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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    Great News! Van Morrison is confirmed for next year's Wickham Festival. Saturday 7th August 2021. Please 'Share' the news. If you've not already got your tickets, they're onsale now via this link (and selling fast): www.wickhamfestival.co.uk/tickets ... See MoreSee Less

    Great News!  Van Morrison is confirmed for next years Wickham Festival.  Saturday 7th August 2021.  Please Share the news.  If youve not already got your tickets, theyre onsale now via this link (and selling fast):  www.wickhamfestival.co.uk/tickets

    Comment on Facebook

    I like it, I like it a lot !!

    Well done Peter et al. If you were going to lose anyone between now and 2021 it was going to be the bigger acts that might already have had tours lined up. You're doing a wonderful job, as ever, in the face of something that must have been so disappointing and costly :-( for you x

    Good news was really looking forward to seeing him. Great work going on behind the scenes as always by Peter and the team.

    Anne Collins I know next year will be the last thing on your mind, right now, but this was the festival I was planning on this year. All of us next year?! X

    Excellent!! Well done! Was really hoping you could hang onto him.

    See you next year then. Lots of love Edward II. Xx

    On my birthday too - Well, it's a marvelous night for a moondance

    Great news. Well done.😀😎😎

    So excited to finally get to see him 😎😎

    That’s some good news!

    Marvellous news!!!!

    Wonderful news. See you then.

    So pleased to hear this! 😍

    Brilliant we’ll definitely be there x

    Fantastic news - can’t wait to see Van the man !

    A lovely Happy birthday present for me ☺

    That's great news 😀 👍

    Amazing news!

    He is one of my favourites

    Brilliant news. Van is my all time favourite xx

    Absolutely brilliant

    Fantastic ❤️

    Woo hoo. Good news indeed. 👏

    Skinny Lister, should be back on the road, pretty please Wickham 😁

    Get the fabulous Jack Lukeman booked as well!

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    Thank you so much for all your love & support over the past 24 hours. We really do appreciate it. We'll see you all in 2021 to enjoy the likes of The Waterboys - they've confirmed today that they'll be at Wickham on Sunday 8th August 2021. www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UrXRbMYzD8 ... See MoreSee Less

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    Saving my ticket and looking forward to seeing the wonderful Mike Scott! 😍

    Whooohooo. That's a bloody good start to next year's line up. So sorry not to be there this year but we're really happy that we already have our tickets and they'll roll over <3

    No clash with Cropredy weekend, so should be good for us too. Might still take up our 2 nights at the Shedfield Country Club and explore the Meon Valley a bit more, this year.

    Looking forward to seeing you all next year xxx

    Looking forward to kicking off 2021 festival with SAS Band!! 👍

    Saving ours for 2021 🤘👍

    Keeping ours safe for next year.😊

    Looking forward to 2021. Let’s hope Van is still good to be there.

    It’s going to be brilliant! X

    I will be there to steward😊🚩

    When can you purchase tickets for 2021??

    O yes

    Hi. I have a weekend ticket but also got my wife a day ticket to see the Waterboys. As they are now on a different day next year to I have to refund this year’s day ticket and get her a new one or is the one I have transferable to Sunday next year? Cheers

    Roll over for me, gutted to not be having the festival this year.

    Fantastic! ❤️

    Steve Kemp

    Vanessa Sherlock.

    2021 tickets now onsale at 2020 prices. If you've yet to buy, save £40 on weekend season tickets if you buy now. www.wickhamfestival.co.uk/tickets

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    We tried everything we could to get this year's Wickham Festival on but sadly we're forced to postpone to 2021. The good news is that all this year's artists are being re-booked for next year. Please click on statement below to enlarge and read. ... See MoreSee Less

    We tried everything we could to get this years Wickham Festival on but sadly were forced to postpone to 2021.  The good news is that all this years artists are being re-booked for next year.  Please click on statement below to enlarge and read.

    Comment on Facebook

    We are very sad to hear your news Peter. I know from the updates that you and your team worked hard to put on a show this year for everyone. We would have supported you had the festival gone on this year. You will come back stronger next year once things are back to normal in the world. X

    Thank you for keeping us informed right the way through. We are disappointed, of course, but feel that the right decision has been made. We are delighted that the same line-up will be at next summer’s festival. Thank you so much for organising it and we will definitely roll over our tickets and Motorhome camping ticket and look forward to next year’s festival. Thank you all for your hard work and the way you have involved us at every stage. It is much appreciated.

