Eddy Temple-Morris’s own involvement with the Campaign Against Living Miserably came in the wake of the suicide of Ou Est Le Swimming Pool frontman Charles Haddon. Sadly, this is often how people come to be involved with this charity, which aims to lower the rate at which young men take their own lives. But that involvement, though it comes from sadness, is a positive thing. And there’s a similar story to go with CALM’s presence at the Secret Garden Party festival this year, as Eddy describes here.
“This is a serious party”
That’s what the sign said, in paint, on wood, nailed to a long pole and held aloft by the same colourful character, year in year out, at Secret Garden Party. His name is Vito and he is just one of the 24,000 secret gardeners that made the festival so special for the past many years. He walks around the site, spreading good feeling, laughter, all the good stuff, which adds to all the others doing similar, delightfully bonkers and joyful random acts, to make that weekend the best weekend of the year for everybody in the know.
With SGP, and festivals in general, very much on our minds of late, I’ve recently been working on a plan with my wonderful colleagues on the music board of CALM, the male suicide charity we all work with. The plan is very simple. We want to have a CALM presence at the festivals. Though, we all quickly agreed, something more meaningful than a simple CALM-branded ‘chill out area’.
Jane, the incredible driving force behind the charity, pointed out that the biggest queue she’d ever seen at a festival was for a tent that offered free tea and toast. Maybe we should do that, she suggested. Brilliant. A well timed cuppa can be like a hug from your mum, and a couple of slices of toast – when your energy levels are down or you’re running low on cash – are like a kiss to go with that hug. Plus tea and toast are a classic way to get you in the right frame of mind for a chat. And that is golden. I’ve said before how important the most basic form of communication is in the fight against depression and suicide amongst young people.
But I felt we needed to make that simple brilliant idea a little more quirky, to ensure our tea drinkers and toast eaters would become fully aware about what CALM is all about, and to encourage them to start communicating in a more purposeful way.
So I suggested this. Free tea and toast in exchange for something each festival-goer can give us for free, and something that will help them and other people at the same time. To get your tea and toast all we ask is this: You get something off your chest. Anything. Anything at all. And there will be several ways of doing it.
You could write it down, anonymously as you like, and pin it to the corked wall of the tent along with, hopefully, hundreds more. Or you could put it on a digital wall on the CALM website, in a similar fashion. Or you could record it as a voice note, there and then, or record yourself in a little photobooth type thing that we’ll put in there.
We will then take these random outpourings, musings, offerings, and make them available for anyone to see, and hopefully empathise with. I must stress that you’d be in control of what to say, how to say it, and how anonymous you wanted to be. But fingers crossed, we’ll end up with a tent buzzing with people and positive vibes. Boys and girls alike, chatting, eating, looking, absorbing and being encouraged to be more open and communicative. That seems like a good deal to me.
We’d encourage our friends on the bill at these festivals to swing by and drink the same tea, and eat the same toast, for the same exchange. Just one of the things that’s on their mind, brought into the open and shared in one way or another. Just one Zane Lowe or Mike Skinner turning up would help boost awareness exponentially.
So sorted, our idea was in place. But – of course – there’s still that big question: who pays for all of this? If you read this column regularly, you’ll already be aware that CALM is one of the most under funded and catastrophically ignored charities in the UK, so we’d have to get help.
Help normally comes to CALM because of something heart breaking. I think every single one of us working with CALM has been personally touched by the cruel hand of depression and suicide. A family member or a friend, who has decided there is no other way than to end their life. I know several people for whom this tragedy has happened more than once, some even several times. Sometimes this catastrophe happens far away. Sometimes it happens all too close to home.
Now, back to the festival plan. I recently joined Freddie Fellowes, one of my favourite human beings and the Head Gardener of Secret Garden Party, to do an interview for Artrocker TV. At the end of it, the very supportive and convivial host asked me about CALM, he being aware of my involvement with the charity, and my penchant for getting awareness up. And then said host inquired what we had planned for the summer.
So I told him about our tea and toast idea, adding that I’d like to use the opportunity to reach out to a festival or brand who might be able to help us realise this dream. Freddie’s ears pricked up straight away, and when the interview finished he leaned over and told me he wanted to talk to me about the CALM tent idea, as soon as he was back from the trip he was about to leave for. And he sounded serious. And motivated. Quite how serious and motivated became apparent a few days later when Freddie’s name flashed up on my phone.
He asked me if I remembered that colourful character with the sign that said “this is a serious party”. I said yes, of course I did, along with all the other SGP institutions, like the guy who always talks into a banana like it’s a mobile phone, or the gorgeous, white Bull Terrier bitch with a pink tutu.
Then Freddie told me that this sweet man had come to that awful crossroads that some of us get to and decided that rather than talking to someone, he felt he had no other option than to end it all. He took his own life in May.
Freddie was distraught but focused. “Eddy I love your free tea and toast idea. I want to pay for it. I want to make it happen for you. In fact, I want Secret Garden Party to make it happen and more than that, I want CALM to become the official charity of the Secret Garden Party, and I want to help you make CALM the default charity for anyone in the business of music, festivals, entertainment. I’ll give CALM a donation every year, on a sliding scale depending on how SGP does”.
So it looks as if the music board of CALM just expanded to the tune of one of my favourite humans. And, thanks to Freddie and SGP, the festival CALMzone is becoming a reality. Of course it’s happened in a bittersweet way, as these things often do. We always get spikes of interest after tragedy. The bigger the tragedy the greater the spike. When Gary Speed took his own life the clicks to theCALMzone.net went through the roof. It is what it is. I wish it didn’t happen that way, but it always will.
My heart goes out to Vito Neo Reargo and his family, and my heartfelt thanks go to Freddie and the entire SGP team for this beautiful and generous gesture. When tragedy comes, and it always comes, I reconcile it by looking for positives. That’s how I’ve always dealt with life. Vito has, unknowingly, now left a legacy and his dreadful passing will, year upon year, prevent so many families and friends going through the same tragedy. And that, my friends, is something of a triumph.