The story of Holiofest…

Guest blog by Liselle Milner – Holiofest organiser
photos by Will Tudor


On Boxing Day 2017 a post appeared in my Facebook feed from Lily Hutchinson that her son Tom, my dear friend of 14 years, had “lost his battle with his demons” on Christmas Day. Tom Holio had ADHD. He had been diagnosed very young and medicated accordingly for most of his life. Tom certainly had the impulsive aspect of ADHD, that sometimes coincided with suicidal impulses. He was very intelligent and politically motivated, always fighting the corner for the underdog.

Tom put in great efforts to ensure he was there for everyone and anyone if they needed a friend. He once took off his shoes and gave them to a homeless man in the street. He was quick to recognise if someone was unhappy and would make time to be with them. He did not see or appreciate that he had this skill, but so many people have told stories of him in this way since that I know it to be undoubtedly true.

Tom hanged himself following a morning of making plans with friends for the coming February. His medication had recently been changed and he had said himself that he didn’t feel right with it, his anxiety levels were high. The medication issue was enough for the coroner to rule that Tom would not have been in a right mind to make a decision to end his life that morning.

As for anyone that loses a loved one, I was struck by such a devastating sense of hopelessness. There was nothing I could do to help him anymore. I was angry, I felt guilty and confused. I am proactive by nature and was desperate to do something helpful, as much to make myself feel like I was doing something as anything else.

Our friendship group largely met through our music scene. I used to be a rock and metal promoter and event organiser in Exeter where most of us met. I put out a suggestion that we could do a memorial event to raise money for Mind as myself and many of our friends are in touring bands. The response was so strong that with only 2 months planning and organising we held a one day metal festival that was both hugely emotional and much more successful than we had imagined. Everyone put in so much to make it happen, it was a beautiful event to be involved with.