In 1968 Sly and the Family Stone released ‘Dance to the Music’, which would have been blaring out of the speakers at the new Disco called Kaleidoscope. The song itself became a top 10 single. It marked a huge change in the music scene and for some at least, paved the way to funk or disco music of the 70s, 80s and beyond. The band broke new ground with this song, not just in the music style but you saw black and white musicians coming together with a blending of instruments not really heard before. The recipe for band and song was a kaleidoscope.
In many ways a disco run by a small church was not in itself ground breaking, but in bringing people together and listening to the young people’s needs it was to create a community project that has been ground breaking.
The songs of rebellion were joined by radical actions, thoughts were turned into deeds. So when someone was not able to access their GP for sexual health services, the disco found a nurse to support people. When people were becoming addicted to drugs, substitute medication was made available; and when people started dying from HIV/AIDS the first needle syringe exchange in the UK was opened.
The Kaleidoscope Project has sought to support the diversity of people and has found an expertise in helping people with drug, alcohol and mental health issues. The music of 1968 has changed, as has Kaleidoscope in how it supports people. What has not gone away is the stigmatising of certain people. The reasons why recreational drug and alcohol use becomes problematic are often rooted in mental health issues or post-traumatic stress which has been unresolved. The stigmatising of people however presents problematic drug and alcohol issue as the problem rather than the symptom of such issues. Stigmatising enables us to de-humanise people; we do not worry about punishing people who society claim are destroying themselves, rather than admit to failing to protect a person when a child leading to trauma, or support a person because of mental health issues. So sadly too many people are imprisoned because they have chosen to deal with their mental health issues, with what the government determine, are illegal drugs. The cost to the community and to those individuals is alarming. Kaleidoscope recognises we have a duty to help and stand by these people in our community both in trying to provide positive options such as treatment, as well as campaign for policy change.
In our 50th year we will look back at the successes of our services, which have grown out of a small church hall to provide services across Wales and in some parts of England. We are rightly proud of the people we have supported – some who have changed their lives, others like Ron who were able to die with dignity. We will continue to sing, dance and campaign for better services and better policies that support and not punish the people we seek to serve.