Andy Cairns

Andy Cairns marked three years of being sober last month


"I would have called you a liar if you told me this is what I would be doing. My life has changed so much and for the better".

After battling alcohol addiction, Andy Cairns found floristry as his calling at an art group in Weston-super-Mare.

Weston Artspace runs sessions for people in recovery and is one of many groups in the coastal town helping turn lives around.

"A normal day I would be shivering and shaking for a drink," Andy said.

"The first priority for me was to get up and get to the shop, it would be six to eight cans of extremely strong lager before I could even process or begin a day."

Andy Cairns

Andy's goal is to open his own florist

Weston-super-Mare has been highlighted among coastal areas suffering from health inequalities and a national partnership led by researchers at Bristol and Liverpool universities has received funds to tackle the issue.

Weston has been given an extra £750,000 to try and improve the health of some people who are really struggling - just like Andy was.

The financial package was awarded by UK Research and Innovation under the programme that aims to improve health through access to culture, nature and community.

The BBC has been speaking to people attending community classes that are making a difference.

'Enough was enough'

Andy, who said he was three years sober on 20 January, added his long-term goal was to set up as a florist.

The drop-in sessions with Weston Artspace saved him, he said.

"It just takes me away from everything. I get so lost and wrapped up it in, I love it. I absolutely love it," he said.

"I just knew enough was enough.

"The impact of Weston on me saved me. I did not choose Weston, Weston chose me. And I feel Weston saved my life."

Weston-super-Mare coast

Weston-super-Mare has been identified among the most deprived areas of England

Research has found issues include lower life expectancy in Weston than in other parts of the West of England.

The University of Bristol has now been given more funding to look at how best to improve people's lives in coastal towns.

Other coastal areas included in the £2.4m programme include Blackpool, Lancashire and Hastings in East Sussex.

Dr Lucy Selman, one of the Bristol University researchers, also lives in Weston-super-Mare.

Dr Lucy Selman

Dr Selman says she has seen positive changes in Weston-super-Mare over the past eight years

"I have been living here for the last eight years and I have seen changes in the town," said Dr Selman, associate professor from the Centre for Academic Primary Care and Palliative and End of Life Care Research Group.

"Especially the difference that cultural organisations, creative activities and community activities can make to people.

"I feel things are on the up and that the communities benefit from this funding."

Another space is a community theatre in the town.

Poppy Lakner, 18, from Bournville, has suffered with from mental health issues and found her confidence hugely boosted by participation in community activities, such as a theatre group.

Poppy, trainee youth worker, said speaking to strangers helped her and can help others.

"I think it is great for young people especially to go to youth clubs," she said.

She said the support and at times one-to-one help was important.

Poppy added: "And just to know they have someone they can speak to that is not someone they necessarily know personally."


From BBC




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