There’s nothing like a ukelele to break down barriers and encourage musical bonds.
Just ask Colin Creasey, 53, of Suncote Close in Dunstable.
Four years ago the specialist Vauxhall engineer and former teacher knew nothing about this quirky little member of the lute family.
Now he’s the founder and front man of Ukie TooNes – a group that’s grow’d and grow’d, like Topsy, and already raised thousands of pounds for charity.
It all started when Colin – who went to Queensbury and taught engineering at Ashton Middle School – visited Kenya as part of a teaching programme.
“Someone suggested I take a ukelele,” he explained. “I didn’t know anything about them but found a club that played in a little pub. They were called BURPS - Berkhamsted Ukelele Random Players – and I bought a couple of £10 ukeleles and joined in.
“I gave myself a month to learn but you can pick it up in an hour – it’s almost instantaneous.”
Colin and his ukelele were a huge hit with pupils at St Aloy’s Catholic Girls School, Reru Primary and Nyatigo Catholic Secondary School in Kisumu, western Kenya. When he came back, he and two friends – Steve Robson and Jane Power – set up Ukie TooNes as a fundraising vehicle to provide educational resources for the three schools.
They advertised for like-minded folk to join them and were overwhelmed by the response.
Instead of the four or five they expected, 58 people arrived at Totternhoe Football and Social Club where Colin is a committee member.
Rehearsals are held at the club twice a month and members range in age from nine to 79.
“No one is a professional musician,” Colin said. “They’re just people who enjoy playing or getting up and singing.
“We’ve got a rolling screen with words and music and we cover everything from the 1940s right up to modern day.”
Ukie TooNes were asked to do a charity gig for Hope Church at Dunstable’s Grove Theatre and that led to broadening their remit to other charities.
An interview with Radio Dacorum resulted in recording a charity album.
Last year they raised £1,500 for Alzheimer’s Society and became very involved with Houghton Regis charity YAWN (Young Adults With Needs).
This year one of their chosen charities is the Luton and South Beds branch of the Motor Neurone Disease Association. Ukie TooNes is providing musical entertainment at their quiz at Stopsley Working Men’s Club on Friday, March 27.
Colin has music in his blood – he played bass in 1960s soul band Respect and was also founder member and lead singer with the Teapot Orchestra.
He’s a colourful character who loves dressing up. “My style is very much 1950s,” he confessed. “My alias is Zoot TooNe.
“My wife Julia is very tolerant.”
> To join Ukie TooNes or book the band call 07963 888436 or email firstname.lastname@example.org