Bristol’s Recovery Choir’s 3 Year Anniversary

Bristol’s Recovery Choir, Rising Voices, is celebrating 3 years of singing for recovery with the release of a short film, by local filmmaker Jessica Balla, which follows their journey of hope and positivity in their recoveries from alcohol and drug addiction.


The South West's first alcohol and drug recovery choir was founded by Sophie Wilsdon at Bristol Drugs Project (BDP) and independent choir leader and musician Isolde Freeth-Hale in November 2014. Over 200 people have taken part in their weekly singing group, and the choir has had over 30 public performances including on Songs of Praise, BBC Points West, Rolls Royce, Bristol Recovery Festival, Bereavement Through Addiction memorial services, and at the historic St. Stephens’ Church in central Bristol.

Sophie had been working in the group work team at BDP for 6 years, supporting people to make changes in their alcohol and drug use through talking groups. Although BDP had always had one off music and drama groups, she was looking to start a regular music group that would be open to anyone affected by recovery in Bristol. Sophie met Isolde through her choir The Morning Chorus, and started thinking about the possibility of setting up a choir specifically for people effected by alcohol and drugs. With funding and support from BDP, Rising Voices had their first rehearsal on 27th November 2014.

Research shows that singing in a group increases feelings of confidence and self esteem, decreases feelings of anxiety and depression, and there is even exciting evidence that it can increase immunity. It is also shown to increase feelings of connection and a sense of belonging – which is crucial to combatting isolation when people are addressing their addiction.

It’s great, that sort of coming together – it’s quite magical in a sense. It’s about that connection, finding something not to focus on but that gives purpose.

Music and singing can offer a unique way for people to process their feelings and emotions around recovery without having to find the words to do so.

The thing that is most valuable to me about the choir is the chance to have a voice. Not to have to talk about recovery stuff or your past. Just be a human being with other human beings, singing.

The choir has been involved with MUS.I.C D.A.RE, a Europe wide study looking at the links between music and addiction. They were invited to attend and perform at the study’s conference in Brighton in September 2017 and choir members are now taking part in an e-learning version of the training exploring how music affects the brain, alternative therapeutic communities, music facilitation and creative approaches to building safety in groups, and at research looking at using music to decrease cravings.

Rising Voices now have between 15 and 20 regular members of mixed gender, age and musical experience. No singing or choir experience is necessary, as everything is learnt by ear and sung unaccompanied.

Anyone who is affected by addiction is welcome to come along – whether they have experienced addiction themselves, in their family or loved ones, or if they work or volunteer in treatment services. Rising Voices rehearse 5.30 – 7pm every Tuesday at the Unitarian Meeting House, Brunswick Square.

When it all comes together remarkably at the end, it’s just amazing to feel part of something and physically to get a rush and a buzz from the whole thing… there’s nothing to worry about


For more information please visit www.risingvoiceschoir.co.uk or contact Sophie Wilsdon on 0117 987 6011. Stay connected with Rising Voices on Facebook and Twitter.

Choir supported by Bristol Drugs Project and Helen and Peter Wilde. Choir led by Isolde Freeth-Hale.
Logo designed by Linda Becker. Film by Jessica Balla.