News Marshall moved to New York in 1981, where he had latterly painted murals

Austin John Marshall, record producer, folk-revival ideas man, lyricist and songwriter, performance poet and muralist, created, nurtured or acted as cultural midwife to many strands of art. His fingerprints are all over Shirley Collins & Davy Graham's folk roots, new routes, Shirley & Dolly Collins' magnum opus Anthems in Eden, Ultravox!'s pre-Midge Ure incarnation Tiger Lily and English songwriter Steve Ashley's groundbreaking Stroll On. He also contributed footage to Peter Neal's Jimi Hendrix film Rainbow Bridge (1972) and to the Incredible String Band's film Be Glad for the Song Has No Ending (1970).

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Leading Article: Aitken heart

"FOUR BARS," wrote Jonathan Aitken from HMP Belmarsh last week, "what say you?" This was not a speculation on the range of leisure facilities awaiting him at Spring Hill, the open prison to which he will shortly be transferred (though the Jacobean mansion that houses it does make it look very much like a country club). No, he was addressing the window in his present cell, and wondering whether it might be trying to tell him something. Mr Aitken was writing poetry. His Ballad from Belmarsh Gaol was published in the Spectator. The critics' response was as gleeful as it was merciless. Writing in London's Evening Standard, David Sexton said the ballad was "steeped in ill-judged, half-remembered and misunderstood allusions to the classics". Mr Aitken might have been better advised to aim lower and use as his model that most public school and sporting of all poems - Vitai Lampada by Sir Henry Newbolt. Perhaps:

Books: Unquiet graves on wuthering heights

Robert Crawford heads for the hills and enjoys a ruggedly lyrical retelling of the Border ballads

Letter: Taken to heart

Sir: I note that there is again a move to make poetry take an important place in primary schools (letter, 28 May). This, I am sure, is a good move. I hope, however, some care will be taken with those for whom poetry learning is a non-starter.

Romantics start here

British Romanticism, in all its guiltless passion, was given a very quiet birth by Coleridge and Wordsworth in an anonymous volume of poetry.


"What you get from me is the real raw material," laughs storyteller Sheila Stewart. "I'm the roots of the tree, not the branches." A traveller from Blairgowrie, Scotland, Stewart learned her trove of stories the old way, sitting on the knee of her ballad-singer mother, Belle Stewart. "Ballads and folk stories were all just part of the package deal of our traveller culture, pumped into me from two days old," says Stewart. "There's no one else left now, though, so it's all on my shoulders."

The horrors of Watford Gap, recounted in the ballad of the Bank Holiday driver

AS REGULAR readers will know, I am a great collector of motorway ballads - those forms of verse dealing with all aspects of life on the motorway.

Obituary: Obituary: Robert Mitchum

I was surprised that in your obituary of Robert Mitchum [by Gilbert Adair and Tom Vallance, 3 July], you neglected to mention his record career, writes Bruce Thompson.

POP: The Tindersticks; ICA, London

The Tindersticks' image is set in stone. Their debut double-album three years ago was full of songs of desperate love, back-alley violence and occasional masturbation. A second album last year did little to lift the gloom. Their current release, a soundtrack to a French film about teenage pregnancy, hasn't exactly helped.

A hitch-hiker's ballad of the Fringe

I thought that I would not be referring to the subject of the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe again for another year. I thought I would be able to get back to more congenial topics, such as my ever-growing collection of motorway ballads, those modern examples of folk verse which I collect from hitch-hikers and stray encounters at motorway service areas.

Single play

MacCunn: Land of the Mountain and the Flood; The Ship o' the Fiend; The Dowie Dens o' Yarrow; Jeanie Deans - excerpts; The Lay of the Last Minstrel BBC Scottish SO / Martyn Brabbins (Hyperion CDA 66815); William Lawes: Consort Setts for 5 & 6 viols; Songs etc Catherine Bott, Paul Nicholson, Fretwork (Virgin Veritas VC 5 45147 2)
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