A charity which grew out of a disco at a small church hall at the height of the ‘flower power’ era is going to a cathedral to mark 50 years of helping people with substance misuse problems.
The Archbishop of Wales, John Davies, will be a guest speaker at the anniversary of Kaleidoscope, a charity which supports people with drug and alcohol addictions. He will join the charity’s supporters, as well as those it has helped over the years, at the event at Newport Cathedral on March 7.
Kaleidoscope was founded by a church minister in the 1968, a time when young people were increasingly taking recreational drugs. The Revd Eric Blakebrough opened a Friday Club in Kingston-Upon-Thames from 10pm-6am to provide a safe place for young people to go to once the pubs shut. The name ‘Kaleidoscope’ came from the diversity of young people coming together- mods, rockers, teddy boys, hippies or Hells Angels.
Today, Kaleidoscope is run by Mr Blakebrough’s son, Martin, and since 2002 it has operated from Newport, serving along the M4 corridor from Chepstow to Carmarthen. In 2016 it took over another substance misuse provider, Arch Initiatives, which runs contracts all over Wales. Last year, it helped more than 2,300 people in Gwent through its Gwent Drug and Alcohol Service. Nationally, Kaleidoscope has a staff team of 320 supporting upwards of 10,000 drug and alcohol service users a year.
Archbishop John says, “Kaleidoscope is a wonderful example of what can be achieved when we put our faith into action and seek to help those in desperate need of help. I warmly commend its work. Over the decades it has been a lifeline for so many people whose lives have been blighted by addiction and who have found nowhere else to go. There they have found not blame or rejection, but welcome, support and compassion which have been among the tools they have needed to try and rebuild their lives.”
Martin Blakebrough, group chief executive of Kaleidoscope, says, “Fifty years ago Kaleidoscope was a church response to drug and alcohol issues impacting on local communities. Over the years many people have been helped but the problems encountered then still continue today. We know there is no quick fix to addictions because the problem is not so much with the substances taken but the reasons people turn to them. While people continue to suffer in life there will always be a need for services such as Kaleidoscope.
“Central to what Kaleidoscope has sought to do is to create welcoming spaces, where people can get the medical as well as psycho-social support needed to live more fulfilling lives. One of the enduring handicaps those we help often suffer from is stigma, where people blame the condition they suffer from on poor choices, where the reality is much more complex and, as with many social issues, needs compassion not blame.”
Also speaking at the event at Newport Cathedral will be Niamh Eastwood, the executive director of Release.
For more information about Kaleidoscope see http://www.kaleidoscopeproject.org.uk/
Kerry Tutton’s story
“I started using drugs – crack cocaine – when I was in my early 30s. My partner had been murdered in Bristol and that sent me off the rails. I suffered badly with depression and had sorted myself out slowly over the years but then started drinking heavily, popping pills and partying. Then a bad event happened in my family and I started smoking again to relieve the stress. Before I knew it I had a massive problem with drugs over a two-year period.
“Finally, I woke up one morning and thought this has got to stop, what do I do? After inquiring and asking other friends I got told about a place called Kaleidoscope. I walked up there feeling quite ashamed as obviously I was a lot older than most clients in there. But that was the day my life started changing. The staff were so understanding – I had a support worker and I had never felt so at ease talking to people, knowing that people understood and were not there to judge me. I felt a big weight lifted off my shoulders. I kept to my meetings and I also started volunteering in the kitchen and then on reception.
“I started detoxing on my programme and took up boxercise. Within six months I was off my programme. I was having sleepless nights as my body adjusted to no medication but I knew I was going to beat it, taking my aggression, I guess, out on a punch bag. I then volunteered at a leisure centre, helping clients with gym sessions. When I got taken off the sick, I started work as a cleaner in a hotel and a year later I was promoted to supervisor. I am now back with Kaleidoscope but working for them full-time as a cleaner and keep fit instructor for clients and staff. Last year, I won the champion well-being award – which, I feel, is an achievement on its own.
“Kaleidoscope literally saved my life and gave me a new lease of life. I have never been happier than I am now. I’m a more positive person, I love my fitness – running, boxercise – I’m a gym addict now. I eat healthily too (though I do enjoy the odd cream cake!) and I feel healthy. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
“There is a time for anyone where life can become too much too many things can happen at the same time and life can become overwhelming. Like waves hitting an apparently invulnerable sea wall. It only takes several storms, simultaneously to erode, to crumble and perhaps collapse.
“That is effectively what happened to me. I had a good education, I was a professional in a corporation, at a high level, with a lot of responsibility. I had broad shoulders. I could carry the world and all its problems. I couldn’t show weakness in work.
“At home I had to just ‘man up’ and ‘grow a spine’. I was an island, completely alone. So, to relieve the pressure, the loneliness and the isolation, I drank. Over years and mostly alone…inevitably, things got worse. Eventually, I imploded, changed my job, left my family and then lost my job. Everything went rapidly into freefall and got out of control. I was scared and for the first time in my life realised that I needed help.
“Feeling shame and failure, I reached out. I contacted Kaleidoscope. I didn’t know what to expect but was relieved to find that I was listened to and understood. I wasn’t weak, I wasn’t alone and there was a way through this and a way back, if I wanted it. I thought I was hopeless. I relapsed many times but was always welcomed back.
“After my second hospital detox I walked in to the Hub drop in centre in Newport. I just turned up and was surrounded and supported by other people who were also in recovery and wanted it too. I took part in groups and spoke about how I was feeling honestly and confidentially. I became a volunteer and helping other helped me so much and my recovery as well.
“Kaleidoscope is an umbrella organisation under which anyone can shelter from life’s storms and engage with its organisations. I worked with GDAS and the Cyfle Cymru Gwent team, who were all committed and caring. I took courses offered and learned a lot about who I really was and the skills that would be helpful to get back to work and live life soberly. I was mentored through the whole process and to my amazement came out the other end. This in combination with fellowship to which I belong rebuilt solid foundations and got me through to where I am now.
“I can only say to anyone who might even just be concerned, reach out. Kaleidoscope, as the name suggests, offers a broad spectrum of recovery-based services. They are all free and confidential. No one is an island and when it’s raining no one hesitates to use an umbrella. If anyone is struggling through life’s storms Kaleidoscope is there to shelter under, reach out and use it.”