Jo Brand felt she couldn't 'make a fuss' after sexual assault at charity event, comedian tells Hay Festival

Jessica Carpani
Jo Brand was speaking at the Hay Festival on Saturday - COPYRIGHT JAY WILLIAMS

Jo Brand, the comedian and presenter, had said that she didn't feel she could "make a fuss" over a businessman who sexually assaulted her at a Canary Wharf charity event because they were "raising loads of money".

Brand told an audience at the Hay Festival that she failed to report a man who “stuck his tongue in my mouth” because she didn’t want to ruin the “jolly” atmosphere at a charity fundraiser.

The BAFTA winning comedy actress described the moment at a corporate charity event which took place at Canary Wharf that an intoxicated businessman who was trying to “put her back in her box” offered the comedian £200 for a kiss.

The 61-year old said: "They were all pissed, it was about nine o’clock in the morning and they were all sort of 35 year olds thrusting. So this thrusty guy comes up to me and he says I’ll give you £200 for your charity if you give me a kiss. I went oh god, alright then.”

Brand then offered her cheek in the spirit of charity when the man in question instead “stuck his tongue in my mouth. It was disgusting”.

"The thing was I thought to myself, this is a charity day everyone’s all jolly and we’re raising loads of money. Can I make a really massive fuss about that? To my shame, I didn’t. I just pretended it hadn’t happened and moved on.”  

Brand expressed her anger at the situation and said she was still unsure whether she should have said something, adding the man had “exploited” the fact everyone was “having a laugh, doing charity and having fun.”

 Jo Brand at the Hay Festival 

She went on to attack the business world for sidelining women, saying they attempt “to put you down” if women are “being gobby” or “appearing to be confident.”

When asked by host Stephanie Merritt if women have more permission to be angry, Brand responded “yes but not very and not for very long”.

Brand was at the event to promote her memoir Born Lippy: How to Do Female, a tongue-in-cheek advice book for teenagers based on all the things she wishes she’d known aged sixteen. She has two teenage daughters Maisie, 18, and Elisa, 16, with her husband Bernie Bourke.

The book includes advice such as what women can say if they encounter a man masturbating on public transport and how to address young people watching porn. Brand wittily retorts that you should “just say to them: we’re all going to sit down and watch it as a family”.

Brand has been vocal about her support of women who have encountered sexual assault in the past after she shut down an all-male panel on Have I Got News For You in 2017. The panel, which Brand hosted, included journalist Quentin Letts, comedian Miles Jupp, Ian Hislop and Paul Merton, who were discussing the Westminster harassment scandal.

When Hislop said the allegations were no “high-level crime” Brand interjected that “it doesn’t have to be high-level for women to feel under siege in somewhere like the House of Commons.

“Actually, for women if you’re constantly being harassed, even in a small way, that builds up and that wears you down.”

The episode received 234 complaints to Ofcom, the media regulator.