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Shirley Collins - This Time Roses

Oh, would they be included?

Yes, I think they would – why not? Then all this experience I had in America, I really feel as if I should write it up. I love talking about the music and I love talking about the old singers and the songs so I’d like to do some more of that.

I think I’m going to be able to do some programmes for the BBC. One of my objectives is to get a proper critical ear from the BBC, try to do some programmes for Radio 3. I think it’s absolutely criminal that the musicologists in this country haven’t given folk music any proper attention. We don’t get critical attention and we should. It’s a marvellous art form, an art form that is our heritage; this is said so frequently, but it’s ignored. You can’t ignore the music of generations of this country’s people and I think it’s high time that somebody put it in front of the intelligentsia, or even the people!

If you got folk music on Radio 3 that would help it to be taken seriously but it wouldn’t put it in front of the people!

No, of course, that was for the intelligentsia. You have to put it on Folk On Two I suppose.

The people who ought to know better think… when you talk about folk music, they’ve heard Peter Pears singing The Foggy Dew and it’s dreadful. Or they’ve heard Peter Sellers doing a send-up of an Irish song and it may be mildly amusing but it’s not the real thing. The people in control have this weird view. I don’t really understand why. But, I’m going to try and put it right. That really is my main objective, from now on, because I think I’ve got the clout. If anyone remembers me!

Would you be interested in doing any more collecting?

Not in America – Europe! I sure would. In fact Alan Lomax came over not too many weeks ago and got in touch again. We went out to see Bob Copper together and we had a wonderful day with Bob. It’s sort of what triggered me into giving up my Oxfam job, because it’s really a sweat. Anyway, he’s got a series coming up on Channel 4 that’s going to be launched this autumn and he’s also doing something in Italy and Bulgaria. He even said he wanted to settle in Bulgaria because he loved it so much. But he needs an assistant to go to Italy with him and do some field recording and yes, I’d love to go to Italy and do some recording because there’s still a lot to do there. Alan did a lot in the ’50s there as well. I just want to get into Europe, and sort of explore…

I like Britain and I like Europe. I feel a bit fancy free at the moment, now that I’ve given up my job. Whatever offers come up, I’m jolly well going to accept them! But my main objectives are that I want to get myself singing again and I want to get the music in front of people and get them to actually listen to it, give it some prestige.

Yes, the world music end of things is doing very well in getting people in this country to give proper attention to, say, fine African or Indian music, but I don’t think it’s entered the collective consciousness that our own music is of an equivalent quality and class. British songs have such an amazing lyrical content, for one thing.

Yes, one of my favourite songs is the one that gave me the title for No Roses: “The week before Easter, the day bright and clear / The sun it shone brightly and keen blew the air. / I went down to the forest to gather fine flowers / But the forest could yield me no roses.” In those four lines it’s almost a Thomas Hardy novel! And what I really hope is that this time around the forest is going to yield me some roses. I want a bunch full of them this time!

Hmm – loadsa roses.

Yeah, loadsa roses!

Shirley Collins 1988
Shirley Collins 1988 Photo: Dave Peabody

From Folk Roots 65, November 1988

 

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