David Linton - Madlug (Best Of Belfast Podcast Interview)

Photo Of David Linton, founder of Madlug:  Make A Difference Luggage. 

Photo Of David Linton, founder of Madlug: Make A Difference Luggage. 


This month on the Best Of Belfast Podcast we sat down with David Linton, founder of Madlug: a one for one social enterprise whose goal is to make a difference to the lives of children in care through their luggage.

But why do kids in care even need luggage?

I'll let David tell you the answer to that one, along with his incredible start-up story, how he had brunch with Richard Branson and why he wants you to find 'your black bin bag story.'

Check it out.

(Please note: our written stories are a brief overview of the podcast episode. To get the full story be sure to listen to the full interview.)

So Dave, if you were to walk into an elevator with Liam Neeson how would you introduce yourself?

Well I would start with my pitch:

90,000 children are currently in the UK care system, with one child entering every 20 minutes and many of them are carrying their lives in bin bags.

What really makes me tick is bringing solutions to the issue of black bin bags being used in the care system.

Then I'd introduce myself, David Linton, on the back of those facts.

Why are black bin bags being used?

It's really because of a number of issues... the first is simply lack of funding.

As we all know. budgets are tight and there are so many worthwhile areas that funding is essential.

"Unfortunately providing luggage for kids in care just doesn't make it in."

The second reason is because when a child is entering into care or being moved it's usually a very fast process...

If a child doesn't have a suitcase there's no time to go out and buy one, so as a result, the black bin bag is usually used just because it's available.

Plus social workers have such a huge case loads and visit so many young people they simply don't have the space to lug around all that luggage.

Why does this make you tick?

The fact is that I really believe in young people

Young people often get a bad rap in the media and are labelled as lazy, or trouble...

But I spent 22 years as a youth worker and I think every child has incredible potential and deserves value, worth and dignity.

No child should have to carry their life around in a black bin bag.

Especially when there are so many other obstacles and challenges someone in care faces.

How can Madlug, a luggage company make a difference?

As of now we are the only one for one luggage company in the world.

That means every time someone buys one of our bags we donate one to a child in care.

We have carefully co-designed a bag with children in the care system to come up with a one to meet their needs.

The bag can be folded up and packed away to save space, isn't branded on the outside and has the words 'You are Incredible. Value. Worth. Dignity' stiched on an inside label.


This means the bag can be carried around by social workers (they can keep it in their car) and provide a high-quality, dignified product to a child when they need it the most.

The fact that it is unbranded also helps to avoid any stigma, but we still get to tell them that they are valued through the inside label.

How did Madlug start?

Initially I heard the story of black bin bags back in 2014 and felt like I had to do something about it.

I rallied friends, family and young people from my youth group to collect the spare luggage we had to try and meet the need.

But the more I looked into it, I saw that it was a global issue and our donations weren't going to cut it.

A model based on donations alone wasn't going to be sustainable and solve the problem. 

Plus because we value young people so much we feel they deserve a brand new high quality bag, not just a second hand donated one.

... that's really how Madlug formed.

Tell us about your brunch with Richard Branson

I have always been really inspired by Richard Branson... for loads of reason.

For one, we're both dyslexic and the stance he takes on that is that we should celebrate it, because it means that we have to learn to delegate and empower other people to drive certain areas of our business forward.


Virgin's whole company culture is really inspirational, even seeing some of that first hand through the Virgin Voom process/competition was really amazing.

After winning we were able to go and have brunch with Richard Branson.

It was the first time after looking up to someone for a long time that I wasn’t disappointed, not even a little bit.

Every I had read about Branson and what people said about him (and Virgin itself) was right and so visible.

I am trying to build Madlug in such a way that it's not all about Dave, or that Dave has all the answers, but that team is at the heart of Madlug and the movement of our amazing supporters.

This is how I can see us addressing the global issue of the black  bin bag and at the end of the day that's Madlug's goal.

What type of backpacks and luggage do you sell?

Our whole goal is not to be innovative in design, but to be innovative in story.

We stick to the classic bag designs that have been tried and tested over time that people love and have a need for.

So we have classic backpacks, gym bags, messenger/laptop bags, a hand-luggage bag and a suitcase with wheels.

All of these come in a wide variety of colours.

What else are you passionate about?

Through this Madlug experience, I have become passionate about encouraging others to find their 'black bin bag story.'

Something that makes them tick, something that they want to make a difference to in the world.

I think when we find that, then we can really start to make incredible change. 

Photo by  Gareth Rees

Photo by Gareth Rees


How can our listeners connect with you?

You can connect with Madlug on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and even sign up for our email updates on our website.

There you can also check out our latest range of products or if you already have a back pack you can buy giving bags to be donated directly to kids in care.

The Best Of Belfast Podcast

Just wanna give a big thanks to David Linton once again for sharing the story of Madlug with us.

The Best Of Belfast Podcast is all about sharing the stories of local legends here in Northern Ireland.

To get the latest shows delivered to your inbox you can sign up to our newsletter here.


Other than that, I hope you enjoyed hearing David Linton's Madlug story and that it inspired you to find your black bin bag story. 

Until next time,

All the best.

- Matthew Thompson

Matthew Thompson