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Saturday, 23 August 2014

Ashley Hutchings at Towersey festival on the Shirley Collins film

In June there was a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a movie about the fascinating early life of folk singer and song collector Shirley Collins, to be made by Tim Plester and Rob Curry. The pair also made the elegaic Way of the Morris, and have their fingers in several other pies including, brilliantly, Game of Thrones.

Part of the blurb for the Kickstarter campaign read: "We will explore [Shirley's] relationships with men, tracing the connections from her first great heartbreak, when her father was pushed out of the family after the war, through her controversial affair with Lomax, to her two - ultimately doomed - marriages."

Who should I run into at Towersey festival but Ashley Hutchings, formerly of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, now of The Rainbow Chasers. He was also Collins' second husband. Turns out he's working on a project with his son, Blair Dunlop, to write an album of "proper" songs about football, which is, ahem, likely to have a strong emphasis on Tottenham Hotspur. Inevitably the conversation turned to the Shirley Collins movie.

"I heard about it on the Mark Radcliffe show," he said. "And when I looked at the Kickstarter campaign it was already up to £23,000 or so - they were going for £25,000, weren't they? I thought about whether I had a spare two grand but, well, I didn't. But the next time I looked they'd hit their target anyway, so that was good. Obviously I wish her the best and hope the movie works out well...

"But we're not in touch. It was a very acrimonious breakup: she was right, I was wrong."

Do you remember what the issues were?

Hutchings nodded.


For a second I thought he was blaming women as a species for the failure of his marriage, but then realised that he was saying he had been unfaithful to Collins. There were a couple of beats of silence.

"I've been wondering whether I should expect a phone call from the filmmakers?" he said. "John Marshall, Shirley's first husband, died earlier this year, so I'm the only left now."

I said I thought it was quite likely they'd be in touch, given that they had already said on the Kickstarter page they were interested in exploring Collins's relationships. Plus there's the right of reply thing and they'd probably be interested in getting the whole picture before they decide what to leave on the cutting room floor and what to keep. But that's just my best guess...

"Well, I was thinking that I don't particularly want to do the interview because the situation with Shirley was so acrimonious by the end. But then I was talking to a friend about it and they pointed out that I didn't have to talk about everything if I didn't want to. I could talk about the good years and and focus on the positive things that I remember. I mean we were together for seven or eight years and she did some good work during that time.

"So I suppose I'm waiting for the phone call."

* You may also be interested in this from Towersey, about Lau. And this, about Blair Dunlop and his early dalliance with determinism.

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