FOLK legend Shirley Collins was joined by a cast of local musicians – and the inimitable Brighton Morris Men – for a celebration of Sussex at the Dome.
It was Collins’ first concert in her home county (she grew up in Hastings and now lives in Lewes) for almost 40 years and the songs she performed were steeped in the folklore and traditions of the South. Footage of Lewes Bonfire and Hastings Jack-In-The-Green festival played on a big screen as Collins, ably supported by a band of folk musicians including Pete Cooper and Dave Arthur, played her comeback album Lodestar in full.
There has always been darkness both in Collins’ repertoire and Sussex folk songs in general. One of the first lines of her set, for instance, was “repent, repent, sweet England, for dreadful days are near”. Ossian Brown’s droning hurdy-gurdy accentuated the ominous tone.
Collins appeared nervous in the early stages of the set and her voice was initially shaky, but by the time of the haunting Cruel Lincoln she was in her element. “There was blood in the kitchen, there was blood in the hall/ There was blood in the parlour where the lady did fall.”
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though; Collins delighted in delivering Old Johnny Buckle, a playful rhyming ode, while the Morris Men’s energetic routine was rapturously received by the audience. As the Coleman’s March played out, the final song of a heartening evening, we were left to marvel at Collins’ remarkable comeback.