Irish Examiner: Accountability/ Russel Brand


I2007, Dublin's National Stadium was charged with anticipation for Russell Brand's inaugural Irish performance. Fans eagerly awaited Brand's charismatic stage presence and my cabaret show was the warm-up act for this upcoming comedy sensation.With a background in entertainment spanning decades, I thought I'd seen it all. But this night would prove to be unlike any other.


While I was working as a journalist in Dublin I set up a touring cabaret show, which ran for a number of years in Ireland and UK. Between writing features, creating fashion shoots for magazines like Tatler and Hotpress and producing shows, I’ve worked in the fashion and music scene for decades, and I’m fairly familiar with the entertainment scene. My work often included working with celebrities, and I remember being particularly excited to be working with Russell Brand on his first Irish gig, because I was genuinely a huge fan.


Despite Russell Brand not being very well known in Ireland in 2007, the venue was buzzing, packed with avid fans waiting for him to take to the stage. Before he arrived, the atmosphere backstage was electric too. We were all keen to meet the larger-than-life, hilarious Russell Brand. Most of us had seen him on telly and knew him as funny, charismatic, highly intelligent, and very easy on the eye.


I remember thinking that Brand's demeanour seemed off, very distant, with no eye contact when we met him just before the show. Little did I know that my initial impression would be the first of many red flags throughout the night.
We posed for photos moments before the stage lights came on, and after my performers danced and sang to a packed house, Russell performed his smash-hit stand-up.
As performers, we didn’t see much of his act because we weren’t based inside the arena. I recall we didn’t share the backstage area with Brand and his entourage, we were outside in the car park area for quite a bit of the event. It was a warm evening, and as any producer knows, when you aren’t the headline act, you often wait around in the less glamorous areas: kitchens, corridors, upstairs cubbyholes. We did a private show in a castle a few years ago, and we had to get ready in a dingy cellar!
After Russell’s performance, I packed up our kit and headed to the Clarence Hotel for the afterparty. I remember meeting a male friend of mine who had been to the gig himself and was a huge fan of Brand. Naturally, I invited him along to the hotel for drinks, but he was abruptly told ‘men weren't allowed’. It was another hint that something was off but at the time, but I remember just feeling embarrassed by the decision, not really alarmed. We were all still on a high from our big gig and ready to have a few drinks and maybe even meet the star of the show! Of course, now I realise it was another major red flag.
When we arrived, there were lots of girls we didn’t know already there. I noticed that as the night wore on, Russell's behaviour became quite unsettling. His eyes appeared glazed, and with a bottle of water in one hand, he casually started to pick out girls from the crowd. Pointing to three girls sitting quietly at a table near us, he said, ‘You, you, and you. Come with me’ and gestured with his finger.
My jaw dropped.
Where was the flamboyant, cheeky persona we had all fallen for? His actions seemed void of any effort or charm, just straight, cold commands. The girls dutifully got up and left with him. I don't know where they went, but about 30 minutes later, Brand reappeared with a fresh t-shirt and a fresh bottle of water and began to scan the room to repeat the process. ‘You and you." curling his finger in their direction. 
I didn’t know, or speak to any of those girls on the night, so I don’t know their story or what happened when they left the lounge area.
I kept the youngest members of my team close, the ones I felt most responsible for. I remember an unfamiliar charge in the room, and I described Brand ‘like a shark circling prey’ when I chatted with one of his crew later that night.


I was relieved when my youngest left for home and the crowd started to thin out. Some of my remaining team were chosen to go to the penthouse, and as they pulled me into the lift with them, I knew it wasn’t a move orchestrated by Russell or his team, as I had already started to become a bit of a killjoy. Earlier, Brand’s co-writer had been very rude and blunt with a couple of my younger girls, and I challenged his behaviour. I told him I thought it was a shame such a clever, intelligent man would rely on such basic tactics.


Up in the penthouse, I struck up a conversation with an older member of Brand’s team, and within a few minutes, we decided to leave the party and go for a few late drinks elsewhere. We had a long chat, and I told him I’d never seen anyone behave like that in my life. He said he had been hired specifically because he had previously managed an act known for extreme behaviour, infamous on the touring circuit.
I repeatedly asked if Brand  had taken something because his demeanour that night was inexplicable to me otherwise. He said again and again that Brand wasn’t on anything and that it was his job to ensure he stayed clean. I remember him telling me that he wasn’t even drinking caffeine!


I certainly did not see anything illegal that night, and I can say, only in hindsight, that what I believe I witnessed was a man on the edge of fame, with a widening circle of enablers around him, some well aware and some less so. That circle included his team, promoters, and maybe even me, as I inadvertently brought my team, females only, to that afterparty, where he was allowed to act like a predator, grasping at anyone he wanted to get his hands on.
Of course, there are much more badly behaved people in the world, with more intricate, subtle circles of enablers, with more dangerous kinks, and while I acknowledge that being a predator is not illegal, I don’t believe their behaviour should go unchallenged.


I’ve since felt conflicted that I didn’t say more on the night. I’ve wondered why I didn’t refuse to go to the afterparty. Maybe I should have demanded that our male friends and partners be allowed to attend. But that night I was being paid to do a job, and I got caught up in the moment, excited to be invited to the after party and because I was such a huge fan, I didn’t see the red flags waving.


I remember at the time feeling disappointed by Brand’s actions that night. There were no jokes, no conversation that I could see; just a grown 6’3’ man with very big hair casting an intimidating figure, manically selecting prey from his tiers of female fans. It took years for me to process what I witnessed. I grappled with how to articulate it, as the vocabulary to describe the behaviour didn't exist back then. I’ve told many people since about that night, accepting that some girls knew exactly what they were doing and were fully consenting and in control. But if there was one who wasn't, then it was one too many. 
There may be thousands of women around the world who have slept with Brand and have had a happy, healthy experience, but if there is one who was sexually assaulted, then that is one too many.
People wonder why witnesses wait so long to come forward, but I understand that processing complex events can take years to comprehend and categorise. Without these multiple, serious allegations against Russell Brand, I would never have written this story for a newspaper. I’ve worked for 20 years as a journalist and would honestly prefer to avoid writing about badly behaved, self-confessed narcissists altogether.
Looking back on over 30 years working with creatives and celebrities, I’ve never witnessed that particular kind of chaotic environment since and is not something I’d like to witness again.
As for the conspiracy theorists who think there’s some 'state collusion' involved in taking Brand down - I’m certainly not part of any joint effort to discredit him. I don’t care if he upsets main stream media, single-handedly brings down big Pharma, or any other anti-establishment entity. This isn’t some vendetta against a controversial figure; it's about holding an individual accountable for their actions. If he’s guilty of any one of these horrid crimes, why wouldn’t I support a mass effort to shed light on it. I’d like to think we have evolved from the time where we would wait until the person was six feet under before telling the world that they were not a national treasure but a toxic ball of manipulation and chaos who got away with things for far too long.
 I know there are people convinced that Brand’s not capable of these alleged crimes. Maybe it will be proven that his behaviour was not against the law, but it’s a stark reminder that legality doesn't equate to acceptability. It's time everyone supported the evolving commitment to accountability and truth and for all involved in the entertainment industry to realise that backstage antics can be questioned, no matter how famous the person is or thinks they are. Just don’t expect to get invited to the after-after party.
As Phillipa Perry once said, 'Narcissists become fabulous at everyone’s expense”. Perhaps it's now time for accountability to take centre stage.

#russellbrand #metoomovement #sexualpredator 
Sara Colohan
Writer & Researcher