“The Porch, that performative and transitional space, allows in a controlled way, the house and the street to interact and is the space where identity is articulated and acted.”
By Lajuan Evette Simpson, Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College.
The Southern Journey
In 1959 the English folk singer Shirley Collins joined her then lover Alan Lomax in New York. She had crossed the Atlantic Ocean from her home in London after receiving his invitation to join him and assist in his work of collecting folk songs. They travelled south together through New Jersey and onwards, making recordings in Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia and North Carolina. By the end of their four month journey they had collected many hours of recordings by 38 musicians and 8 bands or choirs. They had visited many diverse communities and worked with people from all walks of life, making their recordings in prisons, churches, porches and in peoples homes. In 1960 Alan Lomax made a return journey to Georgia and Virginia making further recordings but by this stage the couple’s relationship had ended and Shirley was back in England (1)
The following is a brief recollection of some of this time in Shirley Collins’ own words…
We drove out of the very lush, flat delta and then we went up into the hills of Northern Mississippi where it was wooded and the soil was so dry, I mean, it was unbelievably parched. The cracks were almost as wide as our car's wheels and we inched slowly over these ruts and into the clearings where... the shacks were grouped I think. They were very tumble-down you know and in disrepair but livable in and all with stoops to sit on in the front….
I mean we really made friends there you know and it was very hard leaving that great community of people… and I remember on the day we left I kissed Ellie Mae on the cheek goodbye and everything went silent and I thought I’d done something wrong… and I remember we got to the car and I asked Alan what I’d done and he said “ No, it’s probably the first time they’d seen a white woman kiss a black one”. (2)
1. Shirley Collins, America Over the Water: A Historic Journey into the Cultural Roots of Traditional American Music, London, SAF Publishing Ltd, 2005
2. The Ballad of Shirley Collins, Rob Curry, Tim Plester, Fire Films, 2017, Vimeo.com