A Song For Croydon

By - Tuesday 5th March, 2013

How a town in recovery found its voice

In August 2012, on the first anniversary of the riots, CRISP (the Croydon Intercultural Singing Project) launched its quest to find a song for Croydon.

For Catherine Pestano, CRISP’s organiser, the anniversary was a thought-provoking time, as it was for many others in the community. The nation’s attention was elsewhere, over in Stratford where the Olympians led the nation in a feel-good festival of sport and patriotic pride. That helped us remember that Croydon had moved on from 8th August 2011 and that positive steps had been taken to help the community unite and show its true spirit.

Re-visiting one of our darkest hours felt neither necessary nor in keeping with the times. But a year is not so long and our sorrow and anger had not fully receded – and have not even yet.

Cause for celebration?

“I really wanted the competition, and perhaps also the winning song, to be a celebration”, says Catherine Pestano, “but it didn’t have to be that. For some that might not feel right at all. A Song for Croydon could be a lament, a protest, even an outpouring of anger. The only thing we didn’t want was sarcasm, which our borough faces quite enough of already”.

Music for communities

Catherine is studying for a PhD in Community Music at the University of Winchester, looking at how music can help built and strengthen communities. She particularly wanted the Song for Croydon contest to reach amateur enthusiasts, musicians and songwriters without access to professional recording facilities. Professionals were also welcome to enter, but the judges’ focus was on the song itself, rather than on the finish.

CRISP is now offering a prize for the best cover version of any song which entered the contest. Local musicians can find details of how to enter below.

Creating harmony

What is, or who are, CRISP? Formerly known as Croydon Community Choir, CRISP’s musical mission is to challenge the damage done by oppressions of all kinds, renew hope and confidence, and inspire people to work together. It believes that individuals and groups who make music together are naturally strengthened by the process.

CRISP promotes singing and music-making sessions across Croydon in a variety of instruments, styles, and genres, from first-experience carer and baby music training via band development for 7-17 year olds to vocal skills teaching for any age-group wishing to learn, improve, join in, share with others, or simply express themselves.

Musical healing

Catherine Pestano’s own belief is that music is a channel through which individuals and groups can find creative expression and tell their own story. It can be a place to kick back and have fun but also, when needed, a means of releasing tension, expressing pain, and recovering from trauma.

The potential of this process for a recovering community such as Croydon is evident. This is why the message of A Song For Croydon deserves to be heard widely.

CRISP’s search was for a folk song, but musical style was less important to the judges than just taking part in the contest. Entries eventually ranged from punk through to 18th century style dance to traditional and nu-folk.

The search for a song can also be understood as part of Croydon’s search for its modern-day identity. At a time of rapid change, uncertainty is a natural response of many. The unifying and strengthening role of music offers a chance for everyone to come together and to understand ourselves and each other better.

The finalists

The following entries to CRISP’s A Song for Croydon 2013 competition were highly commended by the judges: Catherine Pestano herself along with Pete Morton, also of CRISP and best known for his song ‘Another Train’.

Croydon Frisk – by Jeanne and Phil Revnell
Croydon Fair – by Crys and Mike Rothon
Hurry to Surrey St – by Crys and Mike Rothon
Old Town to the New – by Ellie Lawson
Warning – by Jules and Remi

And the winner is…

The winner of A Song for Croydon was singer/songwriter Andy Robertson with his song : ‘This Town Is Top’. Have a listen and see what you think.

‘This Town Is Top’ is an up-beat, lyrically skilled song with a Bruce Springsteen-like feel. For a community in recovery, it offers a warm reflection on the reasons why many of us have moved here and why, in spite of challenges, we choose to stay.

As Andy Robertson says: “I wrote the song for lots of reasons, not just as a response to the riots but also because of what Croydon is. It’s certainly a town, but it’s also a borough of a major world capital AND it’s on the fringe of Surrey… which is kind of intriguing! That’s why I’ve said that for me, Croydon really is ‘merely the most’”.

Are you a young musician?

CRISP’s next project is A Song For Croydon Under18s. Catherine Pestano wants to open the competition up to Croydon’s young musical talent and explore the thoughts and feelings of the generation who represent Croydon’s future.

The competition will be launched on April 16th (World Voice Day) and it is hoped that there will be strong support in Croydon’s schools and musical organisations. The next adult song-writing contest will be announced then too. CRISP is confident that there are many more songs in Croydon, and this Citizen for one shares that confidence.

Details of the competition, along with how to enter a cover of one of the songs, are available from the organisers.

Interested in getting finding out more? You can follow Croydon Community Choir on Facebook, or click here.

In the meantime, just remember to, in the words of our Song for Croydon 2013 : Talk it up, talk it up – this town is top!

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Writer and editor. Views personal, not representative of editorial policy.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/gilesap Anne Giles

    The song downloaded, but I have no idea how to find it now and Andy Robertson is not on YouTube.

  • http://twitter.com/greencroydon Andrew Dickinson

    Well done Andy. I’ve known about this song for a little while now and I’m chuffed that it’s won.I played this on my tryout day for Croydon Radio and a link is on the greencroydon website so obviously i’m a big fan of it!!Top man

  • http://www.facebook.com/aretha.amour Aretha Kay Lue-Robertson

    fabulous song! u can listen to it here…


    enjoy!! xxx

  • James Tighe

    You can hear an interview with Catherine Postano and the songs on Croydon Radio’s ‘Live This Week. . .’ Show with James Tighe on Tuesday 7pm-8pm.