Folk Memoir Wins Music Book of the Year

Singer Shirley Collins (banjo) and her sister Dolly (pipe organ) in 1966.

Folk Memoir Wins Music Book of the Year

Singer Shirley Collins' 'All in the Downs' awarded Penderyn Music Book Prize.

Folk singer Shirley Collins’ memoir, All in the Downs: Reflections on Life, Landscape and Song, has won the 2019 Penderyn Music Book Prize. The award was announced at the Laugharne Weekend festival in Wales.

A renowned singer since the English folk revival of the 1950s, Shirley Collins is currently President of the English Folk Dance and Song Society. Her book All in the Downs draws on elements of memoir – from her working-class origins in war-time Hastings to the the folk revival in London – alongside reflections on the role traditional music and the English landscape have played in shaping her artistic vision.

Recalling field recordings made with Alan Lomax in the United States and recordings made with her sister Dolly, she also writes of the obstacles that led her to withdraw from performing and her later return to recording in 2016.

Journalist and arts critic Jude Rogers, one of the judges for the Penderyn prize, described it as ‘A joyous, rolling, honest account of a life of an ordinary woman who just happens to be one of folk’s greatest pioneers. Musician Chris Difford, also a judge, said it was ‘A read where I constantly felt by the author’s side’. The judging panel also included Geoff Travis, founder of Rough Trade Records; Laura Snapes, deputy music editor of the Guardian; footballer and record collector Pat Nevin; and writer and broadcaster Lucy O’Brien.

The full music book shortlist included Coal Black Mornings by Brett Anderson (Little, Brown); Inner City Pressure: The Story of Grime by Dan Hancox (William Collins); Going For A Song: A Chronicle of the UK Record Shop by Garth Cartwright (Flood Gallery Publishing); and Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond and Adam Horowitz (Faber). All in the Downs is published by Strange Attractor.

The Penderyn Music Book Prize is organised by Richard Thomas, founder of the Laugharne Weekend, and is the only UK-based book prize specifically for music titles. The winner receives a cheque for £1,000.

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Published on 9 April 2019

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