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All in the Downs

Reflections on Life, Landscape and Song

By Shirley Collins

Introduction by Stewart Lee
PB / Limited HB
196mm x 132mm
280pp, 58 images in colour & B/W
£15.99 (PB) /
ISBN: 9781907222412

(Cover photo by SF Said)

Available in paperback and a special hardback edition including an insert signed by Shirley Collins (limited to 500 copies – SOLD OUT).  

 Order the paperback here

Winner of the 5th Penderyn Music Book Prize!


“Spirited… elegant… highly enjoyable… Shirley Collins’s descriptions of her beloved Sussex, along with the richness of her culture, make an elegant case for reclaiming a variant of English history.” The Guardian

“In these pages Shirley Collins completes her comeback, reclaiming her rightful place in the English folk revival from those who placed obstacles in her way.”
Billy Bragg in The New Statesman

“Luminous… All in the Downs traces the rhythm of a life with the old songs and music. Deeply moving… [it] allows us to read Collins in the landscape and the landscape in her.” The Wire

“Another strong female voice to add to the chorus of music history, going against the grain, so tunefully …it’s a book that makes you want to hear those old ballads about love and loss, full of hunger and heat.”
Mail on Sunday

“All In The Downs dissolves time, darting between distant memory and history and the events of her recent renaissance, dissolving the years between incidents, bringing ghosts, both metaphorical and literal, striding over the downs into life before us.”
From the introduction by Stewart Lee

A legendary singer, folklorist, and music historian, Shirley Collins has been an integral figure in the English folk music scene for more than sixty years. In her new memoir, All in the Downs, Collins tells the story of that lifelong relationship with English folksong—a dedication to artistic integrity that has guided her through the triumphs and tragedies of her life.

All in the Downs combines elements of memoir—from her working-class origins in wartime Hastings to the bright lights of the 1950s folk revival in London—alongside reflections on the role traditional music and the English landscape have played in shaping her vision. From formative field recordings made with Alan Lomax in the United States to the “crowning glories” recorded with her sister Dolly on the Sussex Downs, she writes of the obstacles that led to her withdrawal from the spotlight and the redemption of a new artistic flourishing that continues today with her unexpected return to recording in 2016.

Through it all, Shirley Collins has been guided and supported by three vital and inseparable loves: traditional English song, the people and landscape of her native Sussex, and an unwavering sense of artistic integrity. All in the Downs pays tribute to these passions, and in doing so, illustrates a way of life as old as England, that has all but vanished from this land.

About the Author
Shirley Collins MBE  is a renowned folk singer who has recorded over 20 albums, and the author of America Over the Water (2004). She is the president of the English Folk Dance and Song Society in London. Her critically lauded album Lodestar, released in 2016, marked a triumphant return to performance after thirty eight years. Shirley was recently the subject of a feature documentary film, The Ballad of Shirley Collins.

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