What is Russell Brand’s Trew Era cafe doing for Hoxton?

Russell Brand addresses New Era protestors. Pic: Ben Maloney

Russell Brand addresses New Era protestors. Pic: Ben Maloney

The opening of a new themed cafe in Hackney doesn’t usually call for half of the capital’s photographers to descend on the Kingsland Road. But then Russell Brand isn’t often there to fling its doors opening.

Though the ribbon and oversized novelty scissors might have been lacking there was no lack of ceremony from the comedian and activist as he opened the Trew Era Cafe at the scene of one of his greatest victories on the New Era estate.

Brand had been instrumental in drawing attention to the struggle of residents on the Hoxton development, who faced being removed from their homes by Westbrook Partners. They successfully convinced the international housing developers to sell the 93 homes in December of last year after a campaign that saw hundreds march on Downing Street.

There was a celebratory atmosphere outside the cafe, which had previously been unoccupied, with NewEra4All leaders Lindsey Garrett (whose homemade cheesecakes were a hit with those who made it inside the packed cafe), Danielle Mollinari and Lynsay Spitteri joining the crowds just before Brand’s arrival.

For the three women who had done so much to overturn impossible odds this was a day of celebration, even if Garrett was nursing a broken toe. Mollinari said she had enjoyed the “weird party” atmosphere of the day, though the cameras convinced her “she would not be a celebrity for all the money in the world”, and was delighted to share the moment with Brand, a Hollywood A-lister and a close friend.

Welcoming the crowd of well-over 100 who had braved downpour and freezing conditions the 39-year-old, who had just been voted the fourth most influential thinker by Prospect magazine, was in an excitable mood. “I feel like a minor royal without the allegations,” he told the audience, which included the odd punter looking for a latte amongst the crowd of photographers.

Having recently rebranded a newsagents around the corner The Trews Brand sees no end in sight for his brand of true news. He plans for Trew Era to be the first of many, with all of the cafes sourcing local produce. They will also employ recovering drug addicts as staff.

But that is only where the project begins, with the Revolution author setting out plans that aim to challenge capitalism itself.

“We will start more and more of these enterprises, eventually we will trade with one another in our own currency. We are going to create our own systems, our own federations, our own authorities.”

Joining the crowd were another of Brand’s collaborators, north London collective The Kindness Offensive. The charity, founded in Hampstead in 2008, is world famous for its random acts of kindness, including its annual giveaway of millions of pounds worth of Christmas presents. To celebrate the Trew Era opening they had packed their psychedelic double decker bus-cum- retro diner with bikes, stuffed animals and toys for local children whilst boogy-woogy tracks emanating from the buses jukebox helped chase away any downpour blues.

Robert Williams, a former musician who had recorded with Muhammad Ali before joining the Kindness Offensive in 2010, described meeting Russell Brand.

“I was working in our Islington bookshop over the weekend when a friend of mine said, ‘there’s someone downstairs who wants to talk about social media’. And there was Russell. So we started having a chat, I mentioned the bus and he said,’let’s have a look at that.’ He said he’d love to have this at the opening of our cafe.”

Collaborating with the Kindness Offensive is further evidence of the vision Brand is bringing to the Trews, collaborating with like-minded organisations as he looks to build momentum for his revolution. Will a Hoxton coffee shop be the start of something bigger? If his track record on the estate is anything to go by you’d be unwise to doubt him.

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