British singer-songwriter and activist Billy Bragg to speak at the Tallinn Music Week conference

20 September 2021 Conference

As part of the international Creative Impact Conference of Tallinn Music Week (TMW) festival on Friday, 1 October, British musician and activist Billy Bragg will give a video interview to journalist Artemy Troitsky. The interview is part of the discussions at the TMW conference, which marks the 30th anniversary of the restoration of Estonia’s independence and the role of music in social change.

Photo: Murdo Macleod

Singer-songwriter, activist, music historian and writer Billy Bragg has been active in music and politics for over 35 years. Bragg travelled twice to the Soviet Union when Mikhail Gorbachev started to promote the policies of perestroika and glasnost. In November 1987 he played at Tallinn’s Linnahall and played a DJ-set of The Clash songs in a local nightclub.

Triggered by the righteous anger of punk and the socially conscious folk tradition of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, Bragg was the leading figure of the anti-folk movement of the ’80s. While his lyrics are bitingly intelligent and clever, they are also warm and humane, filled with detail and wit as he fuses the personal and the political in simple, poetic lyrics and evocative melodies, conveyed by an emotive Cockney-inflected voice. A committed socialist, Bragg helped to form Red Wedge, an organization that supported the Labour Party. In 2017, in the wake of the political upheavals brought on by Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, Bragg released an EP of topical material, Bridges Not Walls.

Bragg’s political writing isn’t restricted to the studio. He is an author and outspoken critic of fascism and Brexit. His book The Three Dimensions of Freedom (2019) explores the tools democracy has at its disposal to combat authoritarianism.

Bragg has stated that “The notion you can change the world by singing songs can only serve to undermine activism.” He believes music and art can reflect society, but not change it. The role of the musician is to articulate what society thinks and feels. “We are a catalyst, but not an agent,” he says.

Billy Bragg will be interviewed by Artemy Troitsky, a Tallinn-based Russian music journalist, academic, political video blogger and DJ, who met Bragg in 1986 in Leningrad (Saint Petersburg). In his book Back In the USSR: The true story of Rock in Russia, Troitsky describes Bragg as “A sensitive and intelligent Socialist in the British tradition. I was always a lefty – so for me, there was never an urge to convince my Western friends that Socialism is bad, that Communism is awful and so on. I’ve simply thought that the Soviet Union was a very ugly mutation of Socialism,” says the journalist. 

In addition to the nuances of Western leftism and its bureaucratic mutations in the Soviet Union, the conversation will tackle changes brought about by the Perestroika and the Estonian Singing Revolution, as well as the role of music and freedom of speech in the fight against authoritarianism in the 21st century.

Billy Bragg’s interview will be preceded by the keynote speech “30 Years of Independence – did Estonia sing its way to freedom?” by Toomas Hendrik Ilves, former President of the Republic of Estonia. 

Following the interview, both Bragg and President Ilves will participate in a Q&A session, moderated by Troitsky.


Friday, 1 October, Nordic Hotel Forum / Sirius

16:00 – 16:30 Keynote: President Toomas Hendrik Ilves: “30 Years of Independence – did Estonia sing its way to freedom?” 

16:30 – 17:00 Interview with Billy Bragg (DigiPRO) by Artemy Troitsky
17:00 – 17:15 Q&A: Billy Bragg and Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Moderator: Artemy Troitsky  

The TMW 2021 conference will take place on 1 – 2 October at Nordic Hotel Forum, recently reopened as Estonia’s corona-safest hotel, and techno club HALL. The conference topics will focus on the interaction between local and global, from club culture to regional live music markets, and music as a tool for social change.

The conference will take place both on-site and online and will be organized in accordance with the rules applicable to public events, which will help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

TMW PRO Pass for 175 euros (from 27 September 200 euros) is on sale at

  • PRO Pass grants both on-site and online access to the TMW conference and networking events together with priority access to the music festival events as well as access to the TMW PRO digital platform. 
  • Conference Day Pass for 75 euros grants both on-site and online participation in the conference. Day passes are on sale for the conference day at the Nordic Hotel Forum on Friday, 1 October, as well as for the conference day at the Nordic Hotel Forum and Club HALL on Saturday, 2 October. 
  • DigiPRO Pass for 50 euros grants online-only access to the conference. Additional info

TMW 2021 is organised by Shiftworks with various partners and co-organisers. The conference programme is completed in collaboration with the Estonian music export and development office Music Estonia.

The presenter of TMW is Telia, the strategic partner in the field of music is Music Estonia, the main supporters are Nordic Hotel Forum and Visit Estonia. The partners are Telliskivi Creative City and Viru Center, media partners are Postimees Group and Raadio 2.

The festival is supported by the Ministry of Culture, the city of Tallinn, the Tallinn City Enterprise Department and the Cultural Endowment.

TMW’s international activities, the aim of which is to introduce Estonia as an attractive destination of music and culture, are supported by the European Regional Development Fund.