Billy Bragg announces new UK dates in a busy year which has already seen him appear in a play, face down fascists on the streets of his hometown and get up on a soapbox to call on the UK government to withhold bankers? bonuses.
Billy began the year by refusing to pay his taxes to a government who, having bailed out two of the biggest UK banks, was now allowing them to pay massive bonuses from taxpayers money. Arguing that the bankers should be held accountable for their mistakes, he was fined by the Revenue for late payment of tax.
In February, he was out on the road in the UK, performing with graduates from his Jail Guitar Doors initiative, a non-profit organisation that provides guitars and other instruments to people doing rehabilitation work with the inmates of British prisons. Jail Guitar Doors has supplied guitars to over 30 prisons since its inception in 2007.
March saw him travel to SXSW for the formal launch of Jail Guitar Doors USA, in partnership with ex-MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer. Together with Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine they performed in the Travis County Jail in Austin Texas, before formally launching the initiative with a show at the Ghost Room.
During April, Billy was performing six specially written songs in a play at the Wellcome Gallery in London. ?Pressure Drop? told the story of a working class family torn apart by one member?s decision to stand as a local councillor for a racist political party. The play ran for four weeks against the backdrop of the UK general election, as a real life battle against the forces of division was played out in Billy?s home town.
Barking, an industrialised suburb of East London, was a flashpoint in the election campaign. The town became the stronghold of the British National Party when 12 BNP councillors were elected there in 2005. In the May elections, the party was looking to double its number of councillors and take control of the town. Billy made regular trips to the borough to support anti-fascist activists and help deliver leaflets door to door, twice having face-to-face confrontations on the streets with leading BNP members. A massive campaign which saw hundreds of volunteers on the streets ? including a group from California that had help run internet campaigns for Obama - resulted in the BNP losing all of their seats on the council and being run out of town.
This victory over racism was celebrated last month at Europe?s premier rock festival, Glastonbury, where Billy curated the Left Field, an activist stage that held debates by day and hosted music by night.
?I often turn to no-nonsense, nimble witted, worldly wise Billy Bragg for some advice when I am for professional reasons looking into an event, phenomenon, trend, issue, movement, date, personality etc. As a formidable, inquisitive and globetrotting combination of storyteller, historian, activist, father, enthusiast, pilgrim, entertainer, minstrel, humorist, rambler, sermoniser and scholar, he's always got a point of view, a word of wisdom, a rigorous insight, a calming thought, an inspiring idea, a brilliant punchline, whatever it is I'm asking him about. Speaking to him, I am always alert to the transcendent fact that he made a cameo appearance in Bob Dylan's Chronicles, and that this lends a level of the hobo divine to his rugged common sense.? Paul Morley, The Guardian.
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