On a sunny Saturday morning, there’s no sweeter serenade than the spirited chorus of the Subiaco Ukelele Free For All (SUFFA), an instant mood booster made possible by Mike and Jen.
The transatlantic couple (Mike was born in London and settled here for Perth girl Jen) first locked eyes back in the late 90’s when they both worked the tables as croupiers at the then Burswood Casino. After marrying and raising their son Tim, the duo now use their fine mathematical minds for the greater good — Mike, a special needs teacher and Jen an ocularist (maker of artificial eyes). Having dabbled in other ukelele bands on the weekends, Jen had the novel idea of beginning their own Ukulele-only band (really the only non-negotiable in this inclusive operation) at the freshly minted Subi Farmers Markets.
Starring alongside three friends, SUFFA made their debut at the Subiaco Primary School entrance back in 2009 to rave reviews. To this day the band, whose all ages welcome policy sees 5-year-olds play sing-alongs alongside 95-year-olds, effectively “runs itself” operating as organically as the fresh produce it heralds. If a member wants to spice up the playlist with a new number, they are always welcome – the only caveat being you bring at least three copies and it’s “sink or swim” upon showtime. Twelve years on and many lifetime friendships later, the band’s 15 regulars and rotating roster of drop-ins are the heart and soundtrack of the Subi Markets.
PROUDEST MOMENT IN YOUR WORK LIFE?
Jen – Opening an ocular clinic in Dili, Timor Leste.
GO-TO LUNCH SPOT?
WHAT’S YOUR LIFE MOTTO?
Smile! It really works.
HAVE ANY SKILLS/INSIGHTS YOU PICKED UP DURING YOUR FORMER CAREER AS A CASINO CROUPIER BEEN OF USE IN YOUR CURRENT OCCUPATION AS A SPECIAL NEEDS TEACHER?
Maths and dealing with people.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE SONGS TO PLAY ON THE UKULELE?
Jen – Venus. Mike – Be My Number 2
FOUNDING A BELOVED UKULELE BAND IS QUITE A UNIQUE CLAIM TO FAME, DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER SECRET TALENTS, PARTY TRICKS OR SPECIAL INTERESTS?
How do we spend our down time? Jen plays football (soccer) and Mike watches Jen play football.
Words by Tatiana Farley
Photography by Robert Firth