Addicts turn singers as choir turns their live around

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ADDICTS have found harmony in their lives by joining a choir.

Durham Voices of Recovery was formed after a rehab group and their 
support workers started singing together on a bus.

Members of the Durham Voices of Recovery Choir at their rehearsal venue at Durham Prison Officers Club.

Members of the Durham Voices of Recovery Choir at their rehearsal venue at Durham Prison Officers Club.

The choir now has about 20 
regular members who have performed in Durham Cathedral, opened award ceremonies and are lined up to sing at a host of events.

The group is credited with helping people rebuild their lives after struggles with drink and drugs by Dot Turton, 
area manager for the North East 
Council on Addictions (NECC), who helped found it.

She said: “They’re singing for health and unity, but most of all raising the profile of recovery and challenging the stigma of people in recovery.

“They’re all normal people who have had problems with addictions.

“There are professionals here, people from all walks of life, and it’s really informal, but also takes them out of their comfort zones.

“Most say ‘I can’t sing’ but together they all can.”

A vocal coach leads weekly rehearsal sessions where the group go through their repertoire, including The Beatles’ Let It Be, Queen’s We Are The Champions and One Day Like This by Elbow.

Former Met policeman John Reay turned to drink following the death of his father and brother.

He has not drank for six years and now lectures Durham University’s 
social work masters students about his experiences.

The 49-year-old said: “I heard about how the group were going to sing at Durham Cathedral and asked about it, then came along to rehearsals and met a lot of fantastic people.

“It’s great to be part of a team, no one has any secrets. Everyone knows what job I used to do and couldn’t care less.”

Chris Rutter, 29, from Chester-le-Street, is working with Peterlee-based Recovery Academy Durham (RAD).

He said: “It’s given me a lot of confidence, it’s good to be part of something and it makes me feel nice and relaxed.

“We’ve all got a similar past and we can speak to each other and say if we need help.”

Chris Palmer, from Belmont, is also 
being helped by RAD.

He faced losing his family and 
being homeless after spending time in 
jail for violent crimes, which led 
to excessive drinking. His time in prison included a stint in HMP Durham, which neighbours the Durham Prison Officers’ Club in The Hallgarth where the group meets weekly.

The 45-year-old said: “In my first 
session at RAD. I was invited to the choir but my first instinct was ‘I don’t do choir.’

“To get up and sing is right out of my comfort zone but when I got asked to sing again, I said yes.

“It’s therapeutic, it brings everyone together and we have fun. When you hear something back after it’s been recorded, we think ‘wow.’”

The group will parade through 
Durham Gala with their ‘recovery banner’ tomorrow and will perform at the Revive Recovery Festival in Chester-le-Street on Sunday, July 20.

The group meets on Wednesdays at 5pm. More details are available by emailing and on Twitter via @voicesdurham.