Topic Records began as an offshoot of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1939 and claims to be the oldest independent record label in the world.
In the 1950s Topic Records separated from the Communist Party but those involved still had socialist credentials. Up to 1949 the composer Alan Bush was involved with choral and orchestral music released on the label. From 1950 Ewan MacColl became heavily involved. The earliest album of UK traditional music was "Street Songs and Fiddle Tunes of Ireland" by Margaret Barry and Michael Gorman released on Topic in 1958. Financially, the company was in a precarious state until 1963 when they had substantial sales for the compilation album "The Iron Muse". The label was very important in promoting folk artists such as A. L. Lloyd, Ewan MacColl, The Watersons and Shirley Collins. Topic has issued many field recordings of source singers, culminating with "The Voice of the People", released in 1998, a 20-volume collection of traditional singers and musicians from the British Isles.
The story of Topic Records is told in Michael Brocken's book "The British Folk Revival" (2003).
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