In Japan, if a fine vase or bowl is broken, it isn’t thrown away.

Kintsukuroi is the Japanese art of repairing pottery using lacquer mixed with powdered gold, in accordance with the philosophy of wabi-sabi – embracing the flawed or imperfect. In this way, breakage and repair are treated as part of the history of an object, rather than being something to disguise or hide. I believe that this is an excellent metaphor for recovery – rather than being ashamed of our past, we should celebrate it as a vital part of who we are today.

This is why I found attending – and performing at – the third 5 WAYS @ the Recovery Academy open mic night on February 23rd, such a joyful and inspiring occasion. All of the performers were in recovery – as I suspect were most of the audience – and I’ve paid significant sums of money to see shows not nearly as good. There were singers, rappers, poets and a stand-up comedian called Darren, who was only performing for the second time but may be presenting Live at The Apollo any time now!

I was there for over four hours, arriving at six o’clock and leaving at about ten thirty; but it seemed more like about half an hour! I Spent the first hour or so chatting to some familiar faces and being introduced to some new ones, the general theme of our conversations being “Are you nervous?”… Then, the first half commenced – apologies in advance for anyone I miss out – starting with Trevor, wearing his white rose on his sleeve, then my friend Martin who always cracks me up. Then we heard Sarah; making her debut with what I can only describe a ambient rap, followed by Tommy with a belting recovery-based rap called “Letter to the Lord”.

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After about an hour, we had a break for some lovely veggie curry and more mingling And then it was time for the second half, featuring Phil Pearce’s writing group and Chaz Dislexic Poet; who always makes me think. I can’t list everyone – lack of space/grey cells – but some more personal highlights were singer/songwriter/guitarist Emma, the strong, clear voice of KInga and of course, our very own Stanley Holloway – Hank!

My lasting impression of the whole evening was that everyone seemed to be smiling; every act was greeted warmly and applauded loudly and I can only describe the atmosphere as loving and supportive. Big ups to everyone who made it possible, especially Jo Byrden for inviting me; Helen and Carla in the kitchen and Dean Wood, who sorted the running order and did all the “floor managing”

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve already started writing for the next one – hope to see you there.
Jem Stuart