Billy Bragg's jailhouse rock

BILLY Bragg s quest to provide music lessons for prisoners gathers pace with an intriguing night at Proud Gallery in Camden next week. Since 2007, Barking-born Bragg s Jail Guitar Doors initiative has been supplying musical instruments to 25 prisons in th

BILLY Bragg's quest to provide music lessons for prisoners gathers pace with an intriguing night at Proud Gallery in Camden next week.

Since 2007, Barking-born Bragg's Jail Guitar Doors initiative has been supplying musical instruments to 25 prisons in the UK and America.

Alan Miles' documentary about the project, called Breaking Rocks, will be premiered as part of The Raindance Film Festival at the innovative exhibition space and bar in Camden on Thursday, October 1.

The event will also feature live performances by graduates from Jail Guitar Doors, as well as Billy and many of the artists who have supported the venture, including Mick Jones from The Clash, Chris Shiflett from Foo Fighters and Sam Duckworth from Get Cape.Wear Cape.Fly.


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Former Barking Abbey School pupil Billy, who now lives in Dorset, told the Review: "In early 2007, I was looking to do something positive to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of Joe Strummer [co-founder and lead singer of The Clash], when I received a request from a local jail about setting up a guitar class there.

"I immediately grasped the potential of this, knowing from my own experience how playing guitar or other instruments and writing songs can help an individual to process problems in a non-confrontational way.

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"I bought half a dozen acoustic guitars and, just as Joe Strummer had painted slogans on his guitar, had them spray-painted with the titles of Clash songs - Clash City Rocker, Stay Free and, of course, Jail Guitar Doors."

Months later Billy announced the formation of Jail Guitar Doors at the NME Awards, and explains: "I was delighted when the first person in the room to walk up to me with an offer of support was Clash guitarist Mick Jones."

Billy, 51, argues that the average cost per person, for instruments and lessons, is �500, an amount that could be raised at a benefit concert by any band or artist who can draw a crowd.

He continues: "I'm asking musicians, particularly those like me who were inspired by The Clash, to raise funds to help inmates take the first steps towards rehabilitation."

The film premiere evening runs from 6.30pm - 11pm. Admission is �15.

Billy adds: " It's great to be part of this very special night and see Breaking Rocks come to its rightful full fruition.

" The voice of ex-prisoners is rarely heard in a society that locks more people up every year. All the graduates have drawn life on their life experiences to write powerful songs."

To contact Billy about holding your own fundraiser event go to www.jailguitardoors.org.uk.

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