A unique celebration of music and its role in social change and resistance

From the industrial revolution, universal suffrage and the slave trade through to CND, Rock against Racism and the Miners’ strike, songs are a common and integral factor in all the movements that have sought to instigate change.

Shake the Chains is an exciting new touring commission from celebrated UK contemporary folk singer songwriters and special guests that will explore the role songs have played in social change, resistance and protest.

Listen and download
You can listen to and download two Shake the Chains tracks for free. One is a Shake the Chains version of Pete Seeger’s ‘If I Had a Hammer’ and the other is Labi Siffre’s ‘Something Inside So Strong’ performed by Greg Russell played during a live session for BBC Radio Leeds. Download here.

The musicians have created a Spotify playlist of protest songs that are inspiring them as they write new music for the project. Listen here.

Shake the Chains artists

Find out about the Shake the Chains artists.


Nancy Kerr is one of the most in-demand singer songwriters in English folk. She has won six BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, including Singer of the Year (2015), Best Duo as part of Nancy Kerr & James Fagan (2000, 2003 & 2011), and Best Album & Best Group as part of The Full English Band (2014). An exceptionally gifted musician, singer, and generous collaborator, the last three years have seen her create a strong body of new songs across a range of subjects following her involvement in The Elizabethan Session and Sweet Liberties.


Findlay Napier made his name touring and recording with multi-award winning traditional Scottish folk band Back of the Moon. In his more recent projects Queen Anne’s Revenge and The Bar Room Mountaineers, his songwriting took centre stage and was described by The Sunday Herald as “Genuine songcraft and wit following in the Difford & Tilbrook tradition”. His body of work shows songs that connect with the subject matter in unique ways, and that explore the stories and lives of the people involved in each narrative.


Hannah Martin, half of a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winning duo with Phillip Henry, is a skilled and versatile musician with a contemporary outlook and style of folk and roots music. Her inspiring songwriting charts a range of historical and modern social issues.



Politics graduate Greg Russell performs as a duo with Ciaran Algar, but also as a solo artist and with Nancy Kerr’s Sweet Visitor Band and The Tweed Project. The winner of two BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2013 & 2014, and nominated in 2015, he is one of the finest and most versatile young artists in English folk music. A dissertation on the role of protest song was the spark for the project that has become Shake the Chains.

tim-yates banner


Tim Yates is in demand as one of the best ‘side-men’ in the UK folk scene for his versatility as a musician. He is an exceptionally gifted arranger and collaborator, and highly regarded as a writer with his material recorded by one of his bands, Blackbeard’s Tea Party.

Special guest for Bristol is Steve Knightley. A songwriting force behind Show of Hands, widely acclaimed as the finest acoustic roots duo in England. His strong social conscience is evident in his music, having penned classics including Country Life and Arrogance Ignorance Greed.

Thursday 23 February
St George’s Bristol

The project is a commission from Folk by the Oak, with support from Arts Council England, Help Musicians, and Folk Alliance.