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What We Do
Recovery Through Music
The Recovery Through Music programme provides safe and supportive environments for people to come together, learn new skills, get creative, make new friends, and build a support network.
Our Creative Workshops include vocals, guitar, bass, art & craft, creative writing and performance anxiety.
We have two choirs – the Tonic Ska Choir and the Tonic Punk Choir. The choirs perform at gigs, festivals, rallies and events, as well as recording covers in a professional recording studio.
All of these free services help people to build their resilience, self-esteem and confidence through positive risk-taking, accomplishment and artistic expression. We support people both within and outside of mental healthcare services.
We also offer one-to-one tuition for a small donation, and collaborate with the NHS and local authorities to provide music workshops further afield. Tonic services complement the traditional support provided by public sector mental health services.
We raise awareness, run campaigns and promote our cause at fundraisers, festivals and arts-based events. We also perform at these events to showcase the work that we do, giving our Tonic community the opportunity to perform in a safe and supportive environment. Much of our outreach work is done in association with artists, bands, venues and event organisers. We have established an excellent reputation within the music industry.
The innovative Tonic Rider programme promotes good mental health in the music industry by providing mental health support both remotely and at venues. Our support includes mental health guides, Tonic stands at events, Mental Health First Aid training, and a peer support group.
The Never Mind the Stigma campaign provides pop-up Tonic stands at gigs, festivals and events. We provide information, promote our cause, and raise funds to keep Tonic services free for those in need – we have always excelled at raising funds through grassroots activity. The presence of our stands at events helps to increase awareness, encourage discussion and reduce stigma.
We sell Tonic branded merchandise to raise awareness, promote our cause and generate income.
We offer volunteering opportunities, both in-house and at events, providing people with transferable skills that can help them find employment. We also offer student placements.
We provide fundraising opportunities, including skydiving and wingwalking. The Tonic Rider was launched with funds raised at our annual Tonic wingwalking event – Barry’s Flying Circus.
We give free event tickets to Tonic users and provide the support needed to help those isolated by mental illness to attend events and connect with their community.
We support people to produce music by providing access to recording sessions. We also donate instruments to those in need.
We provide information, advice and support, often working in partnership with other providers such as the NHS. Where we cannot provide direct support, we offer signposting to the appropriate services. Tonic users are always welcome into the shop for a hot drink and a chat.
We participate in music industry discussions about the relationship between music and mental health. We provide education and training at events, conferences and seminars.
We undertake research to evaluate the effectiveness of the Tonic project and improve our services. Our methodology is supported by mental health practitioners and academics.
All of our activity is designed and run from the perspective of both service givers and service users, and so is considerate of the needs of everyone involved.
Festivals & Events
Bands, Musicians, Radio & DJs
Studios & Record Stores
“It gives me a sense of belonging, a sense of community, and a safe place to go where my anxiety and mental health problems are accepted as a part of me – they are nothing to be ashamed of.”
Philippa is a Tonic Ska Choir member.
“Over the coming weeks we became more than just a choir, we became a family. It was about more than just singing – we were looking after each other as well.”
Debby is a Tonic Ska Choir member and volunteer.
“Within the first few minutes I knew I was in the right place. The atmosphere was light and inclusive, the leaders enthusiastic and encouraging, and when the singing kicked in you couldn’t help but feel a lift both mentally and physically.
“Finding the choir when I did was so important to me. It gave me something genuinely good to hold on to during a very dark period. It bought me time to recover, whilst also boosting my self-esteem and speeding my recovery. I’m truly grateful to Tonic for that.”
David is a Tonic Ska Choir member.
“Before I was involved in Tonic I was lost in a world of drug addiction, living a life I believed I should be living rather than being true to myself. Now free from active addiction, I love nothing more than sharing my struggles with mental health and addiction, and Tonic has been there from the beginning. I’ve gone from someone who was close to passing out with nerves at the first Tonic Ska Choir rehearsals to now confidently performing in front of hundreds. I also proudly talk about Tonic at various fundraising events.“
Carl is a Tonic Ska Choir member, workshop participant and volunteer.
