Anyone waking up in Inverness on Saturday 21st September 2019 was greeted by a beautiful sunrise into a clear blue sky, the weather was smiling on Recovery Walk Scotland 2019. The river Ness and the Inverness city looked magical and peaceful. Further along from the river at Northern Meeting Park the tranquillity gave way to activity, as buses arrived and excited travellers from across Scotland disembarked as final preparations were being made to the Recovery Festival and Village site. The security and event crews were finalising their workplans for the day ahead, while Rapid Relief Team were firing up their grills for a long day of feeding the expected crowds of recovery enthusiasts.
This was Recovery Walk Scotland’s most northernly event to date and the amazing weather was the herald to one of the most successful recovery walks in the 8-year history of this event.
Recovery Walk Scotland is a national event celebrating recovery, remembering those we have lost to addiction and suicide and proving to Scotland that people in recovery are proud, positive and compassionate community assets.
The national walk council/planning group, met monthly throughout the year to plan, develop and fundraise the event while connecting to a group of local people from the Highlands, whose role was to work with us to deliver the in event in the capital of the Highlands and that they did in spades.
The purpose of Recovery Walk Scotland is:
- Building recovery awareness among the wider population as well as those still suffering from addictions and its effects. • Strengthening and extending existing recovery communities. • Increasing willingness among people in recovery to make their more recovery visible. • Reducing stigma and increasing connection and compassion throughout Scotland.
- Reflecting on these aims, our theme for 2019 was ‘Compassionate Communities Create…’
Prison Recovery Walks 2019
2019 was also the most successful year for Recovery Walk Scotland within prisons. 14 of the 15 separate SPS establishments from across Scotland, all held their own recovery walks. This puts Scotland in a leading global position; no other country has this level of prison recovery involvement in a national recovery event. Over 1,000 people walked throughout the Scottish prison estates throughout the month of September, making 2019 most successful to date. STV News covered the HMP Perth Recovery Walk and this gave national media coverage too, emphasizing the tremendous work between the prison population and staff (within SPS, NHS & third sector), who have worked tirelessly to make these events happen.
Recovery Walk Scotland 2019 took place on Saturday 21st September in Inverness. The days event began at 11am with the Roses in the Ness memorial service followed by a procession through the city centre of Inverness at 12pm and concluded with the Recovery Festival and Village in Northern Meeting Park from 1-4pm.
Roses in the Ness
The roses ceremony was opened by a local choir, while attendees gathered and were offered free tea and coffee from the Salvation Army catering van, before host Sooze Gallagher (Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs), began the ceremony by welcoming the crowd to this years Recovery Walk Scotland in Inverness and introduced the speakers for the ceremony Iain McFarlane (Faith Connections), Suzie Baines (You Matter Always) & Grace Moir (Local Recoverist). The roses ceremony was then closed by the local choir as participants released the 750 red roses into the river Ness to represent those lost to drug, alcohol and suicide each year in Scotland, before transitioning the crowd into beginning the walk procession through Inverness.
Given that the 2019 walk was the furthest north the event had travelled, the planning group was expecting attendance of around 1,000 participants (with a final registration of 1,281 the previous day), however over 2,000 people made their way up Ness Walk, across Ness Bridge and down Castle Road, where the start of the procession could still see people setting off from the starting point; the recovery communities across Scotland far surpassed the planning groups wildest expectations, a testament to the scale and power of lived experience of recovery across the country.
The procession was led by an incredible local pipe band supported by a team of volunteer stewards from visible recovery communities, alongside a crew of professional SQA qualified stewards ensured that the procession was orderly and well managed; the minimal presence from Police Scotland was a huge indicator of how well both volunteers and professional handled the eager participants throughout the confounds of the city.
The reception from local shoppers and tourists alike on the course of the walk in Inverness was truly heart-warming, a real Highland welcome.
Recovery Festival & Village
The pipe band continued to play all the way to the entrance to Northern Meeting Park as all 2,000+ participants entered the festival and village site, where they were then greeted by the village stalls, free food and entertainment. The Rapid Relief Team provided over 1,000 free beef & veggie burgers along with a selection of hot and cold drinks for all.
Resident Recovery Walk Scotland DJ and compere Ronnie Park opened the Recovery Festival stage, interacting with the crowd and gaining a sense of how far some individuals, recovery groups, their friends and family had travelled from across the country to attend. Ronnie introduced each of the speakers Jardine Simpson (Scottish Recovery Consortium), Joe FitzPatrick MSP (Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and Sport), Deborah Stewart (Highland Alcohol and Drug Partnership) and members of the local Recovery Walk Scotland host group. Following the speakers the festival truly began with local rap group The Vandals (who stepped in at the last minute following a cancelation from the programmed Guilty Pleasures), before Ronnie then played a DJ set of classics for a ever enthusiastic crowd before the headlining band Torridon completed the set with an outstanding performance which had everyone on their feet singing and dancing along. The festival was closed with Jardine thanking participants and contributors to the day before introducing Ranald MacAuslan (Recoverist) to lead the closing Serenity Prayer.
THANK YOU: I want to thank our all our financial supporters who dug deep this year to ensure that “The Walk“could go ahead this year. The challenge around fundraising was acute this year given the extra expense incurred by extended logistics. Recovery Walk Scotland have exhausted our financial reserve and at one point we were having to consider the possibility of cancelling or scaling down the event. So, to all who contributed to make this event the success it was, in many important ways; thank you once again.
Thank you to our hosts from Inverness and across The Highlands. Highlands Council and Highlands ADP worked closely with us to deliver the day. Finally and most importantly, we want to thank the Recoverists of “Walk Ness “ who worked tirelessly to make this event so special and welcome Recoverists from across Scotland to their home area to celebrate and demonstrate Recovery.
Heather McLaughlin, Executive Officer
Jardine Simpson, Chief Executive Officer
Contributors without who this event could not have gone ahead:
Dumfries & Galloway ADP
Forth Valley ADP
Perth & Kinross ADP
Phoenix Futures Scotland
Rapid Relief Team
South Ayrshire ADP
Turning Point Scotland