Russell Brand leads rent hike protest around Hackney
- Credit: Tolga Akmen
Left-wing comedian and self-styled revolutionary Russell Brand led Hoxton’s New Era residents who are threatened with eviction on a protest around their neighbourhood against their landlords.
Dressed as a street urchin, Brand marched with 92 families from the New Era estate in Whitmore Road, who fear their rent will quadruple to market rates by 2016 after the estate was bought out.
The star had invited people to join him for a day of “Dickensian fun” in protest against the “three Scrooges” – London Mayor Boris Johnson and the Benyon brothers.
Around 200 people stood chanting “Benyon Out”, in Southgate Road on Saturday morning as they blocked off traffic, as the group pinned a fake eviction notice to the door of the Benyon Estate.
The family firm, inherited by Britain’s richest MP Richard Benyon and his brother Edward, has 300 properties in De Beauvoir Town and is part of a consortium which bought the New Era estate this year along with American property firm Westbrook.
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Brand told the gathering: “Remember that for the people that live on this estate this is real.
“Some of us are entertainers amplifying and supporting, but 92 families are losing their homes because of greed, so we are here for a serious issue.
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“So all of us, especially me, I’m talking mostly to myself, keep our egos in check.”
The group then went around the corner to Northchurch Road to Edward Benyon’s own home, where Brand climbed up a ladder to post another banner saying: “Social housing not social cleansing” to scaffolding, just before police and a Hare Krishna food van arrived on the scene.
Brand, who presents his vision for a fairer society in his book Revolution which was published a fortnight ago, told the crowd that Benyon was probably at his stately home outside London rather than inside the property.
Lindsay Garrett who has lived on the New Era estate all her life and who helped organise the protest, is grateful for the publicity afforded by Brand, who has been supporting the group for the past four months since he saw their campaign stall in Hoxton Market.
She told the Gazette: “We couldn’t’ want better publicity or anyone better to support us, he’s a genuine lovely man who cares, it’s fantastic.
She continued: “Our main goal is to get Benyon to give us long term leases on social rents, or to sell the estate to someone who is going to offer us that, we aren’t going to stop campaigning until we get that, we are in it for the long haul.
“Otherwise we are going to lose our homes, it’s been really difficult.
“I feel excited now that this is happening, of course we have gone through every emotion, anger, upset, you name it, but I really think we have a good chance of making a difference, if we can make this much noise now what’s going to happen if we get evicted.”
The Benyon Estate was approached for comment.