1968 was the height of the cultural revolution in “Swinging London”. The ‘Youthquake’ was in full force and many young people were abandoning traditional, conservative ways of life for more expressive, rebellious, and non-conformist ways of living. Recreational drug use was a large part of this phenomenon, with uses of substances increasing significantly in the UK during this time.
Psychedelics in particular – whilst being hugely influential in visual culture and creative production at the time – were also posing health issues to many young people, and there was little to no infrastructure in place to support this generation through this experience.
When Baptist Minister Rev Eric Blakebrough took over John Bunyard church on Cromwell Road in Kington in that year, he witnessed this lack of support playing out in the social dynamics between the clashing subcultural groups, who would stumble out of the pubs when they closed at 10:30pm and start brawling in the middle of town.
At this time, ‘Teddy Boys’, Mods, Rockers, Bikers and Hippies were distinct clans strongly defined by the different music they listened to and the clothes they wore. The combination of clashing politics, alcohol and drugs was leading to violence.
Aghast at the situation, Blakebrough created ‘Kaleidoscope’ a youth support service and clinic, aiming to bring the ‘broken fragments of society’ together again to make something beautiful.
Staying open all night on a Friday, and running a disco with live music on Saturdays, Kaleidoscope offered a unique, safe space for the young people in Kingston at a time when there was little understanding of their particular needs. It was one of the very first charities to prioritise harm reduction in their treatment of substance abuse and addiction, with a focus on the role of community in offering compassionate support and healing.
Today, Kaleidiscope are based in Wales and support upwards of 10,000 people. They are one of the few remaining not-for-profits that remain a family organisation with CEO Martin Blakebrough being the son of their founder, Eric.
Watch the video below or visit their website to learn more about the incredible work of Kaleidoscope.