London-based promoters of folk/experimental/outsider shows ‘Miles of Smiles’ are working with Burning Bridges and Directors Rob Curry and Tim Pleister (Way of the Morris) in an effort to make a biographical documentary about Shirley Collins, one of the key English traditional singer of the post-war period.
To help raise the funds to make As I Walked Out One May Morning: The Ballad of Shirley Collins there is a special fund raiser event at Café Oto on Sunday 22 June featuring comedian STEWART LEE, a long-time admirer of Shirley’s, who will be compering the evening that will include readings and reflections from Shirley, and guest appearances from many friends and associates soon to be announced.
For this very special show, Shirley and actor Pip Barnes will also deliver a rare (and newly updated) performance of I’m a Romany Rai, her tale of southern England’s Gypsy songs and singers.
Born in Hastings, East Sussex in 1935 to a family steeped in the county’s singing traditions, Shirley moved to London in the early 50s, falling in with the revivalist network cultivated by Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger around the Princess Louise pub in Holborn. Through this, she met the American ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, with whom she embarked upon a field-recording odyssey (and whirlwind romance) across the Southern US; an adventure that included the ‘discovery’ of the great blues guitarist Mississippi Fred McDowell, and which was celebrated in her fascinating, moving memoir ‘America Over the Water’.
Returning to England in 1960, Shirley set to the task of building a peerless discography which includes landmark collaborations with Davy Graham, Peter Bellamy, her late sister Dolly, and her former husband, Fairport Convention bassist Ashley Hutchings (in both Morris On and various permutations of The Albion Band). She ceased to sing in the early 80s, but has made occasional contributions to the works of others including Current 93 and – last year – Sigur Ros.
Shirley Collins on The Outskirts Of Culture – Recorded on 2 February 2013
I came across this lecture Shirley gave recently and now seems the perfect time to share it. She is also interviewed by Malcolm Taylor from Cecil Sharp House. Recorded on 2 February 2013, in the Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre. Part of Southbank Centre’s The Rest Is Noise festival.