East Croydon Cool talks…Croydon Pride (Part 1)

East Croydon Cool talks…is a blog series that explores topics of cultural interest via local area experts. This month we caught up with Alexandra Sawyer-Hudson from Mee and The Band, one of the performers at this year’s Croydon PrideFest taking place during Croydon Pride.

Having started in 2016, Croydon PrideFest is now London’s second largest Pride Festival and has become firmly marked in south London’s LGBTQ+ calendar of events. Croydon Pride strives for LGBT+ tolerance and equality within Croydon’s diverse communities by staging inclusive events.

The organisation receives no core government funding and funds are instead raised in a variety of ways including donations, sponsorship and fundraising events. Croydon Pride 2019 is taking place on Saturday 13th July and incorporates a Parade through the town centre, PrideFest and an after-party.

Croydon PrideFest 2019 is the biggest and most exciting yet with not one, but two stages. The new cabaret stage will host smaller, more intimate performances. 2019 will also offer the biggest and best line-up to date, including Lady Leshurr (British grime and hip hop rapper), David McAlmont (Croydon born vocalist who has supported Morrissey on tour), SOJU (from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 11), Danny Beard (winner of Drag Idol UK), Batty Mama (the UK’s largest organisers of black queer club nights) and Asifa Lahore (Britain’s first publicly out Muslim drag queen).

Also on the Main Stage this year is a partnership between London Mozart Players and three Croydon based artists (Silvastone, Graver Ekow and Mee and The Band). This will be orchestrated by the amazing Fiona Brice (who’s impressive CV includes collaborations with artists such as Beyonce, Placebo and Ed Sheeran). London Mozart Players is the UK’s longest established chamber orchestra. Known for its unmistakable British roots, the orchestra has developed an outstanding reputation for adventurous, ambitious programming.

Born and raised in Croydon, we caught up with Alexandra (the lead singer and creative director of Mee and The Band) in the lead up to their Croydon PrideFest performance.

When did you set up Mee and the Band?
In 2011 I was just called ‘Mee’. I won the Live and Unsigned competition (where 100 best acts in unsigned music perform in front of a capacity crowd and a panel of industry judges) and ended up singing at The Proud2 stage in the O2 arena for the finals!

What’s the ethos behind the band?
I have had my fair share of trauma and the main thing that got me through it was self love. I’m talking about the kind of kindness you need to bestow on yourself when you are alone or suffering abuse or extreme isolation, depression anxiety. Be your own mother best friend (lover 😉 ) Self love can literally break your interaction and reactions within unhealthy relationships, it has the power to change so much outside of yourself once you change your own patterns of shame, guilt, blame, hate and disempowerment. It is a practise and combination of so many things a holistic view of nurturing the self. Years of self prescribed therapy has proven to me if I do the work, I will get results. I believe in the power of self love – which is why I love me, or rather #ilovemee

Can you tell us more about your Croydon PrideFest performance?
If people can be directed toward my social media accounts,  I have some amazing photos of our last show. If you have ever seen us live, you’ll know we are a true spectacle! We come from a theatrical background, and bring a taste of the old school festie vibe with full blown costumes and headdresses! I am even in discussion with the London Mozart Players to see if I can get their 10 piece ensemble to wear my crazy headdresses!

We hear you’re also taking part in London Pride?
I am! My friend Teresa Weller has been working with the Pride family in London for years, she told me to enter the #PridesGotTalent2019 competition and I won a place at the finals and performed on the West End stage at The Apollo Theatre in Shaftesbury Ave! @LaytonWilliams (who plays Jamie in the ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ Apollo show) was judging! Then another friend told me about the Croydon Pride competition to find an artist who had an appropriate anthem or song to orchestrate, and my song WE ARE ONE was chosen so now I find myself working with the incredible London Mozart Players!

Where do you get your inspiration for both your music and music videos?
I write songs on Granny Vicky’s piano, when the inspiration hits me it could be in the middle of the night and I have to sneak out of bed to sing into my voice recorder or I can’t go to sleep, or scribble lyrics on a napkin while I’m in a café or on the train. You have to be ready to catch the creative will-o’-the-wisp and act on it! Our music videos (like taking a walk in my brain) are a bit like TeleTubbies on LSD! (Footnote: Mee And The Band do not condone the use of recreational drugs – we ourselves are high on Spirulina!)

Who do you admire in the music/creative industry?
Any creative that keeps going regardless! If we are blessed enough to not have war on our doorstep, or natural disasters etc, then live the life you have been given! Who do I admire?…Kate Bush, Katy Perry, Bjork, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Emelie Nicholas the list really does go on and on – oh and my favourite new band is SuperOrgansim (I want to tour with them).

What are you most looking forward to about performing at Croydon Pride?
Mee AND The Band are looking forward to representing Equality and Kindness. Standing side by side with iconic pillars of our community like Asifa Lahore is huge! I grew up in Waddon Beddington. Wandle Park is where my kids played growing up, so making new memories and gathering all people (not just LGBT+ community) but all those that believe in freedom and human rights is really exciting. Croydon is the centre of the universe and has the potential to become as large as London Pride!

Who are you most looking forward to seeing at Croydon PrideFest?
SOJU without a doubt! I need to get her to sign my headdress! And maybe my mother in law (who has no idea what I do!) but it’s all happening on her doorstep so I can’t wait for her to see it all unfold (and see me on stage!)

What is your greatest wish for Croydon Pride?
That people read this, go to my link in my Instagram or look up our anthem WE ARE ONE and sing along on the day; it’s proper Eurovision Fun!

For more information on Mee and The Band, click here.
For more information on Croydon Pride and Croydon PrideFest, click here.


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