsay, Dianne, Danielle, Kate, Gail, Ralph, and a swathe of volunteers who are so passionate about their community that they have created something very special to celebrate that. But me, the public face, inevitably gets some accolades. Thanks. But can you please stop, and start telling the not-so-public people how good they, and what they have done, is/are?

The weekend ends with an intimate gathering in our very small house, with the world's best ukulele players trading sensitive jamming riffs. That was the best bit. Oh. And maybe the new shirt. And definitely the fact that Robyn – the most deserving raffle winner in history – wins the $1300 Kamaka Ukulele. Such a hoot of quiet respect and delight when the people who know her hear the announcement.
Robyn with her proudly won and richly deserved Kamaka Ukulele

Leadership and Teaching

But this is all a prelude to the real work; the real ground-breaking stuff for us. The ignobly named TALAUG happens on the Monday, where we corral as many willing ukulele leaders and teachers as possible into one room to talk turkey. What are our common experiences, challenges and goals? It's a great day and all too short.

But wait! There is more. At the 2012 TALAUG people said, “but we want to know what YOU do, and how YOU do it”. So ok. Two years later we develop our aspirational goal – a manual. 'Cept it'll be an emanual. (Which, if said in the wrong (mostly male) company, usually draws snide glances).

These are our two days of reckoning – the Ukulele Leadership Training. The launch of a draft of the Ukestration Manual, with some rare hard copies. It's our chance to tell people what we think, and how we do it. And they want us to do this. Indeed, they have paid good money for it. And according to all reports post-ULT, it was good, very good.

Sleep returns

And so, now I can return to normal sleep patterns, and normal ukestras, and contemplate the future that was hidden for so long behind this brick wall of a festival of professional development.

Bring on today. It's 7:15am. I'm going back to sleep.


  1. I got more pleasure out of seeing Robyn win the uke, than I would if I had won it myself. She will love it, respect it and nurture it. Great festival, by the way.

  2. Mark I love your heart.