Billy Bragg, in conversation about his work with his Jail Guitar Doors charity – putting guitars into prisons – and about arts, rehabilitation and criminal justice more generally.
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 him an irresistible Greenbelt headliner. 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 muchmissed Kirsty MacColl to Wilco, Less Than Jake and Kate Nash. In an interview, Bragg said: “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.” 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.