The day that ‘Sing for Water’ came to Croydon

By - Friday 2nd September, 2016

Katie Rose, host of Croydon’s ‘Sing for Water’ event, on why its ripples will be felt far and wide

Photo by Fluid4Sight, used with permission.

Since 2011 I have been participating in Sing for Water, a choral movement which fundraises for WaterAid. So, having dreamed of organising a cross-choral event in Croydon, the occasion of entering my fifth decade seemed a fitting time to host ‘Water Love’, a singing fundraising party on Saturday 23rd July at Matthews Yard.

Sing for Water was initiated by composer Helen Chadwick in 2002, when frustrated by the government’s decision to go to war in Afghanistan despite public protests, she decided to “do something you can’t argue with”. She therefore teamed up with the Thames Festival to bring singers from community choirs together to fundraise for WaterAid. Sing for Water London is now attended by up to 850 singers from choirs across the country who all learn and perform a wonderful watery repertoire together at the Scoop Amphitheatre, outside City Hall. Having released an album dedicated to water (Shiva’s Rain) in 2011, I’d been searching for a way to use my love of singing to make a contribution to water issues.

Fourteen years later, Sing for Water events take place across the UK (including Sing for Water North, and Sing for Water West), and in cities including Portsmouth, Cardiff and Edinburgh. The movement has raised over £825,000 for life-saving projects in some of the world’s poorest communities. 

Water Aid projects make a gob-smacking difference

Photo by Fluid4Sight, used with permission.

It only costs £15.00 to give one person access to clean water for life via WaterAid projects. It’s mind-blowing, firstly that we can live in a world where such inequality exists and secondly that it can take so little to put that right. Helen Chadwick visited one of the Sing for Water funded projects in Ghana and noted that the impact “goes way beyond the water”, making a “gobsmacking” difference to the education, health and wellbeing of a community. Instead of walking for hours to bring dirty water to their villages in heavy containers, girls are able to attend school. The introduction of safe toilets reduces violence against women, who often become pioneers of hygiene education in their communities. Clean water instantly lowers the incidence of many diseases, reducing infant mortality rates and improving quality of life for everyone.

Sing for Water is also a way to give back and celebrate the beauty of songs from global communities and has introduced thousands of singers and their audiences to Georgian, Yoruba, Maori, Zulu and Czech songs. The repertoire also features innovative arrangements of pop songs such as Dancing in the Streets, Umbrella, Moon River and original pieces by Helen and other choir leaders.

I was over the moon to be told I could host a fundraising party at Matthews Yard

Sing for Water is all about people creating events under their own banner and in their own way. Anyone who enjoys singing can take part”, Helen’s statement reads. An empowering collaborative model, Sing for Water encourages choirs to create and lead their own events. I was immensely honoured to conduct my arrangement of the peace anthem Down By the Riverside at last year’s Thames Festival and to have received unconditional support to organise events including a fundraising concert in Hackney for World Water Day in 2012 which featured 180 singers and raised over £3,300. ‘Sing for Water conductor and soloist Michael Harper gave everyone the instruction to bring one young person with them this year, indicating the commitment to support the development of new leaders and continue the movement’s legacy.

I’d also started working with Catherine Pestano delivering community music projects in Croydon, and thanks to her invitation found myself singing my heart out with members of Croydon Community Choir in a mass blue-clad chorus. It was a life-changing experience. So for all these reasons and more, I was over the moon when Leoni Descartes, who has supported the choir’s relaunch in her beautiful descARTes gallery space, said I could host a fundraising party at Matthews YardHoodoo’s generously offered to host us in their wonderful music venue. I then put the call out for choral contributors and was touched to find that choirs and ensembles were willing to come and sing at the end of their busy summer terms.

Our communities can unify to support global family facing great difficulties

Our diverse afternoon of song got off to a powerful start with Melanie Harrold and her women’s a cappella choir Trade Winds who sang a lively set of sea shanties and world harmonies. Helen Chadwick Song Theatre performed songs from War Correspondents, which features innovative settings of phrases from interviews with journalists such as Martin Bell. The London Lucumi Choir, the only non-auditioning Afro-Cuban choir of its kind, had us all singing and swaying to the mesmeric rhythms of traditional Yoruba songs. Joanna Foster, whose a cappella group Anima I have recently joined, lead us all in singing her beautiful song for the Earth entitled Gaia, and members of Caterham Community Choir, Croydon Community Choir and Croydon Carers Choir plus anyone else who felt like it joined me for a rousing choral finale. You can watch a wonderful video of the event created by dedicated photographer Rob Wilson Jnr of Fluid4Sight by clicking here.

Our event raised £800, thanks to the generosity of all our contributors and guests via JustGiving and bucket collections. Our communities can unify in support of members of our global family facing great difficulties. The power of making a difference in a joyful, creative, celebratory way is the magic at the core of Sing for Water, The effects ripple out across the world. Sing for Water Croydon has made its first splash this summer and I look forward to seeing where the song flows next.

Katie Rose

Katie Rose

Katie Rose - Singer, Composer, Conductor, Writer - Katie loves singing and helping people sing. Described by the Guardian as a 'fine singer' and by fRoots magazine as an 'eye (and ear) opener,' she has released three albums. Committed to creating uplifting, inclusive experiences of singing, Katie has led singing sessions in hospitals, hospices, festivals and community choirs across London. Convinced of the power of music to make waves in the world she has conducted mass choral events for Sing for Water and is directing Croydon's first Festival of Peace 2018. For more information visit

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