The Forward Trust National Reunion 2023

The Forward Trust National Reunion was hosted at Conway Hall in London this year on the 14th of January.

It was originally scheduled to run in September 2022 but was postponed due to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and subsequent period of national mourning. Forward Trust clients (past and present), including all our Forward Connect members, were invited along with friends and family, Forward staff members and other professionals.People came from as far as Wiltshire, Liverpool and Hull to attend the event – with free travel provided from the main community hubs for anyone who wished to attend. 

Staff arrived at 9am to start setting up the registration desks and preparing the audio-visual and catering teams for the large turnout of people that were expected to attend the event. By 10am, the doors were ready to be opened, just in time for the coaches from East Kent and Hull. As people started to enter the venue, it became clear that the day was going to be a good one– how could it not be with so many people, and unlimited tea & coffee!? 

Forward Trust CEO Mike Trace took the stage to welcome everyone and invite people to their seats. Mike spoke about the reunion being the celebration of people’s ability to change, which was perfectly highlighted by the day’s five main speakers: Melissa, Leon, Carol, Mike and Alistair. 

Melissa and Leon spoke about their firsthand experiences of recovery and Carol spoke about her family’s experience of their son’s addiction and how they learned to heal. Mike and Alistair spoke about their time with The Forward Trust’s Enterprise support team, part of Forward’s employment directorate. 

The event was hosted by the Forward’s very own Joshua Thetford (Forward Connect Coordinator) and Lyndsay W (Clouds Graduate 2022). The dynamic duo effortlessly introduced speakers to and from the stage with panache. Both felt it was a particular privilege to be able to oversee the clean-time countdown, which saw audience members in recovery stand up to celebrate their recovery and that of others around them. 

Seeing people who had been sober for over 20 years stand side-by-side with people who were in their first weeks of recovery, celebrating and supporting one another’s achievements, bravery and hope was an utterly amazing experience. 

As the morning progressed, there was time for a break. The atmosphere was electric, and the space filled up with hundreds of people chatting and sharing memories. When everyone came back to their seats, Hannah K took to the stage and sang, letting everyone know that she was celebrating her six-month sobriety milestone on the same day. She sang beautiful covers of Something in the Orange, She Will Be Loved and Hometown Glory – breathtaking! 

For the first time at a Forward Trust Reunion the microphone was passed over to clients of the Enterprise service, a part of the organisation that supports people starting and building their own businesses. The speakers that took to the stage spoke about their own journeys through hardship and their drive for success in the face of adversity. 

The open mic section followed and was particularly special, with many tributes read out for Ade Onilude, Forward’s Mentoring Programme Coordinator who sadly passed away in September 2022. The room was filled with passion as people spoke about their own experiences in recovery – some even called it the highlight of the event. 

After lunch, it was over to Forward’s Recovery Support team to put on an afternoon of entertainment and games as part of the event’s winter-fete. There were games to play and sweet treats on offer from the ice cream, candy floss and popcorn carts. Forward Connect volunteers and staff helped to make sure people were well fed and entertained at the various stalls that were open: guess the teddy bear’s name and count the jellybeans, to find the buried treasure, hook a duck and tin can alley. Dotted throughout were stalls set up to promote the diverse services that Forward offers, with a special guest appearance from the Hep-C Trust, who came to do some onsite testing. 

Once the ice cream had been eaten and all the prizes had been won, it was time to start slowing the event down as people got ready to board their coaches back home. A big shoutout to the crowd from Liverpool who stayed until the very end – waiting for their coach to arrive! 

Over three-hundred-and-twenty people came to celebrate the many forms recovery takes within the services offered by The Forward Trust. It was an incredibly special day.

If you were unable to attend this year, don’t worry – our next national reunion will be taking place in January 2024, and we would love for you to join us. 

This blog was originally published by The Forward Trust. You can read the original post here.

DDN magazine is a free publication self-funded through advertising.

We are proud to work in partnership with many of the leading charities and treatment providers in the sector.

This content was created by The Forward Trust

We value your input. Please leave a comment, you do not need an account to do this but comments will be moderated before they are displayed...