Monday, 6 June 2011

Judy Dyble - singer and reader of books - Under The Influence

For many people Judy will need no introduction except to say that according to her profile there is one niggle that needs addressing:- " I rhyme with errrrr libel, not scribble :-)". However for those few who are not into folk we asked Judy for a brief intro of herself and her career so far.

Born just at the end of the 40’s, the third daughter of four children, my teenage years were part of what is now seen as a golden age, when all was possible. I fell into music and took up the autoharp as it was a much more transportable form of a piano, and haunted the folk blues and jazz clubs of London, while working as a library assistant by day. My intention to become a proper Librarian was thwarted by a bunch of mostly teenagers suggesting I join them as a singer and the beginnings of the well-loved folk rock band Fairport Convention began to flourish… I left them to join up with another band of oddities, called Giles Giles and Fripp, who mutated into the extraordinarily fantastic King Crimson, err.. after I left them then into the world of psychedelic acid folk Trader Horne with Jack McAuley, and having left that…. Back into the world of library assistant, marriage, children and finally our own cassette duplication company and mostly ignorance of the musical world, till I have returned and am recording again, sometimes with old friends and sometimes with new ones, but now via the amazingness of the Internet. I didn’t realise when I started singing that I would be working with musicians who are now rated amongst the best in the world.

By accident and being in the right place at the right time and saying yes, I have been part of the making of wonderful music. And hopefully I’m going to keep doing so..

We asked Judy to tell us of her relationship with books and reading and also how she views ebooks as they start to displace paper books.

I was asked to write about the books that have influenced me during my life. Easy peasy eh? No it isn’t….I have read voraciously since I was a child, and every one has made me think. From ‘The Compleat Molesworth’ to Robin Hobb via Anthony Buckeridge and Enid Blyton and Anne McCaffrey. Well. Let me see..

Like most people of my generation (alright then - venerable ancientness) my first real introduction to books was the local children’s library, which was in the basement at the bottom of a stone staircase, below the level of the pavement.

My sisters, my brother and I would sit on the cold stone stairs, waiting till 4pm when the Librarian would appear with her tray of brown tickets and her date stamp and let us in to the world of fantasy and reality. The careers books where we would learn what it was really like to work as an almoner in a hospital, or be a ballerina or a typist, Biggles eternally flew the war skies with Ginger…and books of poems, by John Masefield and Edward Lear and.. and.. and.. So many books, so many overdue fines, no wonder I ended up working in libraries, in between the music- making..

The Fairy books of Andrew Lang- the Blue, the Rose, the Orange.. So many fairy stories from so many places, all different yet all suffused with magic and wit

Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree and her tiny stories of the tangles of children and magic

E.E.Nesbit’s ‘Psammead’ series, where the main characters were just so grumpy and the children were old-fashioned yet eternal..

‘Black Beauty’ by Anna Sewell. Oh I cried when Ginger died, that book tore so many young hearts..

My teenage years were full of science fiction. The Nebula short stories, and the longer stories of Fred Pohl, Bob Shaw and all those writers who made the future seem so impossibly possible. So many of their predictions have become reality, and I am delighted that they have. Still waiting for travel by thought and the anti-gravity handbag though..

The poetry of Brian Patten and the little truths that were to be found in his writings, and of other friends who introduced me to the writings of other poets, Corso, Eliot and Masefield in the dreaming evenings. All of these opened me to the beauty and the terror of words and the strength of their passion that would enable me to write the songs that I write today.

I fall asleep now when I read, but the magic of the books I read still enthrals, those of fantasy and collisions between worlds, those books intended for children and for teenagers, which I think must be the hardest to write yet are the most satisfying to read. And I am saddened by the deaths of those authors whose books I loved.. like Diana Wynne-Jones (always shelved in so many different places in the libraries I worked in), Marion Zimmer Bradley and Douglas Adams. From those I will never know What Happened Next.

I’ve only picked a few authors and books here, there are zillions more that have influenced me in small and unnoticed ways, just as I am influenced by the passing of the clouds, the spilling of a cup of coffee and the movement of a spider.. Hooray for books eh?

My thoughts on E-books

Hmmm. I really want to embrace ebooks and take them to my heart and love them, because they are the stuff of the science fiction stories I was reading when I was a teenager. I am sure they are convenient and useful and fabulous… but I guess I am too used to the feel of paper and the turning of the page in reality, not as a pretend turn on a screen, and the dipping at random into a book when the page falls open when you drop it. Dropping an ebook would be full of the fear that the thing would smash.. As a child I would probably have loved the novelty, had they been invented then, but the curling up in bed with a book and reading till your eyes closed, hmmm, I doubt an ebook would be as soft as a book to fall asleep on… And it really couldn’t have been invented when I was a child. The world was too different then - computers were room-sized and just chewed up numbers and spat them out to be translated by men in brown lab coats.. No- they are the stuff of today and will be accepted by children as the norm, But I bet books won’t go away, any more than CDs will disappear amongst the downloads. You can’t write a dedication to your child on the flyleaf of an ebook, any more than you can tie a ribbon around a download and give it to your love.

On behalf of both of us I would sincerely like to say thank you to Judy for her time and we are sure she's right about e-books .


  1. Many thanks for this Judy; it seems we have read many of the same things. Among those authors who have passed on, I realise you have missed out a great many, but my personal favourite and a great person too, was Brian Jacques. His "Redwall" series in particular stimulated all my children from a very early age and they still read them now.
    As for e-books, I held the same views as yourself until a relative gave me one of the early palm computers as he had got the newest version. It was loaded with all of Terry Pratchett's work. I was immediately converted. I can carry around a whole library to dip into when waiting for a bus or an interview...and it has a backlight, brilliant for reading in bed.

  2. David, your experience with e-books reflects the experience of many others but perhaps without the free gift. I am never comfortable reading long articles on a small screen because of a problem with my eyes but I do try to "embrace" the new concept, but so far my head and my heart refuse to join in.