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An orchestra that changes lives – why Wards Solicitors wanted to help

An orchestra that changes lives – why Wards Solicitors wanted to help

It brings hope, a sense of purpose and belonging. In short, the Bristol Drugs Project Recovery Orchestra changes lives.

As one recovering drug user and orchestra member said: "We celebrate our own imperfections. It's part of something bigger than ourselves and that's what makes it powerful and beautiful. There's the development, there's the sobriety and growth…We've got an orchestra as part of a creative recovery."

That's why Wards Solicitors is so delighted to be able to play a part in enabling this incredible orchestra to continue its vital role; helping people affected by problematic drug and alcohol use break through the social isolation this so often causes.


Started earlier this year as a pilot project, the orchestra is open to anyone directly affected by drugs and alcohol use as well as their families, friends and carers.

There are currently 22 members with a range of musical skills - you don't need any expertise at all to join the orchestra - and its founder, Sophie Wilsdon, Volunteer and Creative Manager at Bristol Drugs Project (BDP), has seen some incredible changes in people since it began.

"Problematic drug or alcohol use has a big impact on physical and mental health including low self-esteem, anxiety, isolation and forming healthy relationships," she says.

Forceful and unexpected

"People who join the orchestra not only learn about music, they become part of something which has a forceful and often unexpected sense of community, which people with a drug problem so often lack in their lives.

"The orchestra helps people recover. One woman told me she was only able to get through her alcohol detox because of the orchestra and I have heard the most moving testimonies of my life from people for whom the orchestra truly has been life changing, reconnecting them with music supported by the expertise at BDP."

The orchestra meets weekly and is led by professional music educator and conductor, Jonathan James, who has worked with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and founded Bristol's Pre-Conservatoire, a music school for young classical and jazz players.

The group is working towards a performance of a Beethoven piece at the annual Bristol Recovery Festival in September as well as recording an original piece created by the orchestra.

Sophie says: "The money that Wards Solicitors has so kindly given will enable us to keep going through the summer and to prepare for the festival which gives the orchestra members such a sense of pride to be involved in."

'Music doesn't lie'

Jenny Pierce, Wards Solicitors' Partner and head of the Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity Team, adds: "To quote Jimi Hendrix: 'Music doesn't lie. If there is something to be changed in this world then it can only happen through music'.

"Here at Wards Solicitors, we are delighted to sponsor the Bristol Drugs Project Recovery Orchestra and keen to support a project that is so beneficial to people affected by drugs and alcohol.

"We look forward to hearing about the fruits of the orchestra's labours and hope it brings positive change for all who take part."

The donation to the BDP Recovery Orchestra comes from the Wards Solicitors' Centenary Fund, held by the Quartet Community Foundation, and set up by staff specifically to support local causes. It was started more than a decade ago to commemorate the firm's 100th birthday.

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