Darren McGarvey

About Darren McGarvey

Social commentator and hip hop artist from Glasgow, better known by his stage name Loki.

Darren writes powerfully about trauma, addiction and recovery.

Areas of interest

  • Spoken word and performance
  • Social commentary
  • Writing
  • Bridging the poverty gap

More Info

Darren McGarvey, is a social commentator and hip hop artist from Glasgow, Scotland. He’s better known by his stage name “Loki”.

Darren grew up in Pollok on the south side of Glasgow. Between 2004 and 2006 he wrote and presented eight programmes on social deprivation for BBC Radio Scotland. Since then he has been a regular contributor to the BBC, STV and other national media, appeared in the independent film The Divide, and currently has a weekly column in The Scotsman.

Darren describes himself as a “cultural terroist” who has “learned to use his traumatic past as a Trojan horse in which to smuggle unorthodox opinions past establishment gatekeepers.”

Darren has a certificate of excellence for his voluntary work with young people. In 2009, he founded Volition Scotland, an organisation that was designed and run by the young people who used it. He was part of the Poverty Truth Commission that was hosted in Glasgow in the same year.  McGarvey became the Violence Reduction Unit’s first ever ‘Rapper-in Residence’ in 2015 and continues to work across Scotland in some of its most challenged communities.

Poverty Safari is his first book, and its creation was supported by a crowdfunding campaign. It’s recently been launched to critical acclaim. with J.K Rowling describing it as:

“An unflinching account of the realities of systemic poverty, Poverty Safari lays down challenges to both the left and right. It is hard to think of a more timely, powerful or necessary book.”

Darren writes and speaks powerfully about growing up with poverty, addiction and violence. He’s now a father and says his own recovery has been helped by understanding the trauma roots of mental distress and addiction.

Darren says:

“Mental health terminology has permeated every aspect of our language and culture. We’ve been told, should we experience any unusually potent emotions like fear, anxiety or depression, that we might be ill and must seek medical attention. It’s created an expectation in us that the answers to our psychological and emotional problems lie outside ourselves.”

I often believed myself helpless when, in reality, that belief was, itself, a symptom of my poor mental health. We still tend to treat symptoms and not causes. We think about depression as a malign invader of our mind that has a will of its own. Medical professionals talk about “chemical imbalances” that lead to feelings of worthlessness, lethargy and even suicidal thoughts. But we rarely discuss what might bring about these chemical imbalances in the first place. They are often regarded as random neurological events when in truth they can be triggered by events in our lives, some which we have no control over and some which we do.

Think of all the crap we eat, the hours we squander on social media, the booze we go through and the “painkillers” we take for hangovers. Given the sheer toxicity in the food chain alone, it strikes me as bizarre that we would diagnose anybody with depression or anxiety without first asking some basic questions about their lifestyle or thinking habits. Questions like “How much do you drink?” and “How much exercise do you get?” I’m well aware this may offend some of you, but beneath the impulse to become outraged, you know exactly what I’m getting at.

Of course, that sort of straight talking is no use to someone in crisis. This is where patience, compassion and empathy come in. Recovery from a mental health crisis is about supporting someone to a point where they can begin to accept some responsibility for how they think, feel and live. But there’s a time and place for that and it’s not while the person is literally telling everyone they are suicidal.”

“Poverty Safari is one of the best accounts of working-class life I have read. A scan of the injuries poverty leaves in Britain, which manages to be humane, angry and wise all at the same time. McGarvey is a rarity: a working-class writer who has fought to make the middle-class world hear what he has to say.”

Nick Cohen, The Guardian

“Nothing less than an intellectual and spiritual rehab manual for the progressive left”

Irvine Welsh

“Another cry of anger from a working class that feels the pain of a rotten, failing system.  Its value lies in the strength it will add to the movement for change.”

Ken Loach

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