Music for a New Revolution

Billy Bragg at Ebrington during a previous visit to Derry - he returns to play the Nerve Centre on August 30
Billy Bragg at Ebrington during a previous visit to Derry - he returns to play the Nerve Centre on August 30

Folk punk icon Billy Bragg is on his way back to Derry for a unique musical weekend that will explore the tradition and influence of the protest song.

The Bard of Barking is one of the acts set to play in the city during ‘Music for a New Revolution’ - the brainchild of Derry muso and Happy Enchilada frontman Paddy Nash.

Running over three days from August 30 to September 1, the weekend long event is “not just about celebrating the topical song, but about showing that political song writing is alive and well,” Paddy told the ‘Sunday’ this week.

“When there’s a reason to protest now, like the closure of care homes, it’s all done on social media, though Facebook or Twitter,” he said.

“Years ago, it was the campaign song that was integral to protest, and those songs were passed down through the generations.”

As a case in point Paddy points to the ‘Ballad of Jim Larkin’ - “that’s how I found out about the Dublin Lock Out”, he said.

It’s no coincidence that Music for a New Revolution will mark the 100th Anniversary of events in Dublin in 1913.

“There is no better place than Derry to put this on,” Paddy continued.

“It sits as the birthplace of civil rights in the north, it’s renowned for its singers and writers.

“What we hope to do is make it a kind of hub for the topical song, see the city as a magnet, bring people from all over the world here to play their songs, tell their stories, and to take songs from Derry away with them, songs that they and the people from the city have created for themselves.”

The Billy Bragg Nerve Centre gig on August 30 opens proceedings - a fitting venue for the man who acted as the catalyst for the centre’s inception.

Some thirty odd years ago, Bragg who was playing in Union Hall told Derry musicians, fed up with the lack of opportunities for local talent “to go out and make something happen” for themselves.

“And that’s what they did,” Paddy said.

“You only have to look at how the Nerve Centre has grown over the years, at what it has become.

“In some way it’s like a homecoming for Billy and it was something I really wanted to see, him playing here in 2013.

“But the weekend is about much more than bringing him back to Derry,” Paddy said.

Bragg will be joined on the Nerve Centre stage by Derry’s own Connor Kelly, Teknopeasant and Conor McAteer.

On Saturday, events move to the Glassworks ( venue to be confirmed), with Steve White & The Protest Family, Robb Johnson and Paddy Nash & The Happy Enchiladas among the bill, while on Sunday, Bennigans Bar will host an open mic session during the afternoon.

“Anyone with a political song, and I don’t mean the politics of orange or green, is welcome to grab whatever instrument they play and come along,” according to Paddy

At the same venue on Sunday evening, Jinx Lennon, The Woodburning Savages, Little Hooks and Eamon Friel, Paddy’s “favourite local protest singer of all time” will take to the stage.

“But this is not about people coming and playing their gigs and heading off,”

“ It’s about keeping it organic and fresh, keeping it spontaneous, getting the artists to talk to each other, share their songs and ideas, taking something away from each other.

“It’s not about lectures or debates,” he said.

That emphasis on spontaneity will also see a number of pop up protest songs played the city centre.

“What we are hoping is that some of the artists will appear out of nowhere say in Shipquay Street or Guildhall Square, sing their protest song and disappear again,”

You can get more details on Music for a New Revolution online at

Tickets can be bought online at