The joy of making music – six great great learning holidays in Britain and Europe

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Whether it’s gypsy jazz, the blues, folk or flamenco, these retreats cater for musicians of all levels looking to up their game – and have fun

Every Easter, a sleepy corner of the Cotswolds transforms into a miniature version of the Blue Ridge mountains of the eastern US. The idyllic Kingham Hill private school, near Chipping Norton, is invaded by hundreds of banjos, fiddles, mandolins, guitars, a handful of dobros, and even the occasional autoharp. The reason for this is the appropriately named Sore Fingers bluegrass and old-time music week.

My first visit to Sore Fingers was in 2008. I’d dusted off a five-string banjo I had last played as a teenager and, along with a fiddle-playing friend, had plans to form what would become the UK’s first all-female bluegrass band, the Jolenes. I was hooked from the get-go – the instant camaraderie, the total immersion and the joy of making music with like-minded folk of all levels of expertise. I loved the nerdery. Where else can you discuss the optimum angle of your banjo picks without getting funny looks? I’ve never looked back …

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