Mental Health

“We want to be the biggest private provider of counselling in the country”: Meet the alternative club promoter who founded a mental health charity

After Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington tragically took his own life in 2017, alt. club night promoter Jack Davis founded the Uprawr Mental Health Foundation to provide counselling free of charge…

“We want to be the biggest private provider of counselling in the country”: Meet the alternative club promoter who founded a mental health charity
Rachel Roberts
Linkin Park photo:
James Minchin

Six years ago, our community lost one of its most loved figures. After Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington tragically took his own life, a photograph of the powerhouse vocalist spread across the internet – a stunning picture of him beaming ear-to-ear with his family, just days before his death. It was a sobering reminder that none of us ever truly know what’s going on behind someone’s eyes.

Many of us questioned what could be done to prevent a loss like this from happening again. How can we ensure our friends and loved ones don’t ever go through this?

Tucked away off a busy road in Birmingham city centre, alt. club promoter Jack Davis decided that he wanted to form a mental health charity, with hopes to offer free counselling to 18-35 year olds by therapists who love the same bands that we do.

It was when he left college in 2010 that he first launched Uprawr at The Asylum Venue. Over roughly six years, the emo club night expanded across seven different cities, with weekly events happening across London, Southampton, Bristol, Newcastle, Glasgow and more.

When we arrive at the hometown venue to interview Jack he takes us on a tour of the building, which spans a live music area, as well as a grungy bar sprawling with signed drum skins and pop culture posters, and a long corridor of music practice rooms.

He takes us inside one of them so we can chat uninterrupted, and inside sits two large couches, quotes from artists such as Yellowcard and Gerard Way on large posters, a candle, a box of tissues, and a table of snacks and bottled water. The vision, he explains, was to recreate what people imagine the backstage areas of gig venues look like, but one more suited to an environment for therapy.

Pictured above: The Uprawr counselling room

Jack’s own love for alt. music sprung from a Kerrang! compilation CD (you’re welcome!) gifted to him circa 2005. “I remember the first three songs on it were Linkin Park – Crawling, blink-182 – The Rock Show and Limp Bizkit – Break Stuff. In just those three songs, I was sold,” he remembers.

The Uprawr Mental Health Foundation officially took off in 2019, two years on from Chester’s death. Though Jack hadn’t had much experience with mental illness personally, the news of his passing hit hard.

Chester had been open about his struggles with mental health, and had previously spoken of being in therapy himself. “That highlighted that this is such a real thing, and there’s so many people around me that actually can’t get any help at all,” Jack says. “So that’s when I decided I wanted to do something.”

The gap between Chester’s death and the launch of the charity came down to financial barriers, and difficulty convincing the UK Charity Commission that this was a serious plan. “I saved the deposit for a house and then decided to use it to start the charity,” he explains. “It was a really long, miserable process. The Charity Commission just thought it was wildly inappropriate for us to do it. They hated the idea of a promoter setting up a mental health charity where we would provide the counselling.

“Obviously all of our counsellors are registered and they’ve got insurance, years of experience, and qualifications. Once we’d got all that in place for the Charity Commission to agree that the process was appropriate, then we got the actual certificate and became a registered CIO.”

Celebrity endorsements soon came in from the likes of local Brummies James and Oliver Phelps of Harry Potter fame, Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, and good friend of the Uprawr team, Adam Zindani of Stereophonics. But despite a successful launch event and such glowing support from industry figures, it was still challenging to find a financial model that worked – particularly with the pandemic following not long after.

For one-to-one in-person counselling, everyone is guaranteed a minimum of six sessions. So to put things into perspective, we ask Jack how much just one of those costs the charity. “It’s about £55 a session, but that’s the starting figure,” he shares. “That doesn’t include all the overheads, and it doesn’t cover things like having to pay for the promotion when we have sessions available.”

When spaces are available, those looking to seek support can contact the Uprawr Foundation through social media or via their website, where they will be put in touch with the head counsellor who will figure out who is best suited to them.

“We’ve got male and female counsellors. A couple of them are older, a couple of them are younger. It’s working out who they’re gonna feel most comfortable with,” states Jack.

“They don’t have to do six sessions, it’s just the minimum that we guarantee,” he continues. “If it gets to the end of the six sessions, and they [need more], we might give them another three and then re-evaluate. If it gets to the end and it’s clear that they don’t need it anymore but enjoy it, they have the option of paying for further sessions.”

The foundation also hosts group counselling. Originally, these sessions took place in-person to combat loneliness and isolation, but the charity are trialling virtual sessions to increase accessibility for those who aren’t local.

Pictured above: The Uprawr waiting room

“We want to be the biggest private provider of counselling in the country,” Jack says. “Our goal is to be on a level with things like Mind, CALM and Papyrus, but to actually be the one providing the counselling. Ideally we want to hit all the major cities over the next five years, and be growing online.”

The foundation doesn’t take funding from the NHS (according to Jack, some private counselling providers do), and they want to keep it that way by generating money through events hosted by the scene, for the scene. More will be announced about these in due course.

Right now, the Uprawr Mental Health Foundation is a dream in progress. But with the support of those who donate, it could be a complete game-changer for the accessibility of therapy. “I’ll probably be proud when we’ve helped, like, 1,000 people,” says Jack. “At the moment, [I feel] inspired, or the most motivated, when people do something for us. I just think it’s so cool.”

Though Jack isn’t a counsellor himself, he does offer one nugget of advice that sticks with us after we leave. “If you’re somebody that goes through life without making a mistake, then you’re a loser because you haven’t done shit,” he says. “No-one can get things right every single time, the best we can hope for is to just keep throwing shit at the wall, and see what sticks.”

If you’d like to help, you can best support the charity by donating via the big button on their website, or straight through Facebook or Instagram. But further than that, any type of fundraiser, such as a sponsored walk or skate, is greatly appreciated by the team.

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