Wickham Festival News

Billy Bragg knows what he wants at Wickham

Billy Bragg might be one of the biggest names on the circuit but he won’t be arriving at Wickham with any airs and graces or outrageous demands.

This down-to-earth left-wing campaigner has stayed true to his roots throughout his impressive career – and he is well aware of the realities of playing festivals in remote locations.

Billy Bragg
Billy Bragg

He said: “I have seen some artists freak if things are not just how they want them but you have to give festivals some leeway. They are often organised by people who just do it for the love of it and who might not organise gigs normally.

“You can either become a prima donna and throw your toys out of the pram or you can step up and do what you came to do. I generally do the latter. I take the view I have come a long way to do the gig, people have come a long way to see it and I am going to do it as well as I can whatever the problems.

“I believe Wickham is very professional but you have to cut festivals some slack if things are not perfect. I am certainly not going to complain if I turn up at a festival and the guacamole is runny!”

Cue for a song…. It’s only guacamole but I like it!

Bragg could not be further from his surname – modest, under-stated and a passionate believer in doing the right thing, whether that be campaigning for human rights or simply giving the crowd value for money.

The blend of music and message has been key for the 57-year-old singer-songwriter with the unique blend of folk, punk and politics.

Since breaking into the industry in the early Eighties (with the help of a mushroom biryani delivered in person to a hungry John Peel in return for some air play) Bragg has spoken out against all forms of injustice, whether it be racism, sexism or any other form of inequality.

Although no longer an active political campaigner, he still takes every opportunity to highlight any wrongs – though at Wickham he may well be preaching to the converted.

He said: “I believe Wickham has a very open-minded crowd which is good. This will be my first visit to this festival and I am looking forward to it greatly.

“Festivals keep you on your toes. For instance you might need to re-jig your set because of the weather. You might need to play music to warm the crowd up if it is cold… or you might need to coax them back to life if they are sleepy in the sun!

“Sometimes it is worse if it is sunny, you have to wake them up.

“It depends what time I arrive but I always like to have a wander round beforehand if I can to get a bit of context and see what is on the site, what the atmosphere is like. I like to get a decent cup of coffee too.

“Recently I played the Americana Festival and got a particularly good cup of coffee and some rum and raisin fudge so it was a good day!”

Bragg tailors his set according to the mood and the audience, recognising that a festival crowd is very different to those who follow him more closely.

Billy Bragg
Billy Bragg

He added: “At gigs people will have come to see me specifically so they will know my songs and I might throw in a few rarities. At festivals, the crowd might not be so familiar with my work so I will come up with a set which reflects that.

“You do change the set according to the audience. I will look at them beforehand and try to get a vibe and then write a set to suit them.

“The set has to be accessible to all. I find talking to a festival crowd is a good way to connect with them I don’t know why so few artists do it. Recently there was a guy before me who had some great songs but he hardly spoke to the audience.

“I like to engage with the audience. It helps them and it helps me. It is a case of meeting them halfway.

“It is about entertainment more than anything. It is about people coming and hearing good songs and maybe a few things to make them think a bit. But they have still got to be entertained.

“You can’t just stroll in, clock on and clock off. I have seen bands that do that. They play the set and go home; to my mind, you have got to give something of yourself.

“You have to give a bit of yourself. It pays dividends for the audience and the performer.”

Bragg feels as passionately as ever about his causes but goes into most of his shows with no set agenda.

He added: “Every song has a message. Even the most bland song has a message but it is a case of how to pitch it and that can depend on lots of things… the mood, the crowd, the date.

“By coincidence the Americana Festival was on the fourth of July so I congratulated the US on introducing equal marriage and I was able to talk about the confederacy flag as a symbol of 20th century segregation.

“Sometimes I might decide the message beforehand or I might respond to a comment or a flag or a banner; sometimes I just decide on the hoof.

“I will take my direction from the audience. For Wickham I might throw in a few more folk references. Sometimes people will ask me to play a certain song and I will think: ‘I have not played that for ages, that’s a good idea’

“I do like a relaxed festival and at a boutique festival like Wickham the atmosphere is usually great by all accounts.”

“Looking at the bill there is a lot of great music over the weekend.

Seth Lakeman
Seth Lakeman

Seth Lakeman is very good. I did a gig with him in Cumbria and in the signing tent he was mobbed by girls who knocked the table over.

“He was fighting them off and I told him to just enjoy it. I am certainly not going to get in a boy band now – and old guy band maybe!

“It is a shame these boy bands have so many followers and they have nothing to say!”

Bragg might be a veteran now but he has embraced new technology and social media blogging via his comprehensive website and tweeting regularly @billybragg

He is happy to engage in banter and debate with fans, using the medium as an opportunity to put across his views in a way which was never previously feasible.

He sad: “Social media is a strange beast. It is really good that so many people know about Billy Bragg now. In the past they would have had to hope to read about me in the NME, now it is all out there.

“Now I can say what I want in the way I want and communicate directly with fans. If you are willing to engage personally it is amazing how fans respond if they know it is really you and not some PR guy writing it in an office.

“It still happens that I get misquoted or taken out of context and I have to be aware of how that might happen so I might have to reword things occasionally. I phrase what I say very carefully in 140 characters.

“I am not politically active any more in terms of being in the middle of it but I still care and still have plenty to say.

“I still enjoy it as much as ever. It can be a slog when you have to drive from Dorset to Cumbria and I get grumpy days the same as everyone but if you can do the thing you love doing and make a living then that is the definition of success.”

