Shirley Collins Photograph Katie Vandyck

"Shirley Collins is without doubt one of
England's greatest cultural treasures"

Billy Bragg

Shirley's Forthcoming Events

A Man of No Consequence

Saturday 24th January at Cecil Sharp House. All details here


Wesley Stace's Cabinet of Wonders

Saturday 31st January at Cecil Sharp House. All details here




Took place on Sunday 22 June 2014, 7pm

Cafe OTO, 18-22 Ashwin St, Dalston, E8 3DL

All funds to go towards the realisation of a series of projects which aim to promote, celebrate and continue to vitalise Shirley’s life and work.

On Sunday 22 June Shirley Collins and comedian Stewart Lee, a long-time admirer of Shirley’s, co-hosted an evening of talks, screenings, performance and music to launch a major crowd fund campaign which is to be managed by the newly inaugurated Shirley Collins Foundation. 

Shirley & Pip Barnes performed extracts from America Over The Water, and introduced a number of special guests including Alasdair Roberts, Lisa Knapp and female Morris dancing troupe The Belles of London City. 

Directors Rob Curry and Tim Plester were on hand to talk about their plans to make a biographical documentary about Shirley Collins, arguably the key English traditional singer of the post-war period. The film - The Ballad of Shirley Collins – is just one of the projects to be enabled by the crowd funding campaign. Rob Curry and Tim Plester’s earlier film, Way of the Morris is a favourite of Shirley’s.

The Shirley Collins Foundation has been established to manage all of the activities under one organisation so that it can grow and develop over time. It aims to ensure Shirley’s work, ideas and legacy will continue long into the future. Most importantly, this organisation will exist to help Shirley and to further Shirley’s current and forthcoming work and ideas which will include collaborations with other artists across all branches of the arts.

To this end, The Foundation hopes to engage the public through concerts, performances, exhibitions, arts projects, workshops, lectures and digital platforms but also encouraging its audience to be active co-producers of ideas, content and direction.

The pledge list for the Kickstarter campaign will be outlined shortly but already includes an exclusive 10” rerelease of 1964 EP ‘Heroes in Love’, exclusive signed prints of Pete Frame’s Shirley Collins musical family tree and a new book that Shirley is writing about Sussex which will be exclusive to the campaign. Tentatively titled By The Mark On His Hand, the book will explore particular songs and places linking Shirley’s memories and personal reminiscences with the myths, legends and landscapes of Sussex. 

There will also be further archive, as well as new recordings, which will be made available. 

Few singers of the English folk revival have attempted as much on record as Shirley Collins who first emerged as part of the folk revival some 60 years ago. Her voice is an extraordinary combination of fragility and power, the arrangements of her remarkable recorded work – many famously by her late sister Dolly - always intriguing yet subservient to the story. Shirley retired from singing in the early 80s but in recent years she has been broadcasting and touring widely, speaking about her life in music often drawing on three particular talks discussing her musical past, influences and journeys. These include, Romany Rai,about the songs of Southern English Gypsies; A Most Sunshiny Day,an account of the songs and traditions of her native Sussex; and America Over The Water, based on her book first published ten years ago; a personal and unique first-hand account of song collecting in America’s Southern States in 1959 with the legendary folklorist, Alan Lomax told with customary passion and humour. 

Shirley has also curated a number of significant releases for Topic Records, notably I’m A Romany Rai, part of its celebrated Voice of the People series. 

A resurgent Shirley Collins, who turned 79 this July, confounded the world earlier this year when she performed for the first time in 32 years, to a sold out and delighted Union Chapel audience.  Shirley sang ‘All The Pretty Little Horses’, accompanied by Ian Kearney, playing Shirley’s own banjo-dulcimer made for her by John Bailey in 1967; she then sang ‘Death And The Lady’ with Ian playing bottleneck guitar.

Further information about the Shirley Collins Foundation, and the evolving fund raising campaign and future events will appear shortly: