For the third year in a row, we caught up with Florida-based organization To Write Love On Her Arms on Warped Tour. This year, Sami Marshall spoke with TWLOHA intern Harry Allen.
With this being Harry’s first summer in America and his first time on Warped Tour, the two had lots to chat about. They discussed how he first got involved with TWLOHA, his rediscovered love for the punk scene, and why your story is important.
Check out our exclusive interview with Harry after the jump!
You can catch Harry and the rest of the To Write Love On Her Arms crew out on Warped all summer long. You can buy concert tickets here. And be sure to stop by and say “Hey” to him on your date!
Infectious Magazine: First off, can you introduce yourself and what you do for To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA)?
Harry Allen: My name is Harry and I was an intern for To Write Love in the spring of this year and then they asked me to do Warped Tour for them over the summer.
IM: Awesome! How did you get involved with the organization?
HA: I heard about the organization when I was 14, so about 10 years ago, probably through the punk rock scene, like Warped Tour and stuff. I probably saw Hayley Williams or someone wear a t-shirt. I Googled them and found out who they were. It really connected with my own story and helped me with my own struggles. As an adult, I worked in the mental health scene back home, in England. But the prospect of work with TWLOHA has always been on my mind and I applied to the internship this spring.
IM: TWLOHA and music go hand-in-hand. Why do you feel that Warped Tour is an important place to spread the word about you guys?
HA: I think Warped Tour in particular does it really well by creating a safe space for everyone. We at To Write Love really think these kinds of issues affect everyone, they don’t have favorites. Anyone can be affected by depression or addiction, things like that, so I think it’s important that we’re here because it’s such a diverse crowd. It creates this really safe space for people and what they’re going through. It’s great to see so many other non-profits here as well, who do similar work to ours.
IM: I want to talk about a recent controversy that happened on Warped with a band getting kicked off this year’s tour for yelling rude things at a female concert-goer. And there’s been a lot of talk around the music scene about keeping it a safe place, the most recent event being the tragedy at the Ariana Grande show. How do you feel a safe space can be created when it comes to live shows?
HA: I found that Jamie [Tworkowski] wrote a really great article about this kind of thing. It was in response to the Paris attacks. He wrote a really fantastic piece on our website about concerts and safety and love. But I think just knowing everyone is there for the same reason, and remembering you’re all there because you have this mutual love and enjoyment for whoever is playing or whatever is going on. If someone next to you falls, you pick them back up. Having everyone’s back around you and knowing they have yours. Just looking out for each other.
IM: This year, Kevin Lyman took Warped Tour back to it’s roots. How do you feel about the lineup as a whole?
HA: So this is my first Warped Tour. This is my first summer in America. The punk scene, punk rock and pop punk, were something I loved when I was a teenager. 14-year-old Harry would be loving it right now. It’s something I’ve not necessarily followed as an adult. So when I saw the lineup, there wasn’t loads of bands I recognized. But now, being on the tour, and listening to them, it’s a great lineup! There’s so many bands that I love, like The Gospel Youth, Neck Deep, Save Ferris, Being As An Ocean, there’s countless more. That’s been really fun to find so many new bands. Being at the tent, I can ask the kids who they’re excited to see, and they just reel off a huge list. So clearly the people who follow the scene and know the bands, it’s a great lineup! I think they’re doing really well.
IM: Are there any bands on your must-see list that you try to see each day?
HA: With our booth, we’re placed differently each day. We never know which stage we’re gonna be near. I think as of now, we’ve been near every stage. We’re always happy when we’re near the Skull Candy Stage or Hard Rock Stage, whichever stage has Alestorm. They’re lots of fun! We really, really like them. We’ve become good friends with The Gospel Youth and Save Ferris as well. We really love listening to their sets.
IM: Each year, Warped does the Think TEI workshops. Is there a class this year that you would take if you could?
HA: I’ve seen them happening. I’ve walked passed them. Having sat at the tent everyday, I’ve yet to have the chance to actually go and explore and see any of the other non-profits and what they’re doing. But I’ve seen people sitting there doing the workshops. Hawthorne Heights are really great guys. “How to remain positive during dark times.” That sounds like something I would go to! Especially being on the road. I’ve never toured before, so this is all totally new to me. So that would be my one of choice.
IM: If you could, what kind of class would you teach?
HA: I don’t know if I’d be able to give it a fancy name, but I would teach a class on letting people know they’re story is important. Whatever they might be going through or however it may have been invalidated, everyone has the right to and is worthy of reaching out and asking for help and sharing what they are going through. What would that class be called? “Your Story is Important.”
IM: I like it!
IM: Every year and during the festival season, TWLOHA runs different campaigns. Right now, you guys are doing the RSVP: Invitation and Response cards. Can you explain what that campaign is and how concert-goers can get involved with it?
HA: We are asking people at Warped Tour to come to our booth where we’re selling all our merch and write something they are wanting to say to maybe a friend or family member, or perhaps even themselves. Something encouraging they want to say. Then we are asking them to come back later in the day and read what other people have written, and take something they really need to hear. Sometimes, I think it’s in our culture to hold back all the positive encouragement because there never seems to be an appropriate time to say them. And this is a really cool way of strangers encouraging other strangers. Speaking truth into their lives and lifting them up. It’s really cool to see people write something for someone else and then someone come back later and take it. We had one instance, not on Warped Tour, of two people crossing paths and seeing the other was holding what the other had written. They shared stories and traded numbers. It was a really cool story. There’s been awesome things like that. We encourage everyone to come by if you’re at Warped Tour and see what we’re doing.
IM: What is next for TWLOHA?
HA: We’re up to 11 years now. It’s our 11th Warped Tour. We’re just so grateful for how far we’ve come, and totally grateful for how great Warped Tour has been to us. They have us back every year. They’re always so kind to us. What’s next? We’re just hoping to be able to keep going as long as we can. We’re always so grateful for every opportunity we have to tell people we’re so glad they’re here and that they’re so important and loved. We’ll have our Heavy and Light next year and our 5K event, as well as our World Suicide Prevention week campaign. What’s been really cool is that, even though it’s our 11th Warped Tour and it feels like oh everyone should know us by now, we still have hundreds of people who come by the tent each day that have no idea what To Write Love is. They come away with a wristband or pamphlet and decide they want to get involved. It’s really encouraging that more and more people are hearing about what we’re doing, and hopefully we can continue to spread the message that they can speak up. They’re not alone with what they are struggling with. And I’m just an intern, I’m not on the staff team, so when I see people excitedly run to the booth, I’m in the same boat as them. I just get the privilege of selling them stuff instead of excitingly buying it. It’s cool being a part of this big old family of people.
IM: Yeah, it’s such a great organization! I personally have been involved since high school, so almost 10 years. And I still find the old promo cards that have Jon Foreman with his long hair. It’s so great. I adore TWLOHA.
HA: Aww, thank you. We’re super grateful!
IM: Do you have any final comments or info you’d like to share with our readers?
HA: Yes! We hope that the readers will come to Warped Tour, come visit us, say Hi. If anyone is struggling, just know there is this absolutely huge community of people who are there to support them, to be with them and stand with them. Reach out. We have an email account that we read and respond to every single email. So anyone who is struggling, I encourage you to reach out. We just want them to know that they are not alone and we have their backs. We’re rooting for them all the way.
For more information on To Write Love On Her Arms or for getting help, click here.
Also, be sure to check out an amazing piece written by Harry for TWLOHA on eating disorders here.