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    Good things come in threes! After announcing Nick Lowe & Los Straitjackets plus John Otway & Willy Barrett for Wickham 2020 we've another artist announcement coming tonight. A clue: English indie-pop band, much requested by you, our audience. Any guesses? ... See MoreSee Less

    Good things come in threes!  After announcing Nick Lowe & Los Straitjackets plus John Otway & Willy Barrett for Wickham 2020 weve another artist announcement coming tonight.  A clue:  English indie-pop band, much requested by you, our audience.  Any guesses?

    Comment on Facebook

    Hmmm. Well most of the guesses so far have been wide of the mark. The band describe themselves as English indie-pop but maybe a better description would be to liken them to Molotov Jukebox, Electric Swing Circus, Holy Moly and the Crackers, Police Dog Hogan...

    Still got my fingers crossed for Midge Ure ❤️💜 Go on Wickham....you know you want to 😘

    Hope it’s S Club 7

    Still hoping for Hipsway 🤞🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 If I post often enough perhaps you’ll give in for some peace and quiet!!

    Travis. Now they would be a great addition to an already fantastic lineup.

    The Correspondents Caro Emerald Jamie Berry Feat The Speakeasy Three Dead south ( i wish but Canadian ) Caro Emerald Don Johnson Band

    Its Steps isn't it? I knew you'd give in one year if I kept going on about it!

    It’s not Fake Thackray is it??? 😀

    That'll be the Kooks then.... Where's my prize?

    Blur , The Smiths, Florence and the Machine, Gorrillaz, Lilly Allen, The Stone Roses, Pulp, The kooks, Keane, Jamiroquai, Noisettes, Kate Nash, Lighning Seeds, The Vamps, ok i am out of UK indie pop bands..🤔

    Dodgy? But would like to see the Divine comedy.

    The Dubliners!!

    The ballaugh’s Mike Wade 😍

    We’re hoping for Tears for Fears or Wilko Johnson not really Indie pop though!

    Forget Otway & Co and book The Slambovians!!!!!!!

    Gotta be The Lightning Seeds. Superb last time

    What’s that coming over the hill is it a monster. No it’s the Automatic.

    Since no-one's mentioned The Wonder Stuff yet, I will. Edit: oh, someone did. As you were.

    CoCo and the Butterfields flight brigade

    The Magic numbers the feeling the Lightning seeds scouting for girls KEANE

    Pulp, Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine or The Smiths.

    Alabama 3 ?

    Sorry I think The Automatic are Welsh.🥴

    The Divine Comedy? 🤔

    James or The Levellers.

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    We're delighted to announce that the wonderful Nick Lowe will be at Wickham on Saturday 8th August with his Rock 'n' Roll Revue starring Los Straitjackets. The composer of classic songs like 'Cruel to be Kind', 'I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass', '(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding' (a hit for Elvis Costello) and 'I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll' will be joined by one of the world's finest guitar bands, Los Straitjackets, for a rare UK Festival appearance. Day & Weekend tickets now onsale via www.wickhamfestival.co.uk/tickets www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXRtGnI5H5E ... See MoreSee Less

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    Producer for Elvis Costello; Graham Parker and The Rumour; Dr Feelgood (for whom he co-wrote 'Milk and Alcohol'); and The Damned. A member of Brinsley Schwarz and Rockpile (with Dave Edmunds). A noted figure in power pop and new wave, he performed at the first Glastonbury Festival (and was invited back in 2019), released the first single on Stiff Records, and has recorded & produced many fine records of his own. Los Straitjackets from Surf City have been described as the world's leading instrumental guitar band. This will be a great night!

    A fabulous coup!! Wickham you just keep on pulling better and better announcements out of the hat - can't wait for this year's festival! :D

    Claire Askam


    Thank you

    I have to say I went to see him a few years ago and was very disappointed - he played hardly any of his hits and his music wasn't of the style I was expecting. He's still a good musician and singer though, so I hope he plays a set suitable for the festival - including the hits you've mentioned, that we all know and love!

    Fantastic Wickham! Last seen with Rockpile January 1980, I recall a very boozy set up in Newcastle. Thanks, can't wait 😍😍

    cool, like a bit of Nick Lowe.

    Pamela Horrigan

    Bought Jesus of Cool and played it to death! Ace choice! 😉

    Love it, thank you Wickham Festival, first timers last year & had a brilliant time 👍

    Bulls eye! They were fantastic at Engine Rooms last summer Top signing!

    Oh brilliant it’s my birthday on the 8th too!

    Annie - just ‘wow’!!! 😀😀

    Richard Beechey Rod Marshall Steve Rawlings Bill Kennedy



    The Jesus Of Cool!

    Absolutely ACE!

    Nick Lowe is excellent live.

    Andrew Price

    David Kentish 👍

    Brilliant news , how about booking Graham Parker as well ?

    Robert Eastwood Jane Eastwood Dave Malzard

    Wonderful! Wickham Festival.... The gift that keeps on giving!

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    'An array of quick witted stories, stunning vocals and polished stage craft, not to be missed'. After a 6 year stint at sea, singer-songwriter Chris Ricketts is returning for a series of festival dates across Europe this summer and will be launching his new album at Wickham in August. ... See MoreSee Less

    An array of quick witted stories, stunning vocals and polished stage craft, not to be missed.  After a 6 year stint at sea, singer-songwriter Chris Ricketts is returning for a series of festival dates across Europe this summer and will be launching his new album at Wickham in August.
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