South Shields ukulele star schoolboys picked to play George Formby classics at Queen’s birthday concert

James Bassett and friend Tai Steehouder (L) are to perform for the Queen
James Bassett and friend Tai Steehouder (L) are to perform for the Queen

Two young ukulele players will be hoping for the royal seal of approval when they show off their talents for the Queen.

James Bassett - who is well-known in the borough for his talents with the musical instrument made famous by comedian George Formby - has been invited to take part in the Queen’s Birthday Concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall next Saturday.

James Bassett

James Bassett

He will be joined on stage with Tai Steehouder, who was inspired to pick up the ukulele after seeing James play.

The duo from South Tyneside are two of three young ukulele players from the George Formby Society who have been asked to perform at the event which will be televised.

They will play alongside a 40-strong group of the society’s members.

Her Majesty is a big fan of Formby, and once had desires to be a patron of the society.

It is all a bit surreal. When my mam got the phonecall. I thought it was a joke at first.

James Bassett

Harton Technology School pupil, James, 14, from Walworth Avenue, has been playing the ukulele for a number of years and last year was featured on ITV1’s Little Big Shots with Dawn French.

Over the years he has played at a number of events and fundraisers across South Tyneside.

James, who is a member of the George Formby Society, said: “It is all a bit surreal. When my mam got the phonecall. I thought it was a joke at first.

“I’ve played in front of crowds before and on TV but this is something different. I’ve never played to a crowd as big as this before.

“When I was on Little Big Shots you had the cameras and an audience but it was just like playing in front of a normal crowd. But this is the Royal Albert Hall it is going to be massive and it is going to be live.”

The event will be marking the Queen’s 92nd birthday and will feature performances from Sir Tom Jones, Kylie Minogue, Craig David, Sting and Shaggy among a host of other acts yet to be announced.

The celebrations will be televised live on April 21.

Tai, 12, from Stanhope Road, who attends St Wilfrid RC College started playing the ukulele last year after receiving the instrument as a Christmas present.

He had been introduced to the music of George Formby following a trip to the Eden Camp. He has been receiving lessons from James and also attends sessions of the George Formby Society.

He said: “It’s a mixture of being excited and being nervous. I’m excited to go and I’m excited to play.”

For details on the society and its branches visit www.georgeformby.co.uk