Cinecity 15th Brighton Film Festival

10 - 26 November

Shirley Collins at Café Oto

11 Nov 5:30 pm: The Ballad of Shirley Collins + Q&A

Director: Rob Curry and Tim Plester

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Widely regarded as the 20th century’s most important singer of English traditional song, Shirley Collins stood at the epicentre of the folk music scene during the 1960s and 70s. However, in 1980 she lost her voice in mysterious circumstances, and was forced to retire from musical life. Rob Curry and Tim Plester’s documentary sets out to explore the story behind the icon, and chronicles Shirley’s battle, at the grand old age of 80, to rediscover that voice she lost so many years previously.

The film follows Shirley’s path back to music as she records Lodestar at her home in Lewes, blending this contemporary footage with authentic 1959 audio-archive to recount the tale of a seminal road-trip around America’s Deep South alongside her then-lover (and pre-eminent ethnomusicologist) Alan Lomax.

Featuring among others the comedian Stewart Lee, the film nonetheless eschews a straightforward biopic approach and mindfully sidesteps any rockumentary talking-heads; the film-makers instead offering up a meditative and richly textured piece of portraiture. One which uses Shirley’s story as a prism through which to explore and reflect upon themes of heritage, posterity and the true ancestral melodies of the people.

Starring: As themselves: Shirley Collins, Stewart Lee, David Tibet

Produced in: UK

Running time: 94 mins


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