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Friday, 11 July 2014

Folkies! The Shirley Collins movie needs your help on Kickstarter before 22 July

Film-makers Tim Plester and Rob Curry shot a frankly brilliant morris dancing documentary, Way of the Morris, and if you haven't seen it, it's not too late. It's available to stream, for instance, on Blinkbox

But there is something else of theirs vying for your attention. They're hoping to make another folk-related movie: this time about Shirley Collins, who was absolutely central to the folk revivial of the 50s and 60s. And they're raising funds for it on Kickstarter, the crowdfunding site. It's become quite the thing recently – especially in tech circles and for film – and some people have raised unbelievably large amounts of money on it.

However, Tim and Rob are only trying to raise £25,000 and they are already more than half way there.

Watch this for a flavour of the film they would like to make.

There is also a series of interviews about Shirley Collins with people including the super-sharp comedian Stewart Lee and Graham Coxon of Blur, available to watch here.

I'm interested in a couple of things in particular about this story. First of all, Collins's music-collecting trip to the US with her lover Alan Lomax sounds like an epic tale, full of subterfuge, that needs to be told. It's as if Maude Karpeles were still alive to give us the low-down on Cecil Sharp – and correctly apportion the credit for the work that took place – but with a spot of George Clooney thrown in. 

The soundtrack to Oh Brother Where Art Thou, which is sometimes credited with having given impetus to the present pick-up in interest in folk music on both sides of the Atlantic, would not exist in the form that it does were it not for that trip across America by Collins and Lomax, for the simple reason that they collected some of the music.

And then there is the somewhat thorny issue of Collins having misplaced her voice for 35 years, which is something that I've heard Curry talk about in impassioned terms as a wrong that was done to her as a woman – and something that she has in common with Linda Thompson. Both of them, Curry contends with a feminist anger, were "chewed up and spat out" by the men of the folk rock scene. And perhaps that, too, would bear some examination.

"I'm not sure how much Shirley wants to talk about it," said Plester. "What is interesting is that she stopped doing what she was doing 35 years ago for personal reasons, private reasons. There is a medical term – dysphonia – for what happened, but neither Shirley nor Linda use it to describe what they've been through. And that is maybe part of what's been so paralysing about it. It happened to both of them: the two most important leading ladies of their day. Both were struck down in the same way: they literally found themselves voiceless.

"If nothing else, making this film is allowing Shirley to come back and embrace the limelight a bit. She played earlier this year at Union Chapel, which we filmed. And there is talk about recording again. Many people have come forward to express their love for Shirley and she's thriving on it.

"But I'm always wary of talking too much at the start of the film-making process about what's going to be in it, because things that seem like a great idea at the outset have also to be filmic in order to work. And there's no knowing how some things are going to turn out."

The thing about Kickstarter is that is they don't raise the full £25,000 by 22 July then they don't get any of the money. The target has to be hit before any of the funds are released. So think about making a contribution – and check out the rewards for doing so here – as well as forwarding this to anyone you know who might take an interest.

* Help crowdfund the Shirley Collins film here.

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