Billy Bragg has been at the forefront of politically-engaged rock, roots and folk music since the early ’80s, with his ongoing activism going hand-in-hand with classic British songwriting to make an irresistible Greenbelt headliner.Â
In 1983, Barking-born Bragg was an Army dropout and punk rocker, recording demos for a music publisher. Then, whilst listening to the radio, he heard John Peel announce on the air that he was hungry. He headed to the BBC with a mushroom biryani and a copy of his first album. John Peel played a track from the record (at the wrong speed), and was convinced.Â
Over the ’80s and ’90s, Bragg’s albums reached the Top Ten, whilst he also formed Red Wedge to campaign against the Thatcher government and campaigned for tactical voting and reform of the House of Lords. He has collaborated with everyone from the much-missed Kirsty MacColl, to Wilco, Less Than Jake and Kate Nash.Â Â In an interview, Bragg said: Â “My theory is this; I’m not a political songwriter. I’m an honest songwriter. I try and write honestly about what I see around me now.” Â In recent years, Bragg’s activism has encompassed his pioneering organisation Jail Guitar Doors, which gives guitars to prisoners; campaigning against extremist politics, including those of the BNP, in his hometown of Barking and Dagenham; and campaigns for electoral reform and the rights of artists in a digital age.Â
He’s appeared at Greenbelt twice before ‘ in 2003 and 2007 ‘ and we’re always thrilled to have him with us, provoking us into action and bringing us stories from the frontline.
Recorded at Greenbelt 2011: Big Top, 27 Aug 2011, 10:30
Recorded at Greenbelt 2007: Saturday at 11.00 in Centaur
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