“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.”