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The Ukulele Orchestra of St George's School nominated for Hertfordshire Young OPEY award
A group of sixth-formers from a Harpenden school, who set up their own ukulele band that plays for free at a wide range of fundraising events, have been nominated for an award which recognises young unsung heroes.
The Ukulele Orchestra of St George's School (UOSG) was nominated for this year's Hertfordshire Young OPEY by Gill Ingram, a governor at the school and mother of one of the band members.
Mrs Ingram said the band "never fails to put smiles on people's faces".
They now have the chance to share £2,000 of cash prizes for people who have gone the extra mile to help others.
The band was set up two years ago by the then group of year 10s, Rob Collins, Ellen Daly, Tara Moreland, Tim Wallis, George Stubbs, Kate Brosnan, Laura Whetherly and Edd Ingram, who is Mrs Ingram's son.
All the members played other instruments but decided they would like to play ukuleles because they are "easy to teach yourself" and since then they have played at events including civic functions, school fetes, OAP lunches and a concert with Army paratroopers.
Now aged between 16 and 17 years the A-level students have continued to perform even while taking their exams.
The group started after Edd started playing his brother's 'uke'. The others then brought ukuleles into school and Laura suggested forming the band. They now have eight members who practise regularly.
Laura of Stewart Road said: "Being in this band has made us close friends and we love getting the chance to perform at so many different events, as well as raising money for good causes."
Over two years since forming, the band has blossomed and performed at a number of venues, always playing for free.
Mrs Ingram said that the band always dress formally for the occasion with the boys wearing bow ties and alter their playlist to suit the audience, giving younger children Disney renditions whilst playing more classical music for the older generations.
The band has also been inspiring younger pupils in the Sun Lane school, while giving the earlier years an opportunity to try playing the ukes.
Edd Ingram, of Ox Lane said: "The reason why I first decided to play the ukulele was to take it on a scout camp. I wanted to liven up the campfires.
"This was three days before camp so I was pretty rubbish and I think the other scouts would have rather used the uke as firewood than listen to Yellow Submarine or You've Got A Friend In Me again.
"However, I kept at it and eventually felt confident enough to bring the ukulele to school. Before I knew it there were eight of us, all keen to play together every Friday lunchtime, and to perform at any opportunity.
"The best part of being in the UOSG has got to be performing at charity events. It feels so good to be doing something that you love, all the while knowing that you are making a difference in someone's life."
Most recently the band performed at an annual dinner to raise £1,500 for charity, organised by former Harpenden Mayor, Nicola Linacre, while also performing at Christmas and summer fetes.
Edd added: "The concert with the paratroopers was part of Big Curry Day, a huge annual fundraising event at St George's for the Army Benevolent Fund.
"The whole event raised £40,000, which I don't think we can take a lot of credit for, but every little helps."
In addition to Hatfield-based Mitsubishi Electric this year's YOPEY award is supported by Hertford Regional College, housing association B3Living, Borehamwood-based Orange Music Electronic Company, Watford firms Medtronic and Vinci Construction UK, Royston firm Johnson Matthey, Letchworth flooring company Altro and Runwood Homes for the elderly.
To nominate young people, aged 10-25, for YOPEY, go to yopey.org or write to YOPEY, Woodfarm Cottage, Bury Road, Stradishall, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 8YN, enclosing an SAE, for paper entry form. Entries close at the end of July.
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