All in the Downs

All in the Downs

Reflections on Life, Landscape, and Song

By Shirley Collins

Introduction by Stewart Lee

A memoir from one of Britain's legendary singers, folklorists, and music historians.

Distributed for Strange Attractor Press





A memoir from one of Britain's legendary singers, folklorists, and music historians.

A legendary singer, folklorist, and music historian, Shirley Collins has been an integral part of the folk-music revival 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.

Generously illustrated with rare archival material.


$20.95 T | £16.99 ISBN: 9781907222412 288 pp. | 5 in x 7.75 in 50 b/w, 14 color


Stewart Lee.


  • 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.

    New Statesman

  • There is music in Collins's writing too. When Jimi Hendrix visits her and her first husband in London ('I can see why John married you'), it sings lustily. She also writes tenderly of tragedy; the section about her sister and musical collaborator Dolly's death is particularly moving. Another strong female voice to add to the chorus of music history, then, going against the grain, so tunefully.

    Mail on Sunday


  • Winner of the 2019 Penderyn Music Book Prize