Serenity Recovery Fringe Festival

cafe-shotIn an earlier blog, I highlighted an article by Bill White on Recovery Carriers.

Recovery Carriers are people, usually in recovery, who make recovery infectious to those around them by their openness about their recovery experiences, their quality of life and character, and the compassion for and service to people still suffering from alcohol and other drug problems.

I know two special Recovery Carriers in Edinburgh – and there are many more – David McCartney and John Arthur.  Here’s John’s latest blog:

‘Hi folks,

I thought I’d blog a wee letter I’ve written to a prominent academic on the other side of the world who is interested in the Serenity Cafe and who is a Recovery Advocate in Australia. It highlights some of the achievements and my observations of the fantastic stuff going on in the Serenity Cafe in Edinburgh at the moment and in particular the fantastic Serenity Recovery Fringe Festival

All this has been brought about by the hard work of the volunteers, staff and community members who have gone that extra mile and which is truly inspiring to be a part of.  Now, just over halfway through the festival is maybe a good time to note down what is being achieved, as we’ll probably be too knackered by the end to do anything more than keep breathing

So here’s what I wrote,


Dear David,

Thought I’d drop you a line about the latest developments at the Serenity Cafe where we are enjoying our RECOVERY FRINGE FESTIVAL at the moment.  And also to ask you a wee favour about research that may have been done on an aspect of recovery I’m interested in.

RECOVERY FRINGE: Our wee festival fringe event is running alongside the Edinburgh International and Fringe festivals and is attracting lots of people to the cafe.

Some of the performances are purely arts based by performers from the other festivals and are to stimulate our own community to enjoy performances of different kinds. But it is also about taking part, i.e. we have organised a battle of the choirs where the Serenity Singers will be going head-to-head with other singing groups.

A programme of free events has been developed with national and international performers which is truly impressive in its scope and variety.

We also have the following specifically around recovery for the festival:

GUIDED MEDITATION and relaxation for recovery, taken by a recovery community member to assist those who find it difficult to relax and quiet racing thoughts, especially when the city is so busy and full of drinking and carousing  🙂

RECOVERY DOWN MEMORY LANE is the oral history element of a social history project at the cafe (that has been tracing recovery in Edinburgh through the centuries) and sees early adopters – in AA, Alanon and NA – sharing their lived experiences about the formative days of these mutual aid organisations in the city.

SERENITY DEBATES: Neil McKeganey, Angus Bancroft, Peter Rice and Eric Carlin discussing the subjects of Alcohol Minimum Unit Pricing and Drug Prohibition and asking whether these social policies help or hinder people’s recovery  journeys (two separate events).

RECOVERY TRAVELLERS: is for Performers and visitors to the Edinburgh Festival who are in recovery, offering a quiet place away from the madness where they can share their experience of recovery and let our community know what’s happening in their part of the world.

All this happening over and above all our usual activities at the cafe such as:

  • Recovery Self Coaching course
  • Recovery Coaching  for individuals
  • Craft corner for parents and children
  • Chess Club
  • Cafe Club night
  • Walking Group
  • Running group (just started meeting and leaving from the cafe)
  • Salsa class and dance night
  • Baking classes
  • Choir
  • Guitar club
  • Creative writing
  • Women’s Group
  • Thrifty Thursdays
  • 5 Mutual Aid meetings per week
  • Financial inclusion sessions.

There is also the ongoing support work and volunteering opportunities for people through work in the café and to gain national vocational qualifications in Recovery Coaching and Recovery Community Development. Assistance with job applications and interview skills also take place informally and as needed.

Café Culture: On any given day, we can have half a dozen support workers from drug or alcohol agencies meeting with their clients in the cafe. Sponsors from 12 step organisations can also be meeting quietly with their sponsees, or friends in recovery, meeting to catch up over a coffee or a bite to eat. 

Rarely a week goes by without a group visiting from other parts of the UK or abroad. Yesterday, it was a group from the Irish Republic and the day before people from Melbourne attended our NA segment of Recovery Down Memory Lane.

Increasingly, families are meeting up in the cafe,  sometimes at a neutral space where bridges slowly start to be build around the damaged relationships brought about through addiction. At others, just a nice place to meet with loved ones and get low cost, tasty and nutritional food. 

Day trips out during the school holidays have been organised and most welcomed by families who could not otherwise have afforded to have gone because of their low incomes.

Civil servants, local authority and charity workers are also using the multi-purpose room space for training and other events. Recently, the Substance Misuse team from the Scottish Government used the cafe for an away-day, for training and planning, as has the local Alcohol and Drug Partnerships for various events such as the launch of their Service User Involvement Strategy.

Anyhow, enough about that for the moment. It’s turned into a blog  (which is handy by the way).

I’m going to be travelling soon and meeting with lots of people in recovery as part of my ‘journey for serenity’ and one of the areas I’m interested in is the ‘turning points’ or ‘tipping points’ that cause people to move towards recovery.

It’s probably no coincidence that so many treatment and recovery initiatives around the world are called Turning Point. I’m just not sure of the research on this area of recovery and wondered if you could point me in the direction of any good reading on the subject please.

I’m going to be recording meetings with people in recovery as I travel, and writing about the contexts in which recovery is happening and recovery communities are developing or have developed. I thought it might be interesting and useful to start recording what caused the move to start them on the road to recovery, whilst I’m collecting their stories.

What do you think? As you know I’ve never really been particularly academically minded.  I always get more interested in activism and community development. However,  I do enjoy studying and reading other people’s research/thinking on issues.  It’s just that I love telling stories and performing even more.

So David, any help on sources of reading around turning points in recovery would be helpful.

Hope this finds you well and look forward to hearing from you.

All the best


Several things to say about this blog. Firstly, it is AMAZING what is going on in Edinburgh. Well done all of you! I hope people in my city (Perth, Australia) take note!

Secondly, a message for John. I’m assuming you were writing to David Best in Melbourne but you’ve also connected the recovery advocate David in Perth! Always knew you were a canny one!

The Stories on this website show some Turning Points. You might also want to check out Christopher Kennedy Lawford’s book Moments of Clarity. Will keep you in touch with more I find. The planned trip sounds amazing. Keep in touch.