A raw and starkly honest memoir that deals with the question, can you have it all? Levy, a successful journalist for the New Yorker, a feminist in an open marriage and pregnant via artificial insemination by a friend and co-parent, believed you can. Until on a work trip to Mongolia, she loses everything. Written without self-pity, but with surprising candour and clarity this book throws up questions about how you give meaning to trauma and what happens when a planned life unravels. Essential.
We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Shirley Collins to Sutton House, where she'll be reading from her new memoir, All in the Downs, and chatting with Frances Morgan.
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 1960s 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.
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.
Frances Morgan is a writer based in London. She writes about music, film and sound for The Wire, Sight & Sound and others, and is currently researching histories of electronic music at the Royal College of Art and the Science Museum.
After dismantling her marriage, Levy starts again age 50, deliberately not choosing to be a minor character as a wife and mother, having built a home that is arranged for everyone except herself. Without pity Levy describes her transition to a new life outside of what is expected, despite patriarchy's need to diminish her powers. Levy writes sparingly but knocks you sideways with surreal and witty metaphors which illuminate her internal world, always with an understated wisdom and honesty. A must read.