Terry Hall (Patron)
"Communication is the big one. That’s why events like Tonic are so good. Anything that gives you a voice can be really good. Music is such a basic thing — you don’t really need to be able to play anything. A tambourine can sometimes help."
Terry Hall is lead singer of The Specials.
Darren “Lofty” Churchill
“The ska choir is not only about raising my own spirits and wellbeing. I take great pride in sharing the happiness with those around me, and the audiences we have entertained.”
Lofty is a Tonic Ska Choir member.
“The first night there were about twelve of us, but I immediately felt a sense of belonging. As the choir grew and evolved, it gave me purpose and an environment where I could just be me.
“I’ve had the best of times over the past year, and I've made supportive friendships that have come to mean the world to me. I have discovered the joy to be found in communal singing.
“In short, I've found my tribe, and it means the absolute world.”
Jo is a Tonic Ska Choir member.
Barry Ashworth (Patron)
"I think anything that brings mental health to the fore, makes people more aware, and opens up a discussion has got to be a good thing. Tonic is a great project.”
Barry Ashworth founded electronic music group Dub Pistols in 1996.
“Tonic is about inclusion and embracing everybody that comes to the workshops and the gigs. It's about being there with the people.”
Sarah is a Tonic workshop participant and volunteer.
Vinny Peculiar (Trustee)
“The Tonic workshops have proved inspirational. Seeing people come together to create and connect as musicians, poets and artists has such a strikingly positive effect on their mental wellbeing. I have felt privileged to be a part of the process.”
Vinny Peculiar is a musician, singer-songwriter, poet, music workshop facilitator and Tonic trustee. He is formerly a mental health nurse.
“Music is such an important part in someone’s rehabilitation. I’ve been in a hospital ward where if it hadn’t been for a beaten up acoustic guitar with 3 strings, I probably wouldn’t still be here.
“Unfortunately, music isn’t one of those things that can be prescribed on the NHS. It can’t be. They will prescribe therapies and drugs, which are fantastic in their place, but as a recovery tool and occupational therapy music really should be up there. I’ve been in a state where I’ve been quite poorly, but there has been a beaten up guitar that you can just pick up, go somewhere on your own with, and then play music.
“If you're musically minded it can be fantastic. But even if you’re not musically minded, taking the time to try and learn something, or make a sound, can be just as good. You can be as angry as you like with a musical instrument - no one cares.”
Rob Coache is a singer/songwriter and guitarist for The High Wire Act.
“I found out about Tonic at the Portsmouth International Kite Festival where they were hosting a stall to raise awareness about mental health and the groups and activities they have to offer. It couldn't have come along at a better time in my life for me!
“I had just completed a drug and alcohol rehab and have suffered from anxiety, bouts of depression, and a lot of self-doubt over the past 20 years. Steph and everyone running the stall were so friendly, comforting, and welcoming, and it put me at ease, so I started to ask some questions.
“This, combined with a love of all types of music and art, has proven to be a truly winning combination for me the past year. I started to attend the art and then later music groups, and found them to be very fun, but most importantly great for my self worth.
“I have met some amazing people at these groups and made some strong friendships with people who can understand some of the feelings I get. It feels like an extended family to me. The groups were thoroughly enjoyable and we have created some outstanding art and music together which I believe has a truly positive effect on the way I think and feel.
“Tonic has given me an outlet to talk about my problems with people I can trust, and any advice I have received has always been a great help. I get as much help from Tonic as I have done from any other service I have engaged with, and in many cases more so.
“I feel that my personal development has vastly improved with the confidence they have helped to rebuild in me. They have massively helped me build a road to a ‘normal’ and successful life, and I feel privileged to be a part of it.”
“I have been involved with Tonic since my son, who has suffered from dyspraxia and mild depression, was invited to a music workshop by the charity. Through music he has found a healthy channel for his frustrations and difficulties. He was able to develop his music skills, increasing his self esteem and self confidence.
“I am convinced that music and the role he has played as a helper and fundraiser for Tonic has drastically reduced his need for treatment and medical intervention. He is now going to university to study music and is considering using the skills that he developed at Tonic to train as a musical therapist.”