Ellen Loudon

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Little England. My lovely home

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I have just finished reading Billy Bragg’s Progressive Patriot. I wrote my MA thesis on Bily Bragg’s music and the way in which he mixed pop and politics (I did my MA in Popular Music Studies and the Institute of Popular Music at the University of Liverpool – which is now supervising my PhD). This thesis focused very much on Billy Bragg’s music and the way in which lyrically he mixed his ordinary experiences with the struggles of political living.

What I found facinating in Bragg’s book is the way in which he weaves his-story around music and politics, family and notions of nationhood. He deals with the microcosm of people’s every day experiences in relation to the the macrocosm of the society within which they exist: His response to seeing the Clash at the Rainbow Theatre, Finsbury Park, 9 May 1977 in relation to the rise of the BNP; the contextualising of his family life with the events recorded in is grandfather’s war diary. Bragg emphasises this sense that the individual’s story is history and each tale makes up the bigger picture of nationhood history. Perhaps until quite recently the domination of meta-narratives have meant that us ‘little peolpe’ haven’t been able to shape the recorded history of our nation. The rise of ‘people’s histories’ (e.g. the bbc’s People’s War) might have gone some way to change this. But I wonder how many of us actually feel empowered by our own history and the way in which we relate this to the big story of our nation?

In this book I think Billy Bragg has attempted to reclaim his story and the way in which he relates this to his sense of himself as an Englishman. But his is not a lazy imprint of common notions of patriotism, he is attempting to search for new ways of identifying with nationhood. Not necessaily finding answers but certainly asking some relevant questions.

Written by ellenloudon

November 1, 2006 at 3:07 pm

Posted in books

One Response

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  1. Another book to go on my list of things I probably should read then. It’s refreshing that someone is prepared to look at patriotism and nationalism from a different angle than that we have become accustomed to (in my case, accustomed to shuddering at).

    John H

    November 1, 2006 at 11:32 pm

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