Artistic recovery

Tessa Fleming

The arts centre in the Liberties that is  helping former drug users on the path to recovery through the use of creativity.

“RADEer’s have an edge when it comes to creativity because they are taking a fresh-eyed look at themselves, and their place in the world, in a way that most of us never do,” said Malcolm Mac Clancy, creative writing facilitator.

RADE (recovery through art, drama and education) is a centre for people with drug addictions. Mary McAleese got it spot on when she said “RADE’s innovative programme of combating substance abuse through art introduces addicts to their own genius, their own best selves, it focuses on the buzz that living a positive life can bring, a buzz that is genuine and life enhancing…”

There is no fear in RADE.  There is no judgement.  There is no competition, grades, ridicule, manipulation or apprehension.  There is rawness, truth, and a pureness which is captured in the ritual morning tai chi.

Here students are taught not to directly fight or resist an incoming force.  Instead the force will either exhaust itself or be safely redirected using a soft, physical contact with the force.  Here the soft and pliable will defeat the hard and strong.  It builds strength of mind, determination and patience in the once vulnerable body and soul.  The mediated focus filling the room leads one to wonder how any of the participants could ever have given into the temptation of drugs.

At the end of every year RADE aim to put on a performance, a goal participants can work towards which very much ties in with their Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

CBT addresses dysfunctional emotions, maladaptive behaviours and cognitive processes and contents through a number of goal-oriented, explicit systematic procedures.

This year, RADE performed a Simon Miller play, The Last Ten Years for which it was nominated for a Spirit of the Fringe Award and Best off Site Production Award.  RADE’s portrayal of the addiction and mental health issues associated with pharmaceutical drug use and how these very corporations were behind the drug trade lent them to a relentless amount of critical acclaim, with the Irish Examiner describing it as “startling work”.

Art is scattered in every crevice of the building, art which one cannot simply, just pass by.  It is truly breath-taking.  Michael Egan, project director of RADE, exudes a strong passion and unparalleled enthusiasm for this creative hub in the heart of the Liberties and its participants.  Proud of its numerous nominations and awards, he acknowledges that none of it would be possible without the courage and intellect of its participants.

Egan builds a strong personal relationship with each participant, and encourages their raw artistic expression.  Books upon books have been built up in RADE over the last number of years which complies all of the participants creative writings.  “There’s room for a nativity in their creative writing.  We don’t re-write anything, we don’t tidy anything up.”

Egan’s respect for each of the participants is evident in his praise for them.  Acknowledging how difficult it must be for them to survive on the streets battling an addiction with no one to turn to for help, many turn to crime to feed their addiction.  “It takes a lot of intelligence to survive on the streets but they channel all of it into negative outlets to do so.  Here it’s about channelling it into something positive.”

Spending time in RADE it’s clear to see why this particular programme is so successful.  Everyone’s opinion is valued here, everyone has a voice.  It’s a supportive haven where drug addicts can explore their creative ability and through this, build strength from their weaknesses, finding that the source for their recovery comes from within themselves.

Poem below by Darren:

The Moon

The Moon is round and sometimes full

And sometimes half, and then it’s sometimes not there at all

That’s similar to myself


Poem below by Mary:


The day I stop being there for you is the day I close my eyes


If I died and went somewhere far, I’d write your name on

every star

So everyone can look up and see that your friendship

means the world to me


Image top; Tessa Fleming

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