Music-making with unaccompanied minors in Croydon with Play for Progress


 By Helen Storey (Sub Principal Bassoon).

On a clear-skied, pre-lockdown February afternoon in Croydon, a group of intrepid Resound musicians arrived for a training session with Anna and Becky from Play for Progress. This is a charity that provides therapeutic and educational music and arts programmes, advocacy, and well-being support for unaccompanied minor refugees and asylum seekers have come from various parts of the world and have found themselves in Croydon.

We learnt the many different reasons why these under 21s have become part of the Croydon community, and how we can help them to adjust to life and education in the UK through developing music together. Their journeys to the UK have in some cases been extremely frightening and very long,  missing out on vital years of education, and finding themselves very alone and vulnerable. We needed to understand that verbal communication isn’t always an appropriate way to put the young people at ease, as their level of English may not yet be advanced, and equally, there are more universal choices of communication such as gestures, visual prompts, and of course, music! In a new country where the young people aren’t sure who to trust it is vital to establish a caring and positive place for the sessions to take place, where there’s no threat, just a joint desire to work creatively together.

A few weeks later we got to test out our new-found knowledge at the first taster session giving young people the chance to meet some of us musicians and see how we work. What an enlightening afternoon! The participants were such an enthusiastic group, displaying a wealth of musical talent.

As is usual with a new Resound project the workshop began with a few warm-up games in order to get to know each other, and with any luck, to put the participants at ease. Lots of laughter ensued as our workshop leader Siggy had us choreographing body percussion sequences! Humour was definitely a fantastic way to get to know people and prepare us as an ensemble for the music which was to come. I’m not sure how successful my duo with Muhammed was, but our theme of ‘smile’ was definitely obvious!

Using a song that Hamid sang to us in Kurdish, we spent the next part of the afternoon trying out a variety of different instruments and combinations of players to give his song a new, multi-national style! What a treat to be taught music from a totally different culture, whilst giving the opportunity to the participants to try out a choice of several dozen instruments. Several of the group had already been learning instruments before they arrived in the UK, and their talents were much appreciated in our newly-formed ensemble.

The aim of the collaboration is to work together with Play for Progress and other Croydon-based organisations supporting young people in challenging circumstances (looked after children, those not in education, employment or training) to build up a returning group of participants to create a flexible ensemble drawing inspiration from different cultures and stimuli each time we meet up. Hopefully, all our new-found musicians will find this an inclusive experience where they want to come and join in, have some fun, and make new friends, particularly those with shared experiences. I’m very much looking forward to future workshops, and getting creative with an international flavour again!

Click below to hear what our first piece sounded like:


RPO Resound’s Croydon creative ensemble is generously supported by Croydon Relief in Need, FAB Croydon and Councillor Jerry Fitzpatrick’s Addiscombe Ward Budget.

If you’re interested in further information regarding Play for Progress, please visit or @playforprogress on Instagram, Plus if you’re looking for some international content to keep you busy during quarantine, feel free to join Play for Progress’s series of online classes and events below:

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