Bristol Drugs Project launches recovery orchestra

Recovery orchestra
Image caption Sophie Wilsdon from BDP said the "intention is to build up people's confidence so they can join other music groups in society"

Musicians recovering from problematic drug or alcohol use have come together to form an orchestra.

Sophie Wilsdon, from Bristol Drugs Project, said she was inspired after seeing a similar project in Brighton.

She said: "No-one was doing it here and it's such a brilliant idea and it fits with the success of our choir".

Ms Wilsdon said Bristol Drugs Project's (BDP) choir and drama group had been running for almost five years, and only an orchestra was "missing".

Rehearsals start in February, with a performance planned for the end of March. The eight-week pilot is funded by Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

Ms Wilsdon, a clarinettist who also plays in bands, said: "I know lots of musicians who've had struggles with drugs and alcohol and sometimes music and playing music at gigs is a trigger for that.

"I know people who've pawned all their instruments but would love the opportunity to play in a safe environment."

Image caption Conductor Jon James said it was "a lovely opportunity to use music in a really positive way within my home city"

The orchestra will be led by conductor Jon James who said: "It will be mainly acoustic, mainly improvised and will use techniques from classical, world and jazz styles.

"Providing you can play at least five notes, I'll be able to give you a part, and for those more adept on the instrument, there's no limit to how complex we can make it.

"For me, I'll be looking at everybody in the room as musicians first, regardless of their background."

Image caption Musicians Greg, Hamilton and Will have joined the orchestra with Hamilton playing a bass he made from a tea chest

Musician Will said: "Music helps with recovery I think, because I react to music at an emotional level. I've been emotionally starved and a lot of my drug taking was filling a hole.

"So music fills that hole and it's better than taking [drugs]. There's also a social aspect and a really big part of it is being connected with people again in pursuit of something wholesome and creative."

Tea chest bassist Hamilton offers peer support to BDP's choir and drama groups.

He said: "I come from a creative and artistic background and during my problematic drinking for 30 years, I thought I would never be able to do it again."

Guitarist Greg said he would like the orchestra to become a "permanent feature rather than just a pilot".

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