The brainchild of the Medway service user groups, the Medway recovery festival was organised by local service users alongside Peter Hawley, KCA service user representative, and his team of volunteers.
‘It’s our privilege to help someone into recovery’, said new KCA chief executive Ryan Campbell, explaining that he was in recovery himself. ‘Recovery is about more than treatment, it’s more than stopping using, it’s about changing a whole lifestyle, being a good parent, moving into employment, and becoming a valued member of society.’
The one-day event celebrated the achievements of those in recovery in the Medway, with more than 100 people’s hard work and determination recognised through an awards ceremony. The festival was attended by local director of public health Dr Alison Barnett, and MP for Chatham and Aylesford, Tracey Crouch – also chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol. In a short speech, Crouch said how hearing the recovery stories of people at the festival made her more passionate about campaigning for better treatment and explained that she had been moved to lobby parliament for improved alcohol services following a friend’s experiences of being unable to get the help she needed for her alcoholic partner.
‘Services need to be different for everyone – we need to offer both residential and community treatment,’ she said. A prominent supporter of minimum unit pricing, Crouch added that it was necessary to change society’s attitude to drinking and deal with the easy availability of cheap alcohol.
The focus of the day however wasn’t politicians, treatment providers or healthcare professionals, but rather an opportunity to celebrate recovery and what it meant to the individuals concerned. This was highlighted by three very different service users telling their inspirational personal stories and reading their own poems.
Guests also heard from Alistair Sinclair from the UKRF and Paula from the Kingston RISE peer support group about building on people’s assets to create a recovery community. Colm Whitty and Geoff Wheeler from Air Football then explained the work they did in partnership with KCA to take individuals beyond treatment and help them in the later stages of their recovery.
Event organiser Peter Hawley summed up the feeling in the room by saying that only five years ago there had been just a handful of individuals in Medway in recovery. Now events like this were possible and recovery was visible everywhere.
Group shot: KCA chief executive Ryan Campbell celebrates with event organisers and award winners