The soundtrack to The Ballad Of Shirley Collins starts with something rather shocking. Over the sound of a crackling fire the veteran folk singer is heard saying “There are some great female voices around now, but I’m not one of them. I wish I was.” Given her recent live appearances have been touching, emotional affairs, it’s rather devastating to hear Collins’ own verdict on her return after notorious decades of silence in which she avoided even singing in the shower. In this time, Collins’ place at the heart of the story of English and American folk music was neglected in favour of a male-dominated narrative, and she was only persuaded to return to song by the pestering of Current 93’s David Tibet. The story of how she rediscovered song is finely told in The Ballad Of Shirley Collins which, if you haven’t already seen it, you should track down now. You can hear the treasure that came from the rediscovery of what her voice can do in 2016’s Lodestar, an album in which Collins and her stripped-back band make songs, some centuries old, resonate with a curiously vibrant psychedelia.
Melvyn Bragg interviews Peter O’Toole in 1997 about the first volume of his autobiography. Watch on The Hobbledehoy