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Billy Bragg

November 2010

I DON’T have a weekend on tour but my next day off will be next Friday after I’ve played in Nottingham. I’ll be taking half a dozen guitars in to HMP Nottingham as part of my Jail Guitar Doors project.
It’s to encourage prisoners to build up their self-confidence by learning to play guitar, to write songs and to perform. Low self-esteem plays a big part in re-offending. I’d like to think that it gives them the wherewithall to deal with the problems that they face when they come out of prison in a non-confrontational way by writing songs. By dealing with it that way. Which is what I kind of do.
We were in Nottingham in February at that little cinema (Broadway) and I met a guy who worked at HMP Nottingham and he’s been talking with the staff there about getting something going with regards to doing music in the prison.
I’ll be doing that on Friday morning then driving up to Preston for my next gig.
This weekend I’ll be speaking at the Coalition of Resistance event in London. So I’ll be on the 8 o’clock train out of Dorchester in the morning, providing it hasn’t snowed.
I’ll stick around to hear some of the debate in the afternoon, have a spot of lunch, get home about nine, make myself a cup of tea and watch Match of the Day to see what sorry fate has befallen my darling Hammers. They’ve been awful. They’ve been bottom for the last six weeks.
I’ve a 16-year-old son who plays guitar. So we might sit down and play a few songs together or if his friends are coming over to play I’ll set up the gear. Then I’ll tell them to play the same song because they have a tendency to each be playing a different one. They’re not really a band, they’re just a bunch of people who play guitars and have a good old thrash together.
I watch a bit of TV. Aside from Match of the Day, I’ll watch Newsnight or a good documentary. I’m not one for Strictly or X Factor. Me and my son do always sit down together and watch Harry Hill or You’ve Been Framed.
We watch DVDs. Since the summer we’ve watched Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, the Ian Dury biopic, Nowhere Boy, The Road, Fantastic Mr Fox... and every single one of them seemed to be about fathers and sons, which was a bit odd.
Because he’s just turned 16 he doesn’t reply on me to provide things for him to do anymore. I’m not his social secretary anymore. This year I’m older than my dad was when he died in 1976 when he was 52. So there’s been a bit of a readjustment, really. I’m getting used to Jack having his own life. He goes to college in Yeovil which is about an hour away, so some nights he’ll stay with some friends and has a social life up there.
He’s past the Kevin and Perry stage but he has his moments. I can’t complain.
I’ve got a couple of good books lined up for the tour. One of them is This Wheel’s On Fire which is the autobiography of Levon Helm, who was the drummer in The Band. The other is 23 Things They Didn’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang, which is about the economic breakdown. I recently read Roseanne Cash’s autobiography, Composed. I’m not very big on fiction. Although I picked up a $2 copy of The World According To Garp (by John Irving) when I was in Canada and I really enjoyed it.
I get my exercise by walking. I’d walk round the city or town wherever I am. If I’m in Nottingham I’d go and find Selectadisc to see if it was still open. Is it? (No). Ah, all the record shops have gone.
It’s actually nice doing that in December because all the Christmas stuff is out. It gets you in to that Christmassy vibe.

Billy Bragg appears at Rock City on Thursday December 2, supported by Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore. Tickets are £16 from the venue, call 0845 413 4444 or go to

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