Last night’s (23 October) Guardian Live streaming of Russell Brand in conversation with Owen Jones began with an appeal to support the demands of cinema workers for a living wage. It was the argument made throughout the interview: ordinary people can change things through support for small local struggles as much as through big political movements. So to be clear from the start, Arthouse Crouch End is proud to add their voice to the demands of all cinema workers for a living wage.
Russell Brand first set out his ideas about revolution in an interview with Jeremy Paxman in 2013 and it was followed by a torrent of sneering accusations of naivety, hypocrisy and self-promotion. It may be difficult to imagine the journey from rambling, offensive, self-indulgent and over-indulgent comedian to revolutionary voice of the silenced disaffected, but during his conversation with Owen Jones he came across as sincere and most definitely passionate. He made an honest assessment of his failings (massive ego) and limitations as a celebrity comedian, but he also recognised the power of his celebrity.
He sees his role as ‘amplifying’ the voice of local and just struggles, and not as the intellectual powerhouse of the Left (Owen Jones was on hand with supporting evidence for his claims). His voice is certainly wittier and more authentic than the excruciatingly careful words of politicians paranoid about headlines. He doesn’t look like a politician or a commentator, he doesn’t sit in a chair like one, and he doesn’t talk like one. No timid ‘cost of living crisis’ here, but a loud and clear contempt for capitalism, a system propped up by subsidies taken from the pockets of ordinary people facing increasing hardship, its promotion of greed, the national shame of food banks and the unsustainable and growing inequality and environmental damage it creates. He reminds us that there are 85 people in the world who have as much collective wealth as 3.5 billion.
And while his detractors have a field day with his less thought out ideas, and claim it’s easy to talk about the problems of capitalism, the reaction to his Newsnight appearance that followed the live streaming demonstrates that’s not the case. The media doesn’t ask the questions that concern ordinary people if it can pursue a sensationalist headline. Despite this, he’s succeeded in engaging young people in politics. There was certainly an appetite in Crouch End to listen to him, with both screens fully booked out.
On leaving, members of the audience were wondering aloud whether Arthouse pays its staff the living wage. For the record, we pay the London Living Wage as our minimum and we have no zero hour contracts.