As an offshoot of the New Note Orchestra, the New Note Strummers put on an evening of music, chat and fundraising made memorable by their stories, special guests and the power of music to transform. The guitarists, all in recovery from addiction and mental health issues ranged from professional to people like Pat who described his journey from homelessness to picking up a bass for the first time a year ago. Others described how being in the Strummers, a guitar group playing their own and cover songs, helped them become better musicians and inspired them to write their own songs.

There was an interview with Dr Jon Stewart from 1990’s Britpop band Sleeper who described his own passage through addiction to recovery. He said that although AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) saved his life, as an atheist he struggled with the concept of God as a higher power. Initially he used music as his higher power and found that the shared love and camaraderie in other AA members that he met gave him access to the recovery process. He discussed the newer and more numerous options that are open to alcoholics today as well as exploring wellbeing tools outside of the Fellowship like mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy (also discussed in an article by Jon Stewart, The Guardian).

Organizer Molly Mathieson also somehow arranged Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin to sign a Fender acoustic guitar to be given away to one lucky audience member in a raffle.

To top off the evening which had an atmosphere of loving, giving and vulnerability, bass player Herbie Flowers joined covers band ‘Sweet and Lowdown’ who played songs by Lou Reed, David Bowie and T-Rex which Herbie had originally played on. During Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’, the authentic primary coloured tuba was passed onstage on which Herbie also played his tribute to the beluga whale which had got stuck in the Thames (Story by Jacob Jarvis, Evening Standard). There were tears during Bowie’s ‘Where Are We Now?’ and the iconic bassline from ‘Walk On the Wildside’ played by the man who had created it, (and in twenty minutes! – see video).