ARGUS chief reporter Emily Walker spoke to a former alcoholic Coronation Street star and his wife as well as the people they are helping to turn their lives around and to get ahead.

A CORONATION Street star and his wife are helping former addicts set up their own businesses.

Kevin Kennedy - who played Curly Watts in the popular ITV soap, and his wife Clare started their recovery project Kennedy St 2014 after their own battles with addiction.

Now sober for 21 years, the Portslade couple are helping others in recovery.
Many of the former addicts that Clare and Kevin have helped spoke about how the couple’s public enterprise

Kennedy Street CIC helped them, as Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne made a £2,500 donation to help the project from money retrieved from criminals.

Kennedy Street has helped other projects set up their own social enterprises, feeding the homeless, organising dry gigs, and using crafting as therapy.

Clare said: “Kennedy Street is a charitable project that supports people in recovery and supports people achieving their potential.

“Talking about recovery makes it visible so people know where we are and what we do and what the beautiful people in recovery look like.

“I am really passionate about recovery because my life has been totally transformed by it.

“Kevin is 21 years sober, as am I. That’s why we are so passionate about this. “

Kevin said: “Clare is the brains and the driving force. I’m just the pretty one.

“I haven’t got the patience to do what she does.

“I have been at home when the phone goes and someone needs help.

“Whatever it is, she is on it. And if she can’t be there herself, she makes sure someone else is.”

Clare and Kevin have had plans to open Brighton and Hove’s first dry bar for several years. They still hope to secure around £700,000 of funding to set up a sober social centre and hub to unite the projects they work with.

Mrs Bourne said it was “humbling” to hear the stories of the addicts Kennedy Street has helped.

She said: “When I first met Clare I was so impressed with how she wanted to pay it forwards.

“You can help in the way big businesses can’t, because you are all acting from the heart.”

I drank all day on Corrie

The Argus:

FOR 20-years Kevin Kennedy was in millions of homes three nights a week as Norman (Curly) Watts in Coronation Street. 

But whilst playing the popular supermarket manager, Kevin’s drinking was out of control. 

He has previously said he would drink “in the morning, and throughout the day whenever I needed to top up to that level, so I was never fully sober.”

Since Kevin’s public battle with alcoholism he and wife Clare have now both been sober for 21 years and have set their hearts and minds on helping others -particularly in setting up businesses and getting into work. 

Kevin said: “I have never met a non-motivated addict. We have to know where to score, how to lie your way out of trouble and these are skills that can be used in other ways.”

I used Tiner as an addiction too

The Argus:

MOTHER of two Dani Cooper always knew she would end up an addict - but now she is “pulling out the big guns” to set up her own events company instead.

The 40-year-old said: “I grew up in Hackney. Drugs were always around. I always knew what addiction would look like.

“I knew I was an addict from a very young age.

“I had seen people in active addiction.

“I knew the moment I touched drugs that would be me.

“I didn’t even try drugs until I was 39.

“I had eating disorders growing up, I drank, I smoked, I could even use Tinder as an addiction.

“But when you are addicted to things that are socially acceptable, like alcohol, that goes under the radar.

“But I started taking cocaine at 39 and it wasn’t socially acceptable. People started to question what I was up to despite a previous 20 years of alcoholism

“I had been functioning. Holding down jobs, raising my children.

“But it got to the point where I was drinking two or three bottles of wine a night, and that was just on a quiet night in with my kids.

“I wasn’t having vodka on my cornflakes.”

Even when Dani started to realise she had a problem her friends thought she was fine.

She said: “You surround yourself with people who make what you are doing okay. So if you stand up and say I’ve got a problem they think ‘if you’ve got a problem maybe I’ve got a problem too’.

People would say “I think you’re alright.

Dani is now 322 days sober and accepts she is still “relatively new” to recovery.

But since giving up the drink, her life has completely changed.

She said: “I was working nine to five, holding down good jobs but I was never really fulfilling my potential and I wasnt really happy.”

That was until she met Clare Kennedy. After talking to Clare, Dani gave up her job and now runs her own company.

“I’m the most tenacious person you could ever meet.

“When you have no money and desperately need a drink you have to pull out the big guns.

“I can deploy that in other ways now. “

Dani now runs an events company - AllForOne events - which also helps others back into employment.

Dani said: “I‘m a single mum with two children, but if I can help others too then all the better.”

I once tried to kill myself

The Argus:

AFTER suffering for 20 years Lynne Knight took an overdose and tried to take her life jumping off the Palace Pier.

She went from being a high-flying executive to homeless, before she realised she needed help. 

But by turning her insomnia into a way to help others, Lynne, 43, has now set up a successful projects helping the most vulnerable people on the streets of Brighton and Hove

She said: “I grew up with a lot of violence going on around me. 

“I was always scared as a child. And confused, very isolated. “

“I was always uncomfortable and confused about life. 

“My addiction issue didn’t start with alcohol or substances.

“It started with food. 

“I developed an eating disorder at a very early age. That was me trying to control things. 

“I was assaulted at 14 and made a suicide attempt. I had complex post traumatic stress disorder. 

“I started taking drugs. At that time I thought it was the only way I could relax and feel comfortable. “ 

Despite a successful career in IT, Lynne had problems and her life was spiralling out of control. 

She said: “It was socially acceptable to drink and have that ‘work hard play hard’ kind of life 

“But I wasn’t happy and I realised it wasn’t all about money. The hole inside me wasn’t being filled. 

“I wasn’t a typical alcoholic getting up in the morning drinking bottles and bottles. 

“People think all alcoholics are homeless or all people on the street are alcoholics - that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

“What caused all my addictions was  trauma and there are so many reasons people become homeless.

“I tried to take my own life. 

“I was a a single parent and I became homeless three times. 

“I went from having loads of money to having none.”

As Lynne began her recovery she and her daughter decided to hand out duvets to homeless people on the streets of Brighton. 

She channelled her buzzing mind during sleepless nights into appealing for help from local businesses. 

She now runs dozens of events every month to help the city’s street community, organising soup kitchens and food and bedding collections. 

With the help of Kennedy Street she hopes to register as a social enterprise to be able to accept cash donations. 

Problems drove me to needles

The Argus:

ADELE Vida found her deep-rooted anxiety could be treated with knitting needles.

The 57-year-old said: “ I thought my problems were down to relationships.”

More than 16 years later when she finally found herself at a cocaine anonymous meeting, she armed herself with her crochet to keep her hands busy and avoid eye contact.

She became known as the “crochet woman”.

As her confidence grew she started running.

She started going to craft sessions at the Cascade Cafe and realised that while her hands were busy she opened up more.

Now she hopes to use crafts to help others.

She said: “I’m a socially anxious person. I can talk easily to other addicts but not to ‘normal people’”

Since meeting Clare Kennedy she now has dreams of making her Stitch That classes into a permanent operation.

She said: “Now I’m going to start Crowdfunding to start my own craft studio.”