Words by Abi Scaife
Rough Trade is a name that all musicians, music geeks, and vinyl record collectors know. They’re the holy grail of music stores, and everyone knows that it’s because of their care for the music industry as a whole. Their latest partnership - with mental health charity CALM - is further proof of this.
“It was very important that the charity that we work with, not only reflected our values as a business, but it would be a charity that really resonated with our employees,” explains David Anderson, who heads up HR at Rough Trade. “The majority of [our employees] are under 30 across the whole business. When you consider the suicide rate in people of that age group, it felt like CALM was going to be a really good charity for us to work with and support and our staff seem to feel the same way as well. They've really got behind this collaboration.”
CALM - which stands for the Campaign Against Living Miserably - is an incredibly important charity, which focuses on ending suicide in the UK, as well as supporting those who have been affected by suicide.
The statistics speak for themselves on how important their existence is - according to the CALM website, 125 lives are lost every week to suicide, and 75% of all UK suicides are male. The numbers are enough to make you dizzy, and more than ever it shows how important it is for businesses, with all the power they hold, to be taking a stand - as well as average Joes like us.
“CALM is a smaller charity and [doesn't] have as much exposure, particularly outside of London,” adds David. “The work that they do takes a lot of funding, and as the pandemic hit everybody, it hit small charities really hard as well and they're very honest about how it's made continuing to run the charity harder at a time when people need it more than ever.”
“The things that have impacted the charity and the ability to fundraise, like the pandemic cost of living crisis, [and] the rate of inflation, that's also what's affecting the people that are most affected by issues of poor mental health and suicide.”
The COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact on finances for everyone - charities as well as people. As David rightly points out, this time when CALM are struggling to get the money they need for their life-saving work, is when they are needed more than ever.
According to The Mental Health Foundation, financial stress has a huge impact on our mental health - affecting our sleep, relationships with the people around us, and so much more. All of the things financial stress restricts us from doing contribute to that idea of living miserably - and that’s something CALM are fighting to end.
Still, the partnership between Rough Trade and CALM got off to a flying start with their launch party - something Smiley News covered when it happened. The numbers weren’t available then, but according to David, it was an incredible success, with hundreds turning out to support CALM and the work that they do.
“We had three bands playing - Floodlights, Hatchie and Human Interest who are three incredible bands,” says David. “All the proceeds of the show went to CALM - we used the show to really kind of highlight the fact we were supporting CALM and what CALM does. [The show] alone raised just over £2,500 for the charity - we thought it was incredible.”
But why did so many Rough Trade customers care so much? Well, apart from the fact that we should all care, working in the music industry is harder than ever. For so long already, it has been a lonely business, with complex schedules, late nights, and incredible pressure to appear just right.
“We have a lot of musicians who work in our stores and in our warehouse. And working in the music industry is tough - there are long days and late nights and long tours and no job stability, and all of that really impacts on people's mental health,” says David. “With Brexit, touring internationally, particularly in Europe, has become incredibly expensive. Bands don't make money from touring anymore but they still have to do it in order to get their music out to more people. It's something which needs to be addressed in a wider way - it's not always sustainable.”
That’s why, with every Rough Trade purchase - whether in-store or online - customers are being given the opportunity to donate to CALM. Whether that’s £3 to fund ten potentially life-saving WhatsApp conversations, £6 for bereavement support for a family, or £8 to fund a phone call with someone who is struggling, the money from their customers is going to great use.
“We were really lucky that through working with CALM, they offered our teams some training in order to enable them to better talk to customers about the partnership,” adds David. “There's a lot of stigma attached to suicide - and it's not easy to talk about, regardless of who you are, whether you've experienced it, whether you haven't and from that training and the fact that they are genuinely invested in what the charity does, has meant that we can make a success of it.”
“[Our employees] have responded really positively. We could have worked with probably lots of other charities but that's why this one was so important to us. Because we knew that it would be something that would really hit home with our staff.”
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
Campaign to End Loneliness. This charity campaigns to make sure that people most at risk of loneliness are reached and supported. Support them here.
Samaritans. Samaritans works to make sure there's always someone there for anyone who needs someone. Find out more here.
Ripple Suicide Prevention. R;pple exists to ensure immediate mental health support is presented to individuals following a harmful online search. Learn more here.