Walk this way

Walk this way How does it feel to take part in the UK Recovery Walk? Four participants tell us about their experiences in Greater Manchester last month

20140913_140503‘Could we live up to expectations?’

Waking up on Saturday morning with a view of an empty Castlefield Arena, my thoughts ran back over the five previous recovery walks and I thought to myself, ‘could 2014 live up to the massive expectations?’

What was different for me about this year’s walk was being a member of the Greater Manchester Recovery Federation (GMRF) the body who, 18 months pre-walk, set out on a dream of helping Greater Manchester to host the sixth UK Recovery Walk.

Any worries that nobody would attend were alleviated as the trucks delivering the stage arrived. Like soldiers, our members and volunteers set about putting together a mini-festival. Soon the many recoverists from around the UK descended, and our day sprang into action.

It was a great honour when Annemarie Ward, CEO of UK Recovery Walk, introduced me and the rest of the GMRF core group and invited us to welcome our guests from all over the country. There were so many people I knew personally from all corners of the UK during my six years in recovery.

Another great moment was leading the walk and carrying the GMRF banner with Kath, Julie and my twin brother Dominic. I will remember looking back down Deansgate at all the amazing banners that people had made.

The walk was amazing but we had an afternoon of highs still to come. The acts still to perform included our band, It’s All About Me, which I’m part of with my brother Dominic, Jason and Lewis. After our act, I stood on the stage and officially closed the 6th UK Recovery Walk 2014, and my thoughts went back to the early morning when I had wondered if we would live up to past walks and be a good representation of our recovery movement here in the UK. I may be biased, but I think we did. It was an amazing day that will live long in my heart and mind as I’m sure it will for many people of Greater Manchester and beyond.

Special thanks to the UK Recovery Walk charity and all their members and we wish Dot, Mark and all at Durham the very best for 2015. And to my amazing friends at the GMRF, be very proud. We did it – let the legacy of the walk be that recovery in Greater Manchester will continue to thrive.

One love, we do recover. David Dakan

20140913_135140 - Copy‘I felt pride I had never felt before’ 

As the morning of 13 September came I could not believe that all the organising, planning, meetings and conversation cafés would be no more and the sixth annual UK Recovery Walk was upon us in our very own city. This walk was the first that I had ever attended and it was made extra special to know that my family and my daughter of two years, whom I had when in recovery, would be there to attend and be part of an amazing day. As both an employee of the UKRW charity and a member of Greater Manchester Recovery Federation, many months of my life had been focusing on this incredible day.

On arrival at 8.30am I was able to see the transformation at Castlefield take place as the stage was built, marquees erected and people started to arrive. For the rest of my life I will remember looking out from the stage at thousands of faces, approximately 8,000 happy joyous people, free from substances, high on life, celebrating recovery. All the hard work that was put in was worth it. I felt a sense of pride I have never felt before and I felt part of this huge family that stood united, overcoming what I can only describe as one of my hardest personal battles. I could stand tall and say I had a part in that walk, however small, as did many other people – and for that I thank them.

The message, simply, is we can recover and we do recover. The legacy from this year’s walk fills me with hope and excitement about the future of our recovery community and GMRF. What made my day extra special was I got to share it with the most important person in my life. As I stood on stage, Ava held by my mum had the biggest smile on her face, waving, shouting mummy and blowing kisses. That is priceless and a memory I will always remember, ever reminding me should I ever forget – my recovery is so worth it!  Danielle Woolley

10665076_603021273143572_2458842595166126943_n‘I was part of something amazing’

When we heard the news that we had won the opportunity to host the UKRW, a spark of enthusiasm was ignited. This grew and grew, and with the introduction of a conversation café at the planning meetings we had participation from hundreds of individuals who offered help, ideas or support. These fantastic people came from all of the boroughs of Greater Manchester. The GMRF had always wanted to find a way of uniting the ten boroughs and this was definitely working, proving that this was going to be the biggest UKRW and hopefully the best yet.

With each year that passes the UKRW has grown in popularity and the number of attendees has increased. They say there were 8,000 people at this year’s UKRW, and everyone who I have spoken to says they have a new refreshed way of looking at recovery and what it means to them, their families and their communities. The language we use to describe ourselves and the positive statements have gone a long way in challenging stigma – not just what we see in the media and how we are referred to by Joe Public, but also in our internal voices and how we see ourselves ‘fitting in’. The planning group gave everyone a chance to have a voice. Many of these people went on to volunteer on the day of the walk and we are so grateful to them all.

As part of the GMRF I was privileged to be at the very front of the walk, and there was a group of very talented drummers right behind us, providing us with music and a beat. This set the pace and the mood of the walk for me. At one point we were held at a waiting point while police and traffic management cleared the last of the traffic away. At this point I turned to face the crowd behind me and felt I was part of something truly amazing.

We spontaneously began clapping to show our appreciation, the police joined in and so did others and soon, with the drums, the clapping, the shouting and the whistling, the noise of a big city on a crowded Saturday afternoon was drowned out. I had goosebumps, and at that point I knew that no matter how hard we had all worked, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Julie Lloyd-Holt

20140913_133533‘Hard work… but what a buzz’

It’s all about today – 13 September. All the hard work done? Hehehe, not bloody likely! It’s going to be great, in my element. Putting on a party for over 8,000 ‘recoverists’ – amazing! Inspiring. I’m there. Right, as a core member of the GMRF I have a responsibility. What’s that? Fill that big screen with walkers walking the walks? Right. No camera! No Wi-Fi! Oh dear. Time to shine, Oli – use what you know, think on ya feet.

‘Excuse me bud, can I borrow you to do some filming? I need to fill that screen!’

‘Sure bud, no problem. Waddya need?’

Great stuff! It’s amazing what you can get if you ask. Ok then, let’s join the throng!

We go to the front. People are gathering. People are smiling. People all in recovery, or friends and supporters of them, are together, joined as one, in unity, as a celebration. It’s ok. It’s good. Life is good. I may have bad days but it’s not a bad life. And all these people show me this. I can see it in their faces. They are living it.

Three, two, one… and we’re off. Get the shots? Run about? Jeez this is hard work! But so worth it. Get some great footage, easy as Rochdale go past, London, Brighton, Yorkshire, fellowship people, SMART. All representing the area where they live a life in recovery. It’s important. Just being there and advocating in numbers. Members of the public look quizzical. Walkers inform and advocate. What a buzz.

Back to the stage. Edit the pictures, stick a graphic on the end, bung the MPEG on a stick. Can’t wait to see the reaction.

Henry Maybury takes to the stage, second song in and ‘voila!’ It’s on the screen and people are watching. They are laughing, pointing. I love it. This for me is what it’s about. People in unison, walking that walk, loving recovery. Brilliant!  Oliver Rice

Henry Maybury is raising money for addiction and recovery charities with his single Lost Days, www.henrymaybury.com

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