Two high profile former druggies spoke with students at Stoke Newington School and Sixth Form earlier this month, (not on the same day) about the pitfalls you face if you go down that path. One brought his mum and the other brought a BBC film crew.
Russell Brand was there as part of a documentary he’s making, that will be aired to coincide with the 1st anniversary of Amy Winehouse’s death.
According to the schools newsletter, Brand went down a treat with the pupils: “Russell charmed staff and students alike with his warmth and humour – and hugs.
He encouraged and stimulated a really interesting discussion, which the students enjoyed. He was skilled in the way he listened closely and reflected on what they said, and he also enjoyed poking fun at ‘authority’.
At the end of the session he was extremely generous, complimenting students, allowing endless photographs and autographs and even more hugs”.
Shaun Attwood is no stranger to speaking of his former drug dealing life and his time in a US prison to audiences in Stoke Newington. Since his first appearance at the inaugural Stoke Newington Literary Festival he has been back and has also read extracts from his book at Story Tails.
This time round, he was accompanied by his mother Barbara, who regularly speaks at schools and promotes her sons book all over the UK. But watching a clip of her talk made me feel uncomfortable. She talks about how her sons incarceration affected her and the family, as she choked up and fought back tears.
Watching Barbara Attwood was like watching my mother, I felt a little guilty, because I knew at one point I put my family through the same thing and can’t imagine getting my mother to relive those torturous years over and over again in public. Unlike Barbara Attwood, my mum did not suffer a nervous breakdown, but had she, the last thing I would want her to do is to have to relive the pain I caused her so often, in front of strangers. That’s just me, but I’m sure it works well for the Attwood family. Maybe its cathartic for some, I don’t know
She clearly moved he kids and there was a roomful of them waiting to give her hugs at the end of the talk. Maybe that’s their hook, I don’t know, but I think watching Mrs Attwood’s brutal honesty and so visibly upset, is enough to make a child think twice. Still, I’m not naive enough to think their feelings of compassion lasts a life time, and when offered a line of cocaine, kettamine tablet or whatever new horse tranquilizer people digest, a few years down the road at a party, they’d have the good sense to say no.
I often wonder what good these talks from high profile re-formed druggies are for school kids, after all won’t they be more enamoured with having Russell Brand the celeb at their school. With Attwood, as much as he doesn’t glamourize his spiel, his whole repertoire smacks action or prison movie, that will keep children at the edge of their seats. I mean there is a reason people like true crime right? It’s entertaining.
I’m not a fan of Brand, I don’t get his humour, but following the article Brand wrote for The Guardian after Amy Winehouse’s death last summer, I was told by a reliable source that there is so much more to him. Apparently there’s a lot he doesn’t do in the glare of lights including helping a lot of people with their addiction problems and going as far as digging into to his own pockets”.
Reformed drug dealer and addict from Stoke Newington, Simon Mason, told me: “kids can be quite savvy and if some well oiled bloke comes into their assembly room, telling them drugs is bad for them, they know the score”.
6 years sober, and a drug Counselor, Mason reckons: “most of the kids don’t think it would happen to them, many of them can’t even relate to it, unless of course they know people in their family with a substance abuse problem. If you have a platform to talk to kids about drugs, the best thing is not to patronize them”.
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