Shirley Collins: Star who couldn't sing for 30 years is nominated for two awards

By Mark Savage
BBC Music reporter

image copyrightDomino Records
image captionShirley Collins is best known for the album Anthems in Eden, which she recorded in 1969 with her sister, Dorothy

Folk star Shirley Collins, who was robbed of her voice for 30 years by an emotional crisis, has been nominated for two Radio 2 Folk Awards.

The 81-year-old is up for singer of the year, while Lodestar, her first record since 1978, is up for best album.

Collins was an immensely important figure in Britain's folk-rock scene in the 1960s, thanks to her pared-down singing style and strong storytelling.

But her career was cut short by the end of her marriage in the late 1970s.

The star's second husband, Ashley Hutchings, left her for a young actress who took to showing up at Collins' performances.

One night, during a performance of Lark Rise at London's National Theatre, she froze on-stage and found herself unable to sing.

"It was humiliating," she told BBC Radio 4's Mastertapes last year. "Some nights when I opened my mouth nothing would come out, or just a few croaks would come out.

"It went on night after night after night, for far too long. I was trying to sing through tears. I was just in a state."

"I never lost the desire to sing," she added. "It was really heartbreaking for me not to be able to. [But] I couldn't even sing indoors. I couldn't sing to myself."

Collins developed a form of dysphonia, a condition often associated with psychological trauma.

In the years that followed, she wrote books while working in charity shops and a job centre "for five ghastly years" to support herself.

But her music was discovered by a younger generation of fans - including Blur's Graham Coxon and the Decemberists' Colin Meloy - and, eventually, she was coaxed back onto the stage, releasing her new album to wide acclaim last year.

Going Gaga?

Collins is nominated for singer of the year alongside Ireland's Daoiri Farrell, Scottish musician Kris Drever, and five-time Folk Award winner Jim Causley.

Farrell has the most nominations, three in all, while Songs of Separation - a project inspired by the Scottish referendum, featuring Eliza Carthy, Karine Polwart and Jenny Hill - has two.

image captionWoody Guthrie is one of the most influential figures in folk and popular music

US folk icon Woody Guthrie will be inducted to the Folk Awards Hall of Fame on the 50th anniversary of his death.

The author of classics such as I Ain't Got No Home, Pretty Boy Floyd and This Train Is Bound For Glory, his songs were a major influence on popular music, and have been covered by the likes of Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.

Just this week, Lady Gaga sang a portion of his civil rights anthem This Land Is Your Land in a thinly-veiled attack on Donald Trump at the Super Bowl.

Billy Bragg, who made a Grammy award-winning album with Wilco based on unused Woody Guthrie lyrics, will pay tribute to the star with a headline performance at the awards.

Scottish singer-songwriter Al Stewart, best known for the hit single Year Of The Cat, will also perform, after being honoured with the lifetime achievement award.

Mark Radcliffe and Julie Fowlis will present the awards at London's Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday, 5 April. The ceremony will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 2.

Full list of nominations


  • Daoiri Farrell
  • Jim Causley
  • Kris Drever
  • Shirley Collins


  • Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker
  • Megson
  • O'Hooley & Tidow
  • Ross Ainslie & Ali Hutton


  • 9Bach
  • Breabach
  • The Furrow Collective
  • The Gloaming


  • Jarlath Henderson - Hearts Broken, Heads Turned
  • Jim Moray - Upcetera
  • Martin Green - Flit
  • Shirley Collins - Lodestar
  • Songs of Separation - Songs of Separation


  • Daoiri Farrell
  • Fara
  • Ninebarrow
  • Talisk


  • John McCusker
  • John McSherry
  • Mohsen Amini
  • Rachel Newton


  • Fragile Water by Nancy Kerr
  • If Wishes Were Horses by Kris Drever
  • Roll Away by Martin Green feat. Adam Holmes
  • Sounds of Earth by Jim Moray


  • Courting Is a Pleasure by Jarlath Henderson
  • Echo Mocks The Corncrake by Songs of Separation
  • Van Diemen's Land by Daoiri Farrell
  • Willie Taylor by Julie Murphy


  • Amelia Coburn
  • Charlie Grey & Joseph Peach
  • Eryn Rae
  • Josie Duncan & Pablo Lafuente

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