Interview: Rachel Clare [Campaign Against Living Miserably]

In our latest feature interview, we have a chat to Rachel Clare, editor of CALMzine (charity magazine), and www.thecalmzone.net.

“We are small but we have a big mouth!”

CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a notable male suicide prevention charity set up in 1997. It was first set up in Manchester following a rise in male suicide in that area, and has since been extended to Merseyside in 2000, and London in 2011. Gary Numan and Officers have released a collaboration track ‘Petals’ with all proceeds going to CALM most recently, and there have been a number of exciting events held all in aid of raising awareness and funds for the truly remarkable organisation. Here, we talk to Rachel about the success of CALM, plans for 2013, and how the charity has achieved so much despite only having six members of staff, “We are essentially very small, but we have a very loud mouth!”

As we kick off our conversation, Rachel tells us a little about how CALM was set up by Jane Powell with the help of a famous record label owner, “It was set up as a department of health government initiative with the help of Tony Wilson of Factory Records – In 2005 the funding was cut, so Jane stepped in and established it as a charity, which is where we are now.” She adds, talking of the reason of CALM’s existence, “Suicide is still the biggest killer of males under the age of 35 – it’s a huge area that needs to be addressed.” The editor goes on to explain a little about what the charity does, “There is a huge stigma surrounding depression, people don’t like talking about it – we try to break down those stigmas and get men talking, and to get them to realise that it’s incredibly common. We all feel sh*t at one time or another but there are always other options.”

Moving on, Rachel explains the impact that CALM has had in the Merseyside area over the last 10 years, “When we set up in Merseyside, suicide rates were much higher than the national male average, so there was obviously a problem there. Since we’ve been working there, and really established ourselves, we’ve seen the suicide rate drop by 50 per cent, which is about 20 per cent lower than the national average”, she adds with pride, “obviously we can’t take the entire credit for that, but we like to think we have been instrumental in that reduction.”

Rachel exudes great modesty during our time with her, and goes on to acknowledge that their small organisation couldn’t have achieved so much without the help of some great people, “We are always so humbled by the stuff that people do.” Rachel goes on the explain her amazement at the album ‘Thirty One Songs’, which was released last year with all proceeds going to CALM. It featured songs given to them from various artists from the Manchester scene such as Noel Gallagher, Elbow and Mr Scruff. “Once people know about it, things start to happen!” We then talk about the latest exciting collaboration track ‘Petals’, “The Numan and Officers thing came through one of our most incredible advocates Eddy Temple-Morris. Eddy heard the Officers album and thought Gary Numan would love it, which he did, and that gave birth to the collaboration track ‘Petals’ which is out now.

“It’s been a lot of hard work getting musicians on board, but I think actually, the minute that these guys understand what we’re about and what we’re trying to achieve and how we’re trying to achieve it, people come on board 100 per cent.”

We converse about some of the great sponsors that CALM has on board such as MTV and Topman, which leads Rachel to discuss some of the memorable events that have been in aid of the charity, “Our Topman launch in London last year was really cool; Eddy [Temple-Morris] pulled it all together. We did a DJ shop-floor battle, where we had a line-up that could have put a massive European dance festival to shame. We had: Zane Lowe, Rob Da Bank, Huw Stephens, Hervé, Kissy Sell Out – and they were just in the middle of the shop floor surrounded by shoppers at the Oxford Circus Topman for about eight hours. It was amazing!”

Our final topic of conversation, before we ask about exciting future events to be held for CALM, is the charity’s awards that they won in 2012. They had a remarkable year, being nominated as IPC Media’s official charity in 2013, and has been honoured by The Guardian Charity Awards 2012.  Rachel says, “Because we’re so small, to get this kind of thing is amazing and it’s instrumental for us as a charity to help us grow.

“I think what’s really great about it is it means that the message is getting out there – people are starting to realise that this is an incredibly worthy cause.”

To conclude, Rachel lets us in on a couple of this year’s plans, “We’ve got a very talented chap called Ben Tallon, who’s up in Manchester, and he’s launching what’s called Xpress Project which is going to manifest itself in a website and an album, and it’s basically going to be raising awareness of everything that CALM wants to achieve, but it’s about people expressing themselves through creative means. That should be getting launched in February.”

We wish the best of luck to the Rachel and all the folks at CALM and very much look forward to seeing the impact they make in the future. Just before we leave, Rachel bestows us with a final message, “Being silent isn’t being strong, and that goes across the board to men and women. To ask for help is an act of bravery, it’s not a sign of weakness.”

Josh Saunders

About Josh Saunders

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