My Song, My Croydon was a joint primary schools project created by Croydon Music and Arts and the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS). It was created to introduce children, staff and parents in Croydon’s school community to English folk traditions, with the wider aims of raising local pride, fostering community links and celebrating Croydon’s diverse cultural heritage. Between January 2012 and May 2013 the project reached over 550 children in 18 schools, delivered training for school and instrumental staff and provided professional development for the next generation of folk tutors.
“The way [this project] uses the processes of folk music to connect English and local traditions to the population of Croydon today is very powerful... What makes this one of the best projects I have ever seen, though, is that the accessibility and attraction of folk music has empowered teachers (who are not music specialists) to use their skills... to meet the needs of their pupils.” Graeme Smith, Head of Croydon Music and Arts
In 2013 the project included training for folk educators and Croydon Music and Arts (CMA) instrumental tutors. They attended a training day on singing games, songs and dances at Cecil Sharp House, led by leading folk educator Carolyn Robson, and an instrumental session on folk tunes led by Graeme Smith, Head of Croydon Music and Arts.
The teachers then integrated this new folk repertoire into their work with CMA’s whole class instrumental programmes - SoundStart MiniStrings (violins/violas/cellos for year 2 children) and SoundStart Debut (tin whistle/ukulele/percussion for year 3) - leading to the children coming together to perform these folk tunes for the project’s sharing events on 13 May in Fairfield Halls. In addition, folk musicians Ed Hicks and Hazel Askew delivered a folk dance and song workshop at Oasis Academy Shirley Park, encouraging 60 nursery school students to write their own folk song, which they performed at one of the two concluding sharing events at Fairfield Halls.
Over 360 children from 12 Croydon primary schools attended these joyful occasions which focused on May celebrations, traditionally an important time in the English year for communities to come together. Led by Hazel Askew and Ed Hicks, Graeme Smith, CMA tutors, and school staff, all children were guided through singing a traditional May Song, taking part in English ceilidh dances, and playing accompaniments to the folk tunes they’d learnt for their fellow pupils to dance to!
The 2012 project focused on bringing school communities together through traditional song. Students and staff explored English traditional songs, song writing techniques and their local heritage, before writing their own versions of folk songs. Workshop leader Carolyn Robson and musician Hazel Askew delivered two teacher training workshops and worked with pupils and teachers in six Croydon primary and nursery schools, teaching singing games, songs and dances. This culminated in a sharing for friends and families within each school and at Fairfield Halls in July, where pupils performed traditional songs and dances alongside their own new compositions.
On Friday 15 November 2013, Rachel Elliott, EFDSS Education Director, and Graeme Smith, Head of Croydon Music and Arts, led a workshop at the national conference of the UK Association for Music Education - Music Mark in Manchester.
Entitled ‘Buttered Peas – folk music and dance in a whole class instrumental programme’, it shared practical tune arrangements and dances used in the project as well as looking at how the project has been used to encourage children and staff to think about their heritage and hometown.
Winterbourne Infant School and St. Cyprian’s School
At the sharing in 2012, children from Winterbourne Infant School performed the English traditional folk song, Charlie Over the Ocean, as a circle game. They then presented their own version of the song, sung in Punjabi with an accompanying dance:
Aye Bahar Aye Bahar (Spring is here)
Bhangra Pao Bhangra Pao (Let’s dance)
Khao jan manoa Khao jan manoa (Eat and enjoy)
Kushian manoa Kushian manoa (Let’s be happy)
“Before long songs, games and dances taught to us by the English Folk Dance and Song Society were creeping into other sessions and we were working with rhymes from the past and rewriting and combining songs old and new. I found myself looking at warm ups that we do throughout the school and adapting them not only to circles and lines but also changing the moves to those in English folk dance. This carried across into 'Arts week' with the addition of Maypole dancing from Nursery to year 6 - a real hit with both genders and numerous requests to do it again!” Mary Yates, St Cyprian’s School, Croydon