A documentary charting the life of a top singer who lost her voice is proving a huge hit for a Banbury-born film-maker who you may recognise from Game of Thrones.
Tim Plester, a former pupil of Drayton School (now North Oxfordshire Academy) enjoyed a red carpet reception and two packed nights at the London Film Festival where The Ballad of Shirley Collins was premiered.
The film, co-directed with Paul Curry, has been welcomed with huge acclaim.
The BBC’s Jason Solomons, one of the country’s most respected critics, described it as, ‘Terribly moving and delightfully poignant. The most English thing you will ever see’.
The Ballad of Shirley Collins is now on general release and will be screened at Chipping Norton Theatre on November 30.
Mr Plester – whose parents still live in Banbury – said: “The response to the film so far has been incredibly positive but on one level the only person I ever really cared about whether they liked the film or not, was Shirley Collins herself.
“We set out to make a film ‘with’ Shirley Collins as much as ‘about’ Shirley Collins, so when Shirley saw the film for the first time and gave it her approval, I knew it didn’t really matter to me what negative feedback we received elsewhere.”
Widely regarded as the 20th century’s most important singer of English traditional song, Shirley Collins, now 82, is someone who was born to invoke the old songs.
Alongside her sister, Dolly, she stood at the epicentre of the folk music revival during the 1960s and 70s.
However in 1980 she developed a disorder of the vocal chords which robbed her of her unique singing voice and forced her into early retirement.
The film uses old material and photographs of Ms Collins’ life and utilises a ‘motherlode’ of archive audio to recount the tale of her seminal 1959 song-collecting trip around America’s Deep South alongside her then-lover and legendary ethno-musicologist Alan Lomax.
Centrally involved in filming, Ms Collins was inspired to sing again and the recording of her first album for decades became part of the project.
Tim Plester – an actor as well as playwright and director – was Black Walder in Game of Thrones and was also in Lockout, Kick-Ass, Cuban Fury and Boris and Theresa, shown on BBC this year.
Rob Curry and Tim Plester previously co-directed the award-winning 2011 theatrical documentary Way of the Morris. The film was selected by UK Film Focus as one of the ‘breakthrough’ British films of that year.
Their short documentary film Here We’m Be Together, about the apocryphal Norfolk folk tradition of dwyle flonking, premiered at the BFI London Film Festival in 2014.
Rob is in production on music documentary The Curse of the Chills while Tim co-created the cult shorts Ant Muzak and Blake’s Junction 7.