This Friday (15th July) I’m playing a benefit at Christ Church in Spitalfields. The idea is to raise money for my mate’s shop. Yes you did read that right. In an age of cataclysmic earthquakes, a besieged welfare state and bankrupt economies what right do I have to ask you to help a friend’s business?
Stay with me. I’ll only take a few minutes, I promise.
Matthew Reynolds started the Duke of Uke shop in Hanbury Street E1 in 2006. You know those people who talk about their great ideas and dreams after two drinks but never do anything about them? Matthew isn’t one of them. He makes things. He builds things. Like all my favourite people Matt’s vision is narrow and deep, his shop sells small, arcane musical instruments, some as old as your Grandmother. He doesn’t sell electric guitars; he could if he wanted.
It’s more than that though. You own records made underneath his shop in Soup Studios, or you will eventually. Most nights after the shop closes, group ukulele classes go on into the night. Matthew usually cracks open the wine.
Around 2008 I might have had a handle on most of the art and alliances that have been created because of Matthew and the Duke, but now it would be impossible to catalogue all the ideas born at 22 Hanbury Street. For me personally, if the Duke had not existed, I would be a fat friendless fuck replaying my non-hits from the 90s. The Duke of Uke brings people together; it fosters an atmosphere of inspiration.
Even Matthew isn’t aware of all the people who are falling in love under his roof. He’s too busy making things, fixing things. The fact that he doesn’t know half of what the shop has achieved makes us love him even more.
If you have been in the Duke I hope you have never found it to be a clique. Matthew never wanted that. The shop was always intended as an antidote to Denmark Street. People sit and play for hours and never buy anything; they are welcome to, the door is always open.
Matthew is only ok at business. He is like one of those spider’s that skits across the surface of ponds. He somehow never sinks, until now perhaps. The rent on the Duke of Uke has been hiked up in line with the local area that Matthew has been instrumental in rejuvinating. Matthew needs more money than the shop can make to relocate and carry on. Maybe market forces should decide and the shop should close. That’s the way commerce works isn’t it?
We get the world we deserve, not the one we want. I have recently been very critical of misplaced ‘charity’, bands begging for money online to record their album etc. maybe this is no different.
Or perhaps this is something important. Possibly this is a small beautiful thing that doesn’t need to die. This isn’t charity or business. It’s something much older and unfashionable that disapears as soon as you look at it.
This is ‘community’.
Friday 15th July
8pm - 11pm
A Little Orchestra
in collaboration with