When Public Health Commissions Recovery

A look back at our first ever seminar series

When the Strategic Recovery Lead for substance misuse in Public Health England suggests The Basement Project is “Probably the best UK example of a dedicated recovery community centre” is it not surprising we are frequently asked to advise other areas on how to build their own. This in turn has led to countless requests to visit us and find out more, which admittedly diverts resource from the day-to-day activities.

So we decided to put on a number of open days, something with a bit of focus, something along the lines of a seminar. Given that many local authorities are in the process of re-commissioning and re-tendering their drug and alcohol treatment systems to embrace the recovery agenda, we wanted to get the message across that recovery communities like TBRP are supported but not directly commissioned. Service reconfiguration is only the first step. It lays the foundations, not the finished structures.

So as part of our seminar series we invited the man himself, Mr Mark Gilman to come and talk about “When Public Health Commissions Recovery”. The seminars were a great success and a great experience for all our volunteers involved, especially those who provided guided tours and spoke openly about their own recovery journeys. But don’t just take our word for it; here are a few comments from some of those who attended. We greatly appreciate the feedback (more than we could include here) and your time for putting fingers to keyboard.


Sometimes it can be refreshing to get out of your own back yard and see what recovery projects/activities are happening elsewhere, so with this in mind I signed up for When Public Health Commissions Recovery seminar, hosted by the Basement Project in Halifax. Initially I attended the May event, which unfortunately I had to depart from early due to service commitments. What I did experience that morning though was nothing short of inspirational and uplifting, so much so that I returned for more in July to see the bits I had missed out on!

Headlined by Mark Gilman (always entertaining!), the day promised an insight into how developing something that people can link into can work wonders for community integration and recovery itself. From the moment of arrival, the atmosphere was overwhelmingly welcoming and positive. I have never seen such a dedicated, passionate team of volunteers in one space! My colleague and myself were superbly looked after by Stan, who gave us a full guided tour of TBRP and its facilities – that building is fantastic, and it was so uplifting to see all the hard work that the team itself had invested into converting it to its current purpose.

Mark’s opening presentation was (as always) thoroughly enjoyable, following on from which Stuart Honor gave a useful insight into how TBRP had evolved through developing a recovery community in Calderdale. From its humble beginnings as a service user group, this gathered pace into a (very popular) Breakfast Club, offering a full fry up whilst successfully integrating with the wider community. Larry Eve and the Team of Volunteers finished the presentations off on a high note, taking us through their own personal experiences as they outlined their Peer-Led Abstinent Based and Recovery programmes.

TBRP truly is an example of ‘Build It And They Will Come’ – from those early days it has gone from strength to strength to become the vibrant, recovery orientated project it is today. We left feeling energised, and eagerly looking forward to taking such good examples of recovery practice back to our services. TBRP is positively addictive as I’m already looking forward to coming back for more.

Nicky Booth – Service Manager – Compass Selby / Scarborough / Whitby / Ryedale

I really enjoyed my visit to the Basement Project – truly inspirational. The lunch was delicious. Stan was a great host. I enjoyed meeting Clare and appreciated her remarkable courage. I would be happy to stay in touch whilst she starts her new path if she would like. I think the project ambassadors are very special, the way they spoke with apparent confidence and reflected on their journeys, but also the humour that pervaded was a reflection of the unique atmosphere that has been created. Very best wishes.

Dr Jane Pettifer
Clinical Lead for Shared Care (Substance Misuse) for Kensington Chelsea and Westminster

I was drawn to the Basement Project seminar by word of mouth, “recovery really happens there”. I paid my fifty quid for the seminar held on 21st June. I was not disappointed, it was worth every penny.

There were four cracking presentations kicked off by the irrepressible Mark Gilman, the Public Health England Recovery Tsar who set the lively tone for the day. All speakers had the courage to speak their mind which was important as often we commissioners follow the safety of the herd rather than the evidence. The final presentation by the Basement Projects young progenitor gave a whistle-stop tour of philosophy plus bricks and mortar; I was intrigued to find out that spirituality, compulsion and at least one organisational buddy were the necessary ingredients for success.

The seminar delegates were from scattered parts of the North of England, and represented commissioners, managers and hands-on providers. I suspect we all had different reasons for attending, and had different knowledge to learn. Questions were encouraged and the presentations’ informality allowed everyone to feel included; certainly I heard not a single delegate grumble at the end of the seminar, quite the opposite.

Our education was re-enforced by the thoughtful good natured passion for the place exhibited by the liberal scattering of members of the project, who were “in recovery”. No questions were deemed off limits. All were answered with good humour and honesty. I learned what I needed to know; I suspect other delegates did likewise.
A tasty lunch followed at 12.30, excellently prepared by the project volunteers. I continued to question and listen to anybody and everybody. I looked at my watch it was 3.30!
I wear several hats: compulsive, commissioner for Drugs and Alcohol Services, GP with special interest in addiction, Executive Member of the Family Doctor Association, Director of The Recovery Republic in Rochdale. So I can speak with a little authority when I say if you are half thinking of having a look at the Basement Project, don’t waste your time thinking, simply go!

Dr Michael Taylor

It’s always a pleasure to walk into Basement House, not only because as soon as you get through the door you know there’s going to be some tasty treat available, but more so down to the environment; the people in recovery, the staff, the energy and the welcome that awaits you.

The Recovery seminar I attended, as with any event they do, was thought provoking and inspirational and it also had the informality this industry needs to keep alive. It is clear from hearing all the people (specifically Stuart and Larry) that spoke that there is a real passion surrounding the Basement and the work they carry out in both Calderdale and Kirklees. I’m fortunate to also have the opportunity to see this in action as a partner provider in Kirklees. It was good to have the opportunity to listen to people who understand Recovery, not just from a theoretical viewpoint but from a practical one too – more please.

Chris Lawton
Service Manager – Lifeline Kirklees

I recently had the opportunity to attend a seminar at the Basement Project in Halifax. From the moment I arrived at the project I was met with a very relaxed and welcoming environment which felt more like stepping into trendy retro café in the middle of Manchester.

Everyone I spoke to at the Project was very passionate about Recovery and the Basement Project. Their enthusiasm and dedication created a positive atmosphere which was contagious throughout the day.

As a small, self-help organisation faced with many challenges, I admire their determination to continue to support and inspire people who are involved with alcohol and substance misuse.

I was left inspired with what has been achieved at the Basement Project and wish them the best of luck for the future.

Faye Barraclough
Implementation Manager – Turning Point

Article featured in RecoveryTimes issue 5