SHIRLEY COLLINS

Folk mu­sic’s na­tional trea­sure ex­am­ined through a lens.

Prog - - Limelight -

“There are some great fe­male voices around now – but I’m not one of them and I wish I was,” says Shirley Collins early on in this doc­u­men­tary of her life. It’s not self pity speak­ing. Feted in the 50s, 60s and 70s on the Bri­tish folk re­vival cir­cuit, Collins and her por­ta­tive or­gan-play­ing sis­ter Dolly were spell­bind­ing stars of the scene. But then Collins suf­fered an emo­tional trauma that muted her tal­ent for nearly 38 years. This film looks back on Collins’ ex­tra­or­di­nary life, from the de­mure school­teacher who, in 1959, fell for ar­chiv­ist Alan Lo­max and jour­neyed with him to the US to col­lect an im­por­tant body of folk song field record­ings, to artis­tic ac­claim, lost love and lost con­fi­dence and, even­tu­ally, aged 80, a re­birth with this year’s Lodestar al­bum. Black and white re­con­struc­tions are a cute way to em­bel­lish her back­story, but there’s plenty of wit, warmth and wis­dom in the now as Collins joins the bon­fire pa­rade in the streets of cur­rent home Lewes, or swaps tales with the dec­o­rated tribes cel­e­brat­ing the yearly pa­gan knees-up, Jack-In-TheGreen, in her birth­place Hast­ings. Hats off to long-time friend, Cur­rent 93’s David Ti­bet – chat­ting with Collins at a kitchen ta­ble, shared trea­sures strewn – who con­stantly urged her to sing again. The re­sults, recorded in her liv­ing room, are a tri­umph in the face of tor­ment. JK

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