Musician and activist Billy Bragg returns to his childhood streets of Barking, Essex.

Musician and activist Billy Bragg returns to his childhood streets of Barking, Essex.

Walking around the streets he grew up in during the 1960’s and 70’s, singer-songwriter Billy Bragg is most shocked by the fact all the pubs he remembers have closed down. But as he guides Huck around his hometown of Barking, Essex he notices much else has changed too.

Barking has always attracted those looking for work and in his lifetime Billy has seen people from Ireland, the Caribbean, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh pass through its streets, on their way to leafier and more affluent areas. Like all of the other migrants since, his great-grandfather came to Barking in the 1860s to look for a better life for himself and his children.

Unlike Billy, there are many who don’t accept the changes the area has undergone. Since the Ford car plant closed down – where many of the migrants once came to work – the area has fallen on hard times and witnessed the rise of the far-right who have fed off a sense of hardship and hopelessness.

From the very beginning, Billy has always challenged these negative and divisive ideas through his music. Despite experiencing the pressures and the tensions of a community ill at ease with itself, Billy says, “I feel very fortunate to have grown up here.”

Find out more about Billy Bragg, his music and activism.

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