Friday, 12 December 2014

Inspirational Interview - Given To Live

Christmas is a time of giving. Whether it's your time, your talents, or your money, Christmas is the season when we bless other people (although we should, admittedly, try and do it every day!). Given To Live are a project that embodies this spirit all year round by giving the gift of live music to those who may not ordinarily be able to experience it.

Recently I had the chance to chat to Given To Live's founder, Tom Pugh. Here's what he had to say. Hi Tom! Thanks for stopping by!

What was your background before you decided to start GTL?
Prior to Given To Live I had been fundraising in various capacities direct for the charity or through fundraising organisations. I am also a qualified holistic massage therapist and am re-starting practising as it's both grounding and something that I enjoy on a soul level.

How long did it take to get from the initial idea to where you are now? Was anyone else involved in the initial set up? Do you have anyone working with you now or is it just you? What’s the process behind setting up a charity?
It took five months from idea to start. I met someone who has a charity, Eudaimonia, that's purpose is to support projects to come into being. At the moment we are a project within a charity and have started taking the steps to become a charity in our own right. Currently I am alone with a few people who volunteer to help where they can and where necessary as they simply love the idea of what Given To Live is out to achieve.

How did Given To Live start and what inspired the idea? What’s the ethos behind the idea? And who’s eligible to take part?
The idea came to me after a Pearl Jam show last November and initially I thought to help fellow PJ fans who couldn't make shows through illness and crisis, knowing if someone has invested to go to a show there can be significant financial loss. Then I thought if I'm going to do this it needs to be bigger. All live music and I use the term vulnerable and excluded as to who Given To Live support to give us the opportunity to help as many as possible. This can mean elderly with dementia, survivors of domestic abuse, young carers, disability, mental health issues and so much more. I think we, as a society, often overlook or forget about so many sections of our society and I want Given To Live to be inclusive.

Music is so powerful. So many people have their own stories of why a particular song or band means something to them. Often it's a band, an album, a song, that gets people through turbulent times. I know music has saved lives.

Going to a live show is a gift that I realised I took for granted when I could go. There have been times when I couldn't go when I have been struggling and it would have been just what I needed. I want Given To Live to make live music possible for everyone and it isn't. Whether the obstacle is mental health, physical disability or financial let's make this happen.

Given To Live have had some huge successes over the previous months. How did they come about and what are your thoughts on them?
We have. The first step is receiving an application and then getting board approval. From there it comes down to sourcing tickets. The meet and greet aspect is a cherry on the top as our remit is to provide funding for tickets, transport and, if necessary, accommodation. To have meet and greets with both the Foo Fighters and Shane Filan was simply beyond my wildest expectations and I can't thank those who helped make these happen from the ground up enough. Fellow music fans with no investment other than wanting dreams to come true via social media through to management and the artists saying yes.

What inspires you to keep going?
Easy question. The looks on the faces, the messages after saying how positive an impact has had. Scarlett's mum telling me her dream was to win the lottery so she could pay for Shane Filan to shake Scarlett's hand and knowing that evening we had made a mum's dream for her daughter come true as well as Scarlett's. The joy of those who helped make it happen. It's a very humbling and beautiful experience.

Recently you were involved in a campaign to help change the secondary ticketing market for live music. What are your thoughts on this and what changes would you like to see made to the live music industry? How can people on the street get involved?
I'm 47 and remember buying tickets off touts in my younger days. I was brought up seeing my dad do this at football matches if we had no tickets so it was normal for me. And if someone wants to stand outside in the pouring rain, behaving shiftily with people mostly despising you and sell tickets I'm ok with that. There is always going to be someone who couldn't get a ticket for whatever reason and be willing to pay. It's a very old profession and it wouldn't surprise me if there were touts outside the Coliseum.

What really bothers me is now we have the internet touts are getting hold of so many tickets, bought by automated bots, that they can set the market and sell via the internet with no regulation. It means genuine fans have much less of a chance of getting tickets in a sale because up to 60% of tickets have been known to end up in the hands of touts and immediately the resale market becomes inflated. We know also some bands give tickets to touts to re-sell and that, for me, is simply fleecing your own fans.

A great campaign amongst Foo Fighters fans here in the UK happened on twitter #NoMoreTouts. This resulted in the Foo Fighters having their own #BeatTheBots where the initial onsale for their 2015 US tour was in person at the box office before there was an internet sale. This is something all bands could do. And this also bring in a sense of community that is also part of the live experience. The campaign can be found at

The government can also choose to regulate the secondary market. And it's as simple as that, a choice.

How can people get involved with Given To Live? And where can we find you online?

There you can find out more, donate and make applications.

We're tiny right now. Not really known about so sharing us and liking us on facebook is great exposure, the same with twitter- the links are on our website. Talk about us, fundraise for us. Tell bands, managers, agents about us. If people want to be involved please contact us. I am grateful for all help and suggestions.

Finally, if you could change one thing to make the world a better place, what would it be?
Due to my own personal experiences I truly believe if everyone went into weekly therapy and weekly bodywork for two years we would live in a much healthier and more conscious world. As a collective consciousness grew we would have less war, less greed, less environmental destruction. More compassion, more empathy, more joy.

So, two years weekly bodywork and therapy for everyone over the age of 14.

"One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice -- determined to do the only thing you could do -- determined to save the only life you could save." Mary Oliver

Given To Live's next fundraisers are at Wembley on June 19th and 20th (the weekend of the Foo Fighters shows). Come along, say hi and enjoy some awesome live music before AND after you rock out with the Foos. 


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