Russell Brand says 'junky town' comment was 'not serious'

PUBLISHED: 08:00 10 September 2012 | UPDATED: 09:29 10 September 2012

Russell Brand leaves The Playhouse theatre in Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset. 4 September 2012.

Russell Brand leaves The Playhouse theatre in Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset. 4 September 2012.

David Hedges / SWNS

A-LIST celebrity Russell Brand says comments he made labelling Weston a 'junky town' were 'not serious'.

Mr Brand was criticised after making the remark on Twitter, and responded by speaking to the Mercury shortly after his last-minute gig at The Playhouse on Tuesday night.

The tweet went out to Brand’s 5.3million Twitter followers last Thursday. The following day Weston mayor David Hitchins called the remark ‘disappointing’ and the town’s MP, John Penrose, said it was ‘out of date’.

News that the comic, who has starred in Hollywood blockbusters such as Rock Of Ages and Get Him To The Greek, would be playing at the High Street theatre only broke last Wednesday and the show sold out within a matter of hours.

Promoting the gig on Twitter, the 37-year-old, a recovered drug and alcohol addict himself, said: “Let me take you to JUNKY TOWN. Gig in Weston SM next Tuesday - COME!!”

Cllr Hitchins reacted to the Tweet by saying: “It is disappointing because I don’t think he has given the town a fair chance, or the people who are working here for the good of the town.

“It’s annoying that he has chosen to say this when he clearly hasn’t been here for a while and there are a lot of people here working hard for the benefit of Weston.

“When he comes I think he should have a good look around the town and see the real Weston.

“I have met with the stars and crew of The Café, which they were filming here over the summer, and they all said what a fantastic impression the town had made on them and how great it had been to film here.”

Referring to the mayor’s comments at Tuesday’s show, the comic, who recently divorced pop star Katy Perry, told the 600-strong audience: “I don’t mean to be rude, I think treatment centres are a good thing – I’ve just come from a treatment centre.”

He continued: “That mayor should focus a bit more on doing his job and not selling off that lido you’ve got [the Tropicana].”

Speaking to the Mercury after the show he said: “I’m not serious – I’m a recovering drug addict myself.”

But with Weston trying hard to rid itself of the image of being the nation’s rehab capital, Brand’s Twitter comments have been described as unhelpful.

Mr Penrose, who has spent his role as MP to fight for better treatment standards, said: “Oh Russell, you’re horribly out of date. We’re winning the fight against dodgy rehabs, as the Mercury reported two weeks ago.

“But thanks for reminding us about Funkytown – turns out it’s not a bad song at all.”

Peter Smith, development director at the renowned Broadway Lodge treatment centre off Oldmixon Road, said: “My first reaction to hearing the comments was that they are out of date, and knowing Russell as I do he often makes statements that are of a nature that is likely to result in some sort of reaction.

“Weston has come a long way and I would say that the focus in Weston now is very much on recovery and there are some very active groups to support people in recovery.”

The comments sparked a debate on the Mercury’s Facebook page, with many people agreeing with Brand’s remarks.

The Mercury has previously reported that the number of rehab premises in the town has dropped from 40 to 25 in recent years, while the number of patient beds has been reduced from 500 to 262.

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