Saved by a Ukulele


I’ve got a brand new Ukulele. A purple one. I’ve acquired it because over the next five months I have to write a novel, a screen play and a radio play. So, rather than a) freak out or b) knuckle down, I’ve done what any self-respecting writer worth their displacement activity will do – I’ve decided to learn to play a musical instrument.

This makes no sense. Nor is it supposed to. I’m feeling over-whelmed, so my brain flails around for something to take my mind off the big task at hand… and I came up with Ukelele playing, of course.

This is not utter insanity (though it is probably closely related) I intend on working in some basic ukulele playing into my radio play. Though, more importantly, it is allowing me to be a child. I am an award winning writer, with a prestigious MA, who has published and has had work broadcast. I am also a former student of the visual arts. Therefore, when I write or paint or draw, there’s pressure to be good, to deliver to a professional standard – which bleeds some of the creative enjoyment from the activity. And I miss that.

I’m unmusical. I have a voice like a strangled cat crashing though a shattering window and early attempts at piano, well, they didn’t take. So, I’m rather confident that I’ll be rotten on the ukulele too. Hurrah! Thus, my purple ukulele will allow me to be a child again – and if I never progress past three chords,  I won’t care. In fact, I’ll wallow in it and seek refuge in it when the pressure of what I must achieve over the coming months seems too much.

And if the book, screenplay and radio play don’t fly – I can always take up busking.

All together now, 1,2,3,4…


About suehealy

Irish writer/playwright Sue Healy’s work has been supported and developed by the Abbey Theatre, the Peggy Ramsay Foundation, the Heinrich Boll Association and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. Her play ‘Brazen Strap’ ran at the King’s Head Theatre in May 2016, funded by Arts Council England. Her work has also shown at the Hackney Attic and the Etcetera Theatre in London, with readings in Norwich, Brighton and Cornwall. Sue’s nine radio dramas have broadcast on BBC Radio 4, WLRfm, KCLR96fm. Awards, Residencies and Bursaries: 2017 – Claremorris Fringe Award, Heinrich Boll bursary and residency 2016 - Peggy Ramsay Foundation playwriting grant, Tyrone Guthrie Centre residency, Arts Council England funding 2015 – BBC Opening Lines Award, Arte Studio Ginestrelle residency 2014 - University of Lincoln Ph.D. fees funding 2013 – Escalator Award, Áras Eanna Inis Oirr residency 2012 - Meridian Short Story Prize 2011 – The Molly Keane Memorial Award, Sussex Playwrights’ Award, the HiSSAC Award 2010 - Ted O'Regan bursary, Tyrone Guthrie Centre residency (2016 - Finalist for the Eamon Keane Playwriting Prize, Nick Darke Award and the Old Vic 12) A UEA Creative Writing MA alumna, she spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. Presently, she is London-based, researching a PhD on the Royal Court Theatre. Sue is Deputy Literary Manager at the Finborough. View all posts by suehealy

8 responses to “Saved by a Ukulele

  • "HE WHO"

    If anyone can accomplish what you have laid out over the next five months, it would be you. The uke is a bonus. Enjoy!

  • Michael Graeme

    I think you’re doing the right thing, Sue. It’s good to return to childhood now and then. They make a lovely sound, but it doesn’t matter if yours never does – Google Ukelele Orchestra for inspiration – and very well done on your recent impressive achievements.



  • redjim99

    Go with it. I’m sure by entwining writing and ukulele playing the play on the radio it will sing. Not like the murdered metaphor I’ve just left you with, sorry.

  • writerlyderv

    It’s the only sensible response to writing dilemmas. And purple too! Respect.

  • Michelle Rattigan

    I love it!!! You have to show a clip when you have mastered your three chords!!! Purple and flowered.How much more perfect can it get:) Good luck!

  • Jon

    The world needs more ukulele music. 🙂

    YouTube is your best friend for getting started, but if you’re planning on getting any books, I’d recommend at least “The Daily Ukulele” by Jim Beloff and “Hal Leonard Ukulele Method Book” by Lil’ Rev. Both are great for getting you away and strumming!


  • lovelylici1986

    So funny that you posted this. My partner and I were just talking to someone about how cool the ukelele is, especially nowadays. I really want one, but I won’t dare to ask or buy one until I’ve conquered the guitar.
    I think it’s a good idea to find something like this to distract yourself from your work. It’s still constructive, but it’s fun and different, and provides a nice little break.
    Good luck! 🙂

  • Rage on the Page

    I just read a poem called “Ukulele” yesterday by Sandra Beasley. It’s in the Spring 2013 edition of Plougshares. You should check it out!

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