In September, I had the privilege of performing at the amazing Central Coast Ukulele Festival here in Australia. It was incredibly well organised and just great fun, as you can see from the little photo gallery below. Anyway, I thought it was the perfect time to run my interview with Liz Kitney from Issue 10. Check it out below the gallery – Cameron
Nestled between the cities of Sydney and Newcastle, The Entrance is a picture-perfect coastal town and the home of the Central Coast Ukulele Festival. Organiser Liz Kitney from the Central Coast Ukulele Club takes us through the ins and outs of running what is an increasingly popular event on the Aussie uke calendar.
What made you want to start a ukulele festival?
After a few performances during the warmer months, we noticed the crowd building every time. People enjoyed our performances so much, we suggested the idea of having a festival to The Entrance Town Centre management and they liked the idea. The following year, we went to the second Blue Mountains Ukulele Festival and when we saw how much fun it was, we were even more inspired to hold our own. So, in May 2012, we held the first Central Coast Ukulele Festival.
Tell us about your location and venues.
The first year, we held the festival in May. The second year in August. Now, we’ve set it for the last weekend in September. Four out of the five years, we’ve held the festival at The Entrance. We have two stages – one in Memorial Park overlooking the beach, lakes and mountains, and the Sails Stage, which is located on the waterfront and is surrounded by cafes and restaurants. The dinner shows are held at the Diggers club and the after-dark venues have been at the Diggers and The Entrance Hotel. Last year, we were hit with inclement weather. At the last minute, we moved everything to the Diggers. The club staff were absolutely brilliant in helping to bring our entire festival indoors!
How has the CCUF evolved?
The festival has been growing each year. It has a great reputation and it’s attracting folk from all over Australia and now internationally. We maintain it as a free festival for the community and visitors.
What’s been your favourite festival moment so far?
In 2015, after storms ravaged our area and the festival was forced indoors, we had an amazing time, with everyone in great spirits and wall-to-wall people all loving it. The club manager said he’d never seen anything like it before and the chairman congratulated us. We also set a world record – which we still hold today – for the most people playing more than three chords for more than five minutes while wearing a moustache! We raised more than AU$2000 for men’s health charity Movember. Having The Nukes arrive from New Zealand and being there in that crazy weather was absolutely brilliant. And Mic Conway is always a highlight.
What is the trickiest part of running the event?
Everything! We don’t have a lot of funding, but we try to make it the best place to be with very talented players. We are busy raising funds all year.
Do you have any advice for anyone who’s thinking of starting a festival?
Try to get sponsorships, funding and great acts… and keep calm! Communication is also a major part of anything being successful. A great team is precious.
What’s your best tip for attendees?
Simply stay and enjoy everything!
What would you like people to take away from the experience?
The event is free, so this is our gift to you all. It makes you happy. The acts are brilliant and everyone just shines at the end of the day. Nothing like live music to soothe your heart and soul.
Which other uke festivals do you like?
We love the Blue Mountains Ukulele Festival (another free event), the Mandorah Ukulele and Folk Festival in Darwin, the Cairns Ukulele Festival in Queensland and Ukulele Festival Hawaii.
Do you ever get time to enjoy the event yourself?
Not really. It flashes before my eyes. I enjoy our great acts and I try to meet as many folk as I can. This year, we had Cameron Murray, Mic Conway, The Nukes, Bosko & Honey and Mirrabooka. And a full program of ukulele collectives, groups, duos, solos and comedy. It was brilliant!
How would you like to see the CCUF develop in coming years?
I’d like more people to know about the Central Coast Ukulele Festival. We are in a regional area between two big cities and our spot is just beautiful, with beaches, lakes, rainforest and ukuleles. We’d like to see more people come and enjoy the festival and our area.
The 2016 CCUF featured Mic Conway, Phil Donnison, Bosko & Honey, The Nukes and Cameron Murray. Organisers Liz and Rob Kitney are pictured far right.
Central Coast Ukulele Festival
Where: The Entrance, NSW, Australia