LEIGH FOLK FESTIVAL: Screening of ‘The Ballad of Shirley Collins’

The Leigh Folk Festival organising team is delighted to announce its collaboration with the Southend Film Festival on the forthcoming screening of the recently released movie ‘The Ballad of Shirley Collins’. This will take place as part of the Southend Film Festival programme on Sunday May 27 at the Park Inn Palace Hotel.  And with this being just four weeks ahead of the Leigh Folk Festival itself, it should serve as a delicious appetiser for the big weekend (June 21-24) for which planning is now well advanced, see www.leighfolkfestival.com .

Widely regarded as the 20th century’s most important singer of English traditional song, Shirley Collins is someone who was born to invoke the old songs. Alongside her sister Dolly, Shirley stood at the epicentre of the folk music revival during the 1960s and 1970s. But in 1980 she developed a disorder of the vocal chords known as dysphonia, which robbed her of her unique singing voice and forced her into early retirement.

Deliberately eschewing a straightforward biopic approach, directors Rob Curry and Tim Plester have adopted a lyrical response to the life-and-times of a totemic musical figure. Granted intimate access to recording sessions for Shirley’s first album (‘Lodestar’) of new recordings in almost four decades, the film also features contributions from the comedian Stewart Lee and David Tibet of Current 93 What emerges is a meditative and carefully textured piece of portraiture. A timely delve into the arterial blood, loam and tears of our haunted island nation.

Counterpointing the film’s contemporary journey with a more literal one taken from the opposite end of Shirley’s life, The Ballad Of Shirley Collins also proves itself to be something of a time-travelling Transatlantic road-movie of sorts – utilising a motherlode of genuine archive audio to recount the tale of her seminal 1959 song-collecting trip around America’s rural Deep South alongside her then-lover (and legendary ethnomusicologist) Alan Lomax . A trip on which they uncovered and documented the music that would later inspire the soundtrack to the ‘Coen Brothers’ film O Brother Where Art Thou’.

The Leigh Folk Festival’s Artistic Director, Paul Collier says ‘By chance I bumped into Southend Film Festival Director, Paul Cotgrove, over the Christmas period, and with Shirley being a former Leigh Folk Festival performer, the idea of collaborating on a screening of this splendid film seemed like an obvious step.  Of course, she’s a legend and responsible for some of the finest records of the Folk Revival, so it only seems fitting that we should be celebrating her legacy, and her happy return to singing after a long hiatus. Anyone with an interest in music, folk or otherwise, should see this movie!’ 

The screening takes place at the Park Inn Palace Hotel ballroom on Sunday May 27 at 8.30pm. Tickets are £6, available on the door and in advance from www.southendfilmfestival.com .

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