Inside One Student Startup Fighting Depression With Music

Messenger Jack Toole, 20, from Runcorn, makes himself at home in the Student Problems office. Kicking back …read more

Jack Toole, 20, from Runcorn, makes himself at home in the Student Problems office. Kicking back in a comfy chair, he has the laid-back presence of someone older than his years.

He founded Walrus, a start up music company that is taking on depression head first, last year – with high goals in mind. 

Jack, casually, says he aims to raise 10k for mental health charity MIND by halfway through the year. 

“10 grand was probably the safe option for us,” he smiles, “and we’re looking to do it in a six month timeframe.” 

They’re set to do this via a host of gigs and magazines released throughout the next few months – and has some serious talent on board to help him out.

The aim came after Jack lost four people in four years – with three of them dying due to suicide.

“The losses essentially changed my viewpoint on work. Why would I do all this just for profit without helping people who need it,” he ponders to himself.

The team at Walrus is 11 people strong, though it more closely resembles a creative movement like hip hop groups Brockhampton or Odd Future than a traditional company.

“This isn’t a company but a movement of people,” he proudly proclaimed on a Facebook post dated January 1st.

What he tells us reflects this pretty accurately.

“Walrus the magazine is the umbrella company. We do events for either the charity campaign, or for profit, off the back of that,

“We manage two bands, Dolphin Centre and Delights. Obviously, we can’t ask them to give their entire profits to charity.”

He’s confident that he’s got the talent to make a real change.

“We want to create a real buzz about what we’re doing, because I feel we deserve it. What we’re doing is good enough for people to engage with it.”

Walrus’ core four members are Ollie Wolston-Croft, who handles the graphic design and animations. Perry Brandon Leach as a photographer and Ben Livingston – who Jack describes as his “left hand man,” as well as a host of peripheral writers, photographers and designers.

When recruiting people to his team, Jack has one goal.

“I can tell from the first five minutes of my opening statement if they’re on board – if they’re passionate about the same goals I am. Helping people.”

It’s because of this that the team feels filled with such purpose. They certainly know what they’re doing when it comes to alternative, exciting art. 

“As students ourselves, we find it hard to part with five pounds sometimes. We created the magazine and the events so that for their five pounds they’re receiving something in return,

“They’ll come and have a great night at one of our events, because we plan our events to be great. We don’t just want to put on events for the sake of it,

“We want to enrich the music industry and to never have people just say ‘you’re another production company.”

NOW WAVE are a huge inspiration for the team at Walrus.

“With YES (the Mancunian music venue) they’ve literally created a new hub for music in Manchester. I hope one day Walrus can do the same. Not to compete, but to create more space for artists.”

Creating more space for artists to exist and thrive is part of Team Walrus’ long term plan.

“We want to be someone that people look at and go ‘they changed the narrative.’”

Before Walrus, Jack worked (and continues too) with the youth ministry of his local church – named New Normal UK.

“They go into schools and they teach about positive lifestyle choices. They go to areas with high deprivation and help people who struggle to express themselves.”

But he isn’t religious as such.

“I grew up in church but I’m still figuring it all out, I’m 50/50. I do believe and I don’t.”

But has the Christian upbringing has influenced the direction his life has taken?

He pauses.

“The way I’ve been brought up by my Mum and Dad, with Christian values, might be the way Walrus is the way it is.”

He snaps out of the reverie to discuss his biggest influences, naming internet celebrity entrepreneur Gary V alongside his Mum, Dad and old college tutor.

After a year of A Level Engineering, Jack decided he was after something different.

“I really, really hate this,” he was thinking. Bored and fidgety, he decided to make the leap to move cities at the age of 16.

The course he wanted wasn’t available in Runcorn, so he holed up in Manchester to learn events management four years ago.

A full UK tour for Delights quickly followed; and he sold out Manchester’s iconic Band On The Wall whilst he was still in college – twice.

“My college tutors were like, there’s about 20 people who’ll turn up – then 300 people arrived,”

“A lot of people say they get their joy from playing on stage. My joy is standing at the back of a gig.”

It’s clear from the way he expresses himself Jack has heady heights in mind for Walrus. They’ve already been communicating with several businesses and charities around the city, looking for partnerships to further the brand.

Before that, though, It’s all about the initial £10k.

“We’ll see where it ends up,” he smiles.

Send this to a friend