    I really wanted to come this year for the first time as the lineup looked so good but I was nervous about buying tickets under the circumstances. I think it’s the right decision to postpone and will definitely buy tickets for next year.

    Saddened to hear this decision, however, I believe its the best thing to do. We were in turmoil as to whether we should attend if you did go ahead. Here's to next year, keeping my tickets safe. Thank you for the update... Now go enjoy a well deserved break, xx 😊

    Thank you. For us this was the right decision. If it had gone ahead and as someone who has been in the high risk zone it felt too early to come and mix however careful you were being. Happy to roll tickets over to 21.

    Well done to all the team for persevering with this and trying to organise a fantastic festival for us. We all appreciate the effort you all put in and appreciate this can’t have been an easy decision..However, let’s all look forward to a fantastic festival next year..I for one can’t wait!

    A tough decision to make but in the current climate feel it's the right one. Thank you for all your time and effort giving this year's festival every chance to go ahead, see you in 2021

    It’s a real shame for you all but it will be something to look forward to next year. Too soon to be safe. I am sorry that your plans have been scuppered but hopefully everyone will keep their tickets for the superb line up and we’ll all be there with bells on next summer. Best wishes. X 👏

    Thank you for keeping us informed all the way. We will most definitely be there next year. Tough decision you guys had to make, but I agree it is the right decision. Much love team Wickham xxx

    So sad, no festival has tried harder to keep the faith....................Here's to next year!!!!! 😊😊😊😊😊😊

    Thanks so much Peter and everyone for working so hard to try to make the festival happen this year. Would have loved it to happen but absolutely understand your decision. See you in 2021.

    This announcement, whilst disappointing is both completely understandable and more evidence (as if we needed it) as to why this is the best and most public centered festival in the UK. We will be more than happy to support you and keep our tickets for next year. Keep up the great work...

    We hadn't booked for this year, but glad we didn't miss it as the lineup looks great! Going to see if my husband agrees to booking tickets for next year! 🤞🏻

    So, so sorry. You tried as hard as you possibly could. Thank you for all of your efforts. Stay well & safe & we will see you next year 😢♥️

    Wow...for once everyone is in agreement that the correct decision has been made, there’s a first on Facebook! Well done to all the team who put so much effort in staging the festival. See you in 2021!

    That has to be the right decision given what (little) we now know. Have been really impressed by the communications from Wickham over the past few months, really felt we've been kept in the loop, and have some understanding of the difficult decisions you've been having to make on our behalf. The line up this year was really exciting, we look forward to our annual fix of Celtic bands, so it's great that it's just been delayed by a year and the lineup will be unchanged. We'll certainly hold onto our tickets for next year, as I'm sure will most other ticket holders.

    Happy to roll over to 2021, you did your best but unfortunately this virus has wrecked so much of what is good in life.

    Such a shame - but a sensible decision in these ever-changing circumstances! Our group will be rolling over our tickets :D

    Correct decision, we are so pleased that the acts we were so looking forward to seeing will be there next year. See you all next year keep safe everyone...

    It would have been even more heartbreaking and costly if you'd put everything in place and had to cancel at the last minute. With the ever changing situation just now, I'm sure this is the right decision to have made. I know you'll be making sure that 2021 is even better than ever. I for one am already looking forward to it.

    Thanks for trying, but at the end of the day it's the right decision. We'd already decided not to come, being wary of being in a large crowd, albeit at a certain social distance. We will, however look forward to August 2021 and a great party. If Glasto can have a year off, so can Wickham.

    Well done for , holding out and diligently exploring all options to keep show on the road

    Clearly a difficult decision, but I think it’s the right one. Even without the Leicester lockdown, you hit the nail on the head with point 2 - there would always be the risk of legislation; things have been changing weekly and daily, so committing yourselves would be high risk.

    Genuinely gutted for you Peter, I know how incredibly hard you and your team have worked. We'll just have to make 2021 an even bigger party. Until then, stay safe and good luck with the preparations. Love from The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican xxx

    Sad, but it's the right decision, only what we've all been expecting. See you next year x

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    For those missing live music at Glastonbury this weekend. Click the link for a great 'Beans on Toast' video.
    'I know there will be re-runs on the BBC. And that's all well and good but it's not my Glastonbury'

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    Thankyou. Love Beans, will miss him this year!

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