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The Ballad of Shirley Collins (film screening)

Saturday 11th November 2017

At Folkestone Quarterhouse

Doors 7:00 pm

Price £10 + booking fee / £12

Melting Vinyl and Folkestone Quarterhouse presents:

The Ballad of Shirley Collins
+ Q&A with producer Paul Williams
directed by Tim Plester & Rob Curry

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 ‘70’s. However, in 1980 she lost her voice in mysterious circumstances, and was forced to retire from musical life.

After appearing on Lark Rise to Candleford by the Albion Band, released in 1980, Collins retired from recording outside of occasional guest appearances on sessions for other artists, and she withdrew from live performance after she froze on-stage while performing in Flora Thompson’s Lark Rise at London’s National Theatre. However, she continued to be cited as a major figure in the U.K. folk community. Artists as diverse as Billy Bragg, David Tibet of Current 93, and Colin Meloy of the Decemberists have cited her as a key influence, and in 2007, she received an MBE for her services to British music. In 2016, after being rediscovered by a new generation of music fans, Collins made a comeback, releasing her first album in nearly four decades, Lodestar, again with huge critical acclaim.

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 offsets this contemporary journey with a more literal one taken from the other end of her life, and makes fertile use of authentic 1959 audio-archive to recount the tale of Shirley’s seminal road-trip around America’s Deep South alongside her then-lover (and pre-eminent ethnomusicologist) Alan Lomax. Featuring cameos from the comedian Stewart Lee and David Tibet of Current 93, the film eschews a straightforward biopic approach and mindfully sidesteps any rockumentary talking-heads; the filmmakers 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. Here then is a film about loss and redemption. A film about sacrifice, healing and rebirth. A film which suggests that, during these turbulent and increasingly untethered times, we might just need Shirley Collins now more than ever.

Rob Curry and Tim Plester co-directed the 2011 theatrical documentary Way of the Morris. The film premiered at SXSW, before being released on 40 UK screens and Sky Arts. Their short film about the apocryphal Norfolk folk tradition of Dwyle Flonking premiered at the London Film Festival in 2014.

Separately, they have both directed award-winning shorts that have been funded by the BFI, UK Film Council, British Council and Channel 4 and premiered at festivals including Edinburgh, LA, Palm Springs and the Hayward Gallery. Rob’s feature documentary TEMPEST, was released by Odeon and Curzon cinemas in 2012. He is in production on the music documentary The Curse of The Chills and a series of other documentaries about music and musicians. Tim created the cult shorts ‘Ant Muzak’, Blake’s Junction 7 and World of Wrestling, and is also a film and tv actor – appearing in Game Of Thrones, Kick-Ass, Lockout, Control, Shifty and Cuban Fury.

Paul Williams specialises in the arts and film and his company, Burning Bridges, in the past he has worked with actor Crispin Glover, the notorious filmmaker CS Leigh, and he has recently produced & launched the award winning documentary film, Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present and The Ballad of Shirley Collins. Films in production include among others; Zandra – with a Zee, a film about the iconic fashion designer, Zandra Rhodes; This is NOT a Punk Rock Film, about the early 1970s Cleveland music scene (Pere Ubu, Dead Boys, etc); Polyester Mind Control, a film about the cults of 1970s San Francisco and how silicon valley was founded through the imagined eyes of a seven year old. Burning Bridges strives to deliver its projects in a playful, intense way by representing a collective resistance to conventional practices.

“What makes Lodestar a genuine progression from what has gone before–is the sinking and deepening of her voice. It is still neutral enough to act as the conduit it always has done, but the milkmaid’s lilt has been transformed into a maven’s burden.” – The Wire

“Lodestar sees Shirley Collins creating a boundary-pushing, exhilarating work by doing nothing other than what she does best: reanimating the folk songs of Britain with all the respect and veneration she feels for them.” – The Quietus