Year 3 Graphic Design student Alex (21) surprised us all by turning up in the studio with this delightful, hand-built, custom ukulele (pictured above).
As Alex hails from distant, land-locked Wakefield (somewhere South of here, he tells us, and in a county he refers to as 'Yorkshire') we hadn't been aware that he had 'uke' tendencies or had ever been to Whitehaven.
All was made clear when Alex explained that he had accidentally visited Whitehaven when he missed his footing on the top of a large Lake District fell and rolled all the way down to the bottom. In this case the 'bottom' being Whitehaven.
A dazed and confused Alex was found on the outskirts of the town by legendary 'Ukemaster' Beardy McGrath (current Formby* of the Whitehaven Ukulele Industry). Beardy took pity on the stunned design student and carried him back to his 'Uke Shed' where he was nursed back to health on a diet of Whitehaven Rum and Kendal Mint Cake.
While recovering, Alex was inducted into Whitehaven ukulele culture by Beardy, who regailed Alex with countless anecdotes from the 'golden age' of ukulele production (May 1955 - June 1955). More importantly, Beardy was so impressed with Alex's love of stringed instruments that, for the first time in a generation, a non-Whithavener was shown the secrets of the Whithaven Master Builders. Alex has sworn to carry these secrets with him to the grave, but a close inspection of this, his first Ukulele, does reveal that lolly sticks, marker pen, plywood and crisps (Cheese and Onion) are crucial to produce the rich tone that Whithaven Ukes are famous for.
Alex has even added his own unique twist to an age old tradition (and certainly set a few Whitehaven tounges wagging) by fashioning the neck from a piece of wood found on the shore of Derwentwater! As you will no doubt be aware, the raw materials of Whitehaven Ukes are traditionally sourced from saltwater locations never freshwater lakes. Way-to-go Alex you iconoclast!
Not content with ukulele building, Alex is a dedicated athelete, socialite and is also set to launch his Graphic Design career. Phew Alex!.. Where do you find the time and energy to fit so much into 24 hours?
*Formby n. - Pater Familias, Head Honcho, Il Supremo, Top Dog, The Boss (of the Whitehaven Ukulele Industry).