For the love of ukeleles and community

Claudia Skubel Digital Communication Officer
2 November 2023
a ukelele group perform
SKULL perform at our Grey Street op shop located at 87a Grey Street, St Kilda on the first Saturday of every month. Check out our socials for upcoming performances and join the concerts for free!

When you hear the word ‘skull’ the last word that may come to mind is ukelele. For the St Kilda Ukelele Lovers League, it’s a no brainer, they are SKULL!

You may be wondering, “what does a ukelele group and an op shop have in common?”

Our Grey Street op shop has hosted a number of instore performances by SKULL and can’t wait to enjoy their performances regularly, as the group joins us on the first Saturday of every month from now onward. “They bring many smiles and lots of enjoyment,” says Peter Callaghan, our Grey Street Op Shop store coordinator. “Many customers make comments on how it has made their op-shopping experience more enjoyable.”

Walking into the store, customers are greeted with the happy thrum of ukelele’s. The group is made up of uke players of all skill levels with a repertoire of popular tunes spanning from 1920’s, through the decades to current times. You may be lucky to hear a snappy upbeat rendition of Blue Suede Shoes or a bubbly Harry Styles tune. The ukulele players sing along to all their plucky tunes and customers are often seen bobbing their heads, tapping their feet, or mouthing and even singing along.

Peter and the rest of the Grey Street Op Shop team love the ambience and positivity the music SKULL plays, brings to the store. “Some people visiting the store stop to watch and enjoy, whilst others continue shopping. I do notice smiles on their faces as they walk around,” he says.

A ukelele is held up in the air with palm trees and the Luna park roller coaster in the background

From Lover to League

Leif Erikson established SKULL back in 2015 when he realised there were no current community ukelele groups in St Kilda. “I wanted to learn to play ukulele better and couldn’t find a local group…so I started one,” he says. “I didn’t know anything about running a ukulele group but luckily some people with good musical ability turned up and were willing to help get the group going.”

Since that inaugural meeting around eight years ago, SKULL has seen people from all walks of life, with all ranges of ukulele and musical abilities pass through. “We have a few regulars who been coming since [the beginning] and helped to establish SKULL, plus a range of people of all ages and backgrounds who join in.”

a sign advertising the SKULL performances sit outside a building on the pavement

Building Community

The relationship between SKULL and the Grey Street Op Shop is about so much more than just the performance of live music. “Making music with your family or at the local pub used to play more of a part in community culture. SKULL is happy to be bringing it back to the St Kilda community,” says Leif.

The Grey Street Op Shop is a community hub, a place where you are just as welcome to pop in for a chat as you are to scour for op shop treasures. It is a unique store, full of life and colour, friendly faces, always a good tune and was the first store opened by the Mission back in 2004.

It’s uniqueness also comes down to its location, nestled among our St Kilda services. “Several clients from next door at Sacred Heart Central regularly visit the store and many members of SKULL are St Kilda locals,” says Peter. “The Grey Street Op Shop thrives on good local donations and local volunteers, many of whom are really committed to the store and give their time for that sense of community.” It is this sense of community that keeps people coming back.

You can catch SKULL on the first Saturday every month, from 1pm in our St Kilda op shop at 87a Grey St for their fabulous performances – pop in for free for some awesome sounds and pick up a bargain while you’re there!