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Friend of Tortoise Exclusive

Has protest music lost its power? with Billy Bragg

Has protest music lost its power? with Billy Bragg

This event is exclusive to Friends of Tortoise

This is a digital-only ThinkIn.

“Now I long for the morning that they realize
Brutality and unjust laws cannot defeat us”

–Lyrics from Billy Bragg, There is Power in a Union.

Where are all the modern protest songs? Times have changed a lot since The Specials’ Ghost Town, Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Two Tribes and perhaps the most famous protest song of all time Do they know it’s Christmas? stormed the charts in the 80s. 

A recent collection of covers by the Specials (Protest Songs 1924-2012) reached number 2 on the album charts – but where are the big protest hits about climate, corruption, or Covid? Were there mainstream protest songs about Brexit? 

It is common to say that young people today are more politically motivated than their predecessors – is it that just they don’t consider music a medium for activism? Or is the lack of chart-topping protest music more symptomatic of the way the music industry works now than of how artists communicate? Join us for a ThinkIn with singer, songwriter and activist Billy Bragg as we try to find out what modern protest songs sound like, and where we can find them.

This ThinkIn is presented in partnership with KITE

KITE is a new Festival of Ideas and Music which will take place in Oxfordshire in June 2022, brought to you by Tortoise and Neapolitan Music. Tickets will go on sale this autumn. Follow @KiteFSTVL for lineup announcements. 


Matt d’Ancona
Editor and Partner