Editorial: Brand New

19 October 2017 Amy Hetherington

Editorial: Brand New

Russell Brand is a new man.

The hairy hedonist who found fame as a frenetic, substance-fuelled comedian is now calmer, settled. He’s 15 years sober, a new father and recently married. Even his signature hair-nest is more contained, dignified with specks of grey.

When Brand last starred in The Big Issue he was going about fulfilling his boyhood goal to get super-famous and then change the world, using his wit to rabble-rouse against inequality.

Now the actor-cum-author-cum-activist is using his distinctive voice to talk about addiction. It’s something Brand well understands: he’s battled bulimia, alcoholism, heroin and sex addiction.

He’s written a 12-step manual, Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions, laying out his own road to recovery. And he’s back in The Big Issue. Brand sat down with four UK vendors to talk addiction, homelessness and self-acceptance in an illuminating interview that is more like an open conversation between friends.

“The things I heard in that room with those vendors were really valuable and insightful,” he told our contributing editor Anastasia Safioleas over the phone. “When talking about addiction there’s a great deal for me to learn, particularly when it comes to dealing with extreme poverty and extreme suffering.”

Brand has long rallied against the way we view addiction. In this edition, he’s found an unlikely ally in Senator Jacqui Lambie who, with her son Dylan Milverton, shares their moving stories of recovery with writer Cath Johnsen.

“We need to review the way society treats addicts, not as criminals but as sick people in need of care,” Brand wrote in 2011, as part of a tender tribute to his tragic, late friend Amy Winehouse. “Not all of us know someone with the incredible talent that Amy had but we all know drunks and junkies and they all need help and help is out there.”

Amy Hetherington, Editor


This editorial first appeared in Ed#548 of The Big Issue (20 Oct–2 Nov 2017).