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Shirley Collins - This Time Roses

You went back to doing folk clubs, didn’t you?

I was trying to do folk clubs, but it wasn’t very good. I wasn’t very reliable.

Since you stopped singing, are there new songs that you’ve heard that you’d like to do, and to convey?

Yes, of course there are.

And have you learnt them, even to hum in the bath?

No. Do you know, the awful thing is that this singing block is so bad that I can’t even sing indoors, not even over the washing up. Just recently it’s started to come back, but for years I couldn’t even sing indoors. What I couldn’t do was put myself through singing badly in public, so I just withdrew. Stopped. It was the only thing that seemed sensible to do. So I started doing one or two programmes for the BBC of music from the archives and I really enjoyed doing that, but you can’t survive on that, so I had to find other things to do to earn a living.

So, what are you doing now?

Shirley Collins 1988
Photo: Dave Peabody
Shirley Collins 1988
Well, I had a chequered career after that. I got a job in a literary agent’s in London and then I worked in the British Museum in the bookshop, which was great fun, except that one had to commute.

Wasn’t there something about sleeping on people’s floors?

Well, yes. Then I got a bedsitter in Hampstead, but I also had a flat in Bexhill where my kids lived that I was trying to run, and I was trying to keep them going in Bexhill, and keep myself going in London. Then I got to be Public Relations Officer for Cecil Sharp House! But it turned out really to be secretary to the Company Secretary and I lasted there six months. When I left the British Museum I still had six months of my season ticket left to run so I worked it off. Then I just escaped to Brighton. Then I got a job in Oxfam, and I’ve been condemned to hard labour for the last two years. So all I can see now is a bright, rosy future!

Doing what?

There are certain things I’d love to do. I’d love to record another album because there are several songs that I really wish I had recorded and haven’t yet. I might have to fund it myself but there are certain musicians who have volunteered to play on it with me, notably one Ian Kearey! I’d really love to make another album before I attempt to sing in public just to see if I’ve got the confidence to do it. I think if I had that behind me then I would like to go out again. I think I have to do it that way round. I’ve written some songs that I’d quite like to give an airing to.

From Folk Roots 65, November 1988


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