What is your travelling exhibition about?
It's to celebrate 35 years of helping alcohol and drug users through recovery. An analysis of our 30th birthday celebrations revealed that we hadn't included service users enough, so we were determined not to repeat the mistake. The 35 Stories project is a collection of writing and artwork by drug and alcohol users undergoing rehab. The work is being displayed in a specially designed van that will travel from Hampshire to Sheffield, stopping at 10 destinations along the way.
What is the writing and artwork like?
The work people produce when they are going through rehab is usually pretty stark, as you might imagine. People also often turn to poetry to express themselves, relating it to their past lives. Rehab is a journey of self-discovery, and the work reflects that.
Why is it important for service users to express themselves in this way?
Many of our service users have always assumed that certain things are for other people, but not for them, and that no piece of art or writing they produce would be worth anything. But by asking them to contribute to this exhibition, we are proving them wrong. Every one of them has been really enthusiastic about taking part.
Some of them pursue these forms of self-expression after rehab, but for most it tends to be something they use for the first time to help them get through it, and something that they don't use afterwards.
What do you hope the exhibition will achieve?
We hope that it will serve as encouragement to other service users and will promote solidarity and peer support. It's also a way of saying thank you to those who have helped us over the years - we will be inviting people to come and attend the exhibition when it stops off at each venue.