St John's is thrilled to announce the winners of the 2024 Kendrew Songwriting Competition

Now in its third year, the Kendrew Songwriting Competition is open to all current students at the University of Oxford. This year saw a large number of submissions from students across a broad range of colleges and degree programmes. As in previous years, the songs we received represented the widest possible variety of styles and genres and the quality of the submissions was truly impressive. All over Oxford, students continue to create great music. Submissions were reviewed by Nick Fowler (guitarist for Gaz Coombes, member of Goldrush, The Dreaming Spires, and St Etienne, and Graduate Studies Administrator for the Faculty of Music), Sarah Hill (Associate Professor of Popular Music at the Faculty of Music and Fellow and Tutor at St Peter's College), and Jason Stanyek (Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at the Faculty of Music and Fellow and Tutor at St John’s College).

This year's winning song is “Make A Man” by Briana Williams, a third-year music student at Somerville College. Second prize went to Tegan Addison, a first-year music student at St John’s, for her song “Fight Them All Off.”

Below you'll find recordings of the winning submissions, with information about the songwriters and their songs. The members of the panel would like to congratulate the winners and also extend their heartfelt thanks to all those who participated in the competition.

“Make a Man” by Briana Williams

BriBri is a London-based singer, songwriter and producer with a degree in Music from Somerville College, University of Oxford. Her love for music was ignited early on by the sound system culture of her Jamaican parents, whose lively cookouts featured DJs and sound systems. BriBri began her musical journey singing in gospel choirs and, by age 11, was already assisting as a choral director. Her musical influences grew beyond gospel when her mother introduced her to a discography of country, soul and indie music. With such a musical upbringing, BriBri was led to create music that encapsulated her adoration for pop-y hooks, R&B riffs and indie aesthetics. 


In the summer of 2023, BriBri captivated a packed crowd at her first solo gig at EartH in Hackney, showcasing songs from her upcoming EP. "Make a Man," is one of the tracks featured on her E.P. and delves into the challenges of a one-sided relationship and the path to healing and self-love post-breakups. While the song features an acoustic, heartfelt tone, BriBri's sharp, playful lyrics declare that she’s “still that girl,” marrying vulnerability with an unwavering sense of self. Look out for her EP release later this year to experience more. 

Please feel free to follow BriBri's journey on her social media!

Instagram @iambri.bri 

TikTok @iambri.bri 

“Fight Them All Off” by Tegan Addison

Tegan Addison

Hi, I’m Tegan and I’m a first year music student at St John’s. I’m a singer, pianist and electric guitarist from the Northeast of England and have been writing and producing songs since 2019. My songs have been played on BBC Tees Introducing since 2022 and I’m really excited to write and finish producing my first album this Summer before starting second year! My hope next year is to start a band to perform some covers and originals — so if any musicians reading this are interested please get in touch!

‘Fight Them All Off’ is a song about the uncertainties of first love. Even if you know there is a connection worth fighting for, I think there is often an instinct to fight against emerging feelings (“fight them all off”) or convince yourself that you don’t deserve love. In the verses, I aimed to lyrically capture the unpredictability of these feelings, not by describing words and actions, but the spaces between. The first chorus expresses a desire to fight against emotions to cope with the anxiety and expectation surrounding the relationship, while the second chorus ironically criticises the romantic interest for employing a similar coping mechanism. Despite the overwhelming fear that everything is beyond your control, I wanted to express my belief that love is a choice. This comes to light in the bridge and final chorus, as the singer grows tired of concealing her emotions and persuades herself to take the initiative. The final chorus expresses that if a connection feels right, there is no need to fight against the feeling. The song is ultimately about loving yourself enough to make that decision.

I wanted to create a sense of liveness to the final recording, using panning to create the sound of a band on stage. I intended for the vocal approach to feel almost conversational in the verses and bridge, with a sense of fragility achieved by the Kate Bush inspired falsetto in the choruses. I incorporated subtle time signature changes between 4/4 and 3/4 in the pre choruses, capturing the feeling of the ground shifting beneath your feet as your feelings change towards someone, on the line “everything changes’. To me, the driving syncopated guitar power chords of the choruses and the second verse feel like sudden heart palpitations, juxtaposing the reflective reverberating synth and glass piano sounds underscoring the lead piano in the first verse and bridge during which the singer contemplates her feelings and tries to make sense of them. I wrote and recorded all the vocal, piano, synth, guitar, midi bass parts myself and programmed Logic drummer to follow the piano part.