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Songs of the Open Road

Sven Berlin was very supportive of the New Forest Gypsies and their culture as he demonstrated in his book Dromengro: Man of the Road. Interestingly, in 1975 he was invited by his friend John Paddy Browne to write a record review of a collection of songs sung by Gypsies for Fo’c’sle News, the newsletter of the Southampton folk club Browne co-founded.

As John Paddy recalls: “Sven Berlin accepted my invitation to review a new album of southern English Gypsies singing Songs of the Open Road, published by Topic Records in 1975. Sven may, as he claimed, to be “in no way expert” on folk song, but what he delivered was a moving and eloquent snapshot of how the Gypsy and folk song have intermingled and lived off each other for generations.”

Sven’s review, written from the Isle of Wight where he was living at the time, joined those from a distinguished list of contributors including Ursula Vaughan Williams, the wife of the composer, Pete Seeger, the international recording artist and political activist and A L Lloyd, Britain’s foremost folk song scholar of the time.

The review, entitled The Road a Thousand Years Long, begins with reference to Sven's friend the scholarly Liverpool gypsy Cliff Lee, a subject he painted and drew several times:

“There is only the dark grave at the end! We don’t talk of our dead!” Cliff Lee said this in a sad mood. “No,” I replied later, “they stand at your elbow!” This is true of the Gypsy.

The full text

can be read here….

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