Quenched launches Xpress charity project and album

Quenched Music - the Manchester-based music service that helps support artists and labels - has launched Xpress, a new cross-media campaign on behalf of CALM, the male suicide awareness charity. Computer Arts caught up with Ben Tallon, illustrator, designer and Quenched Music creative director to find out more...

Computer Arts [CA]: What is Xpress?

Ben Tallon [BT]: "Xpress is a transmedia awareness campaign on behalf of the charity, CALM. Suicide is the single biggest killer of young men under 35 and that shocked me. It's still a taboo topic in this country.

"Xpress focuses on the benefits of artistic expression, the many outlets within the arts, from attending a stand-up comedy night, to creating a painting. Hopefully Xpress will achieve greater exposure for creative individuals and show people ways into the arts."

CA: Why are you doing this right now? What's the aim?

BT: "I'm doing this because visual communication is the most powerful tool we have in the digital age. My work is my passion and it gets me out of bed, something that people suffering depression struggle to do. Many people go through life without ever discovering what they love doing or what they might be truly good at.

"I've had childhood friends on the phone threatening to take their own lives when they get so low and this is my way of reaching out to many people in their shoes.

"The aim is that we create a hub, where people from all walks of life can visit and learn about what's going without intimidation or stigma in the arts and hopefully discover something that activates something inside them. Just picking up a pen and writing thoughts can save a life and that's so powerful."

CA: How would you like our readers to get involved?

BT: "Readers can get involved in many ways. We're running a series of quick fire interviews called #whyigetoutofbed with the intention of showing the person's creative output and a little insight to the individual behind it.

"We're welcoming all - celebrities, people in full-time work who might just keep a notebook or play guitar, creative professionals. Email me on ben[at]quenchedmusic.com or tweet us at @xpresscalm using the hashtag #whyigetoutofbed and we'll send you the questions.

"You can also support the Xpress album. if we raise enough money to make 1,000 copies on CD, we can raise upwards of £10,000 for CALM's charity work. "

Xpress launch gig poster, Factory 251, Saturday 9 March 2013

Xpress launch gig poster, Factory 251, Saturday 9 March 2013

CA: Can you tell us about the history of CALM and what Quenched has been able to achieve so far?

BT: "The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) was set up in 1997 to prevent suicide. Three times as many men take their own life as girls because of stigmas such as pride and the perceived weakness in being seen to cry or share feelings. We are working on behalf of them, voluntarily.

"These guys do an outrageously good job on the help lines, through the CALMzine [CALM's official magazine] and at the CALM zones, where anyone can visit for help when they are very low. CALM seeks to:

  • "offer immediate support to men who are down or in crisis
  • "challenge a culture that prevents men seeking help when they need it, and challenge the stereotypes that prevent men talking about the issues they face. We want to change attitudes so that men feel able to seek help for themselves and create a climate of public opinion so that it’s acceptable for them to do so
  • "push for organisational change so that we better support those seeking help, support those who suffer from bereavement, and discover more about male suicide so that we can be in a better position to prevent it."

"Already our Xpress campaign is close to raising enough money to make the album, which includes The Strokes, The Libertines, Reverend & The Makers and the best new music from the UK and beyond. We did this with no budget, off our own back, thanks to the selflessness of the creative community and colleagues.

"We have the support of Steve Merchant, John Robb, Jon McClure and many more in the pipeline, opening the door to the many benefits of the arts. This will help support CALM, the creative community and new music. It is simply the biggest thing any of my team and I have done in our short careers."

Steve Merchant illustration by Ben Tallon, supporting its exclusive Xpress interview with him

Steve Merchant illustration by Ben Tallon, supporting its exclusive Xpress interview with him

CA: Why do so many men under the age of 35 kill themselves, do you think?

BT: "We all have our bad days. None of us have a clue why we're here or what's going on, so life is a struggle. Sadly, many are either too proud, embarrassed or don't have the people around them to express what is going on in their minds. Depression is an illness like any other and with no outlet, people cannot see any hope. It's shocking that there is not more support for this in my opinion.

CA: Is the situation now better / worse than when CALM was launched? How do you think things will change in the future?

BT: "CALM's work is making a difference on a daily basis and the more people support them with such projects as ours, the more outreach they'll have. CALM use the arts to great effect, working with guys like Eddie Temple-Morris and David Baddiel.

"In the future, I want to see men standing up and screaming about their depression and how they're dealing with it, not pretending everything is OK. Those Seventies stereotypes, the alpha-males - James Bond and the like - they were fiction.

"We're all human and we all hurt inside sometimes, but with role models like that, the older guys were taught to be rocks and that's not the reality. It's about getting those common flaws out in the open without shame."

CA: What can the current government do to help? What can we all do to help?

The current government can pull their heads out of their arses and realise the value of creativity. Instead they close youth centres and cut funding. When you slam the doors to kids who have not been fortunate enough to receive parental guidance, you're playing with fire." -- Ben Tallon

"Kids need to learn how to be physically active and to be creative. Without that, energy manifests itself in negative ways. Saving a few pennies now can potentially cost lives in the future.

"Regarding CALM, supporting charities like them cannot be understated, especially in a time like this with a government so clueless. I think it's important to stop and think about the person next to us from time to time. Check if someone is alright, people can get pretty good at putting on the brave face."

CA: Why is creative expression such an important outlet for men - and men under 35, in particular? Why aren't women affected in the same way?

BT: "CALM will help any gender. The ladies tend to turn to friends and family and maybe have a cry. They get depressed like anyone else, but the stigmas are not there and in society, it's seen as more acceptable to have a moment for girls.

"A conversation can seem unbelievably daunting if the things that need to be said are sensitive, so sketchbooks, online communities, going to a gig, they are all valuable alternatives, ways a person can communicate and share things. I have lost count of the times my drawings represent a frustration of my own. Without that channel, I'd be a much angrier man and anger is a dark emotion if it hangs around."

Xpress team from left to right: Sam Price, art director / designer; Ben Tallon, director; Dirty Freud, album curator; Danny Allison, photographer

Xpress team from left to right: Sam Price, art director / designer; Ben Tallon, director; Dirty Freud, album curator; Danny Allison, photographer

CA: What's next?

BT: "[The Xpress] album comes out on Sunday 3 May. This is something beautiful for new music and the artwork is stunning. More importantly, we can raise tens of thousands [of pounds] for CALM.

"The awareness campaign - Xpress - is here to stay. This is on behalf of CALM, but the message is applicable to anyone.

"I'm interested in hearing from anyone. I want to know if the maintenance guy at my flat ever draws or listens to music and what that does for him, so get in touch.

"We have some very cool, big names in the pipeline too, the sky is the limit when you're backed by a team with this much passion."

You can find out more about Quenched's Xpress awareness campaign by watching this YouTube video: