Using his celebrity as a megaphone, Russell Brand has brought attention to a number of working-class causes. However, commentators have frequently dismissed his activism, unable to reconcile Brand’s working-class accent with his intelligent speech. In today’s Working-Class Perspectives post, Sarah Attfield explores the usefulness of celebrity activism and the significance of Brand’s mixed reception in the mainstream media.
I recently attended Russell Brand’s stand-up show, ‘Trew World Order’ in Sydney, Australia. Brand provided his usual bawdy comedy alongside anti-capitalist and new-age spiritual messages. At the end of the show, he gave a plug for a number of local causes, including that of public housing tenants facing forced evictions from historic Millers Point in Sydney, a public housing project that the New South Wales state government wants to sell to private buyers. He also made a surprise visit to Millers Point, and the tenants were grateful for the publicity his visit brought. Brand is no stranger to public housing activism. He has supported groups such as Sweets Way Resists in their fight against redevelopment of their public housing estate in North London, where he organised a sleepover occupation protest which helped to bring the issue into public consciousness. Brand’s involvement in these issues seems to have been welcomed by most of the housing activist groups.
Our Visiting Scholar for the 2015-16 academic year, John Russo, brings the renowned Working-Class Perspectives blog to the Kalmanovitz Initiative. The blog is edited by John Russo and Sherry Linkon, a professor of English at Georgetown University. It features several regular and guest contributors.