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Russell Brand backs Gravesend artist's exhibition in memory of brother Edward Barry

By Chris Hunter

Comedian, writer and activist Russell Brand has backed an artist's exhibition in memory of his brother.

Claude Barry, 24, will host an art exhibition at The Big Local hub in Rose Street, Northfleet, in July, in aid of DrugFAM charity, which helps families affected by addiction.

His brother Edward died aged just 14 in 2009 due to methadone and diazepam intoxication - and a case review later found there had been a serious failure of Kent County Council’s Children’s Social Services (CSS) in the case.

Claude Barry with DrugFAM founder Elizabeth Burton-Phillips
Claude Barry with DrugFAM founder Elizabeth Burton-Phillips

Now Claude is devoting his time to working in his memory and is determined to make his brother proud of his efforts - efforts which recently saw him announced as a Gravesham Arts sponsored artist for 2019/2020.

Things took a positive turn in 2017 when Claude launched an art competition while working at the Bench Cafe based at The Gr@nd Healthy Living Centre in Gravesend, and was overwhelmed by the entries.

“I thought if I can run this art competition maybe I can make my own art,” he said.

“I made a few of my own pieces and got one exhibited at The Saatchi gallery - which is pretty good for one year.”

Then last year Claude posted some thoughts inspired by his brother on Facebook, which led to him being approached by Elizabeth Burton Phillips MBE, the founder of DrugFAM.

Edward Barry, known to his family and friends as Ed, died in November 2009, aged just 14
Edward Barry, known to his family and friends as Ed, died in November 2009, aged just 14
Claude Barry's poster for the DrugFAM charity
Claude Barry's poster for the DrugFAM charity

In the post he explained how his brother’s death had led him to pursue a career in social work, adding: "After the death of my brother our family had to wait for years until the inquest into his death which prolonged the suffering and made it harder for us all to move on and grow.

"It is only in the past six months which I have really started to feel truly empowered to use this experience to the benefit of others.

"Whatever doesn’t kill us can only make us stronger and I feel a responsibility to Edward to use his life experiences in order to help people in similar positions in the future.

"I pointed out to a service user the other day that it is of no use to hold on to negative emotions, whether they are warranted or not.

"He was saying that the cause of his problems was a negative relationship he’d had in his life.

Claude Barry's poster of Russell Brand (10193641)
Claude Barry's poster of Russell Brand (10193641)

"I confirmed that yes the problems he experienced had likely causation from this negative relation, but by continuing to hate the person, he was continuing to allow the problems into his life.

"It is only through forgiving the social workers and system which failed Edward which I will be able to work to improve it in the future.

"It is only through forgiving the people who gave Edward methadone aged 13 which I will be able to form meaningful and supportive relationships with clients who may be making similar mistakes in their own lives."

And those thoughts must have struck a chord with the head of DrugFAM. “She got in contact with me after I did this essay,” added Claude.

“I had a meeting with her in London about becoming a young person’s ambassador for DrugFAM.

A piece of Claude's art inspired by a photo of him with his brother (10024152)
A piece of Claude's art inspired by a photo of him with his brother (10024152)

“I said to Elizabeth, 'do you think you can tell Russell Brand about my brother?'

“Afterwards I made 15 posters for DrugFAM and he sent them to me with his unique signature for DrugFAM which will be at the exhibition for sale.”

The exhibition - due to take place on Saturday, July 13 and Sunday, July 14 - will also feature pieces created at a workshop which Claude plans to host on Sunday, July 7.

Claude puts much of his recent success down to his work with the charity Action within Communities in Rural Kent who gave him social enterprise training while he was assistant manager of the Bench Café, and sent him on seminars in Cyprus, Romania and Spain to represent the charity and learn more about improving communities.

But above all he remains driven by the memory of his brother.

“I want to make him proud,” he added.

“Everything I’m doing is driven by my love for Edward.”

Read more: All the latest news from Gravesend

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