Exhibition held in Portsmouth to mark 75 years of Alcoholics Anonymous as celebration to those helped

AN EXHIBITION to mark 75 years of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in the UK was held in the city centre as a celebration to all those it has helped.

Friday, 3rd September 2021, 4:05 pm
The Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Frank Jonas and the Lady Mayoress Joy Maddox at The Alcoholics Anonymous 75th anniversary exhibition Picture: Andy Hornby

Members of AA were joined by supporters and the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Frank Jonas at Portsmouth Central Library to mark the opening of the Darkness into Light exhibition, set to run until September 28.

The exhibition is free to attend and AA Members will be available to answer questions.

The pilot exhibition is a prelude to AA’s roadshow which starts in January in Chichester before travelling around the south east.

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Lindy Elliot, the libraries and archives manager of Portsmouth Libraries, after being presented with the first copy of the The Alcoholics Anonymous "Big Book" to be placed into the library for people to read and borrow Picture: Andy Hornby

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The exhibition explores AA’s beginnings in Great Britain through to the thriving fellowship that serves the community today.

For the first time, AA will open its archive to share images, recordings, literature and artifacts to illustrate AA’s journey to provide free and confidential support to anyone who is worried about their drinking.

AA began in Ohio, USA in 1935. Twelve years later, the first AA meeting in Britain was held at London’s Dorchester Hotel, hosted by Grace O, a visiting member of AA from the USA.

The Alcoholics Anonymous Exhibition in Portsmouth Central Library Picture: Andy Hornby

The meeting was held in Room 202 of the hotel at 8pm on March 31, 1947. Since that time AA has grown and now hosts over 4,500 meetings per week across the country.

The first meeting in Portsmouth took place at St James’ Hospital in 1966 before the first public meeting there in 1974.

An AA spokeswoman said: ‘Darkness into Light is a celebration of the strength and courage of alcoholics across Great Britain over the past 75 years.

‘AA started from a meeting between two seemingly hopeless alcoholics in 1935. Today AA has approximately three million members worldwide and the success of AA in Great Britain has helped many thousands of people to recover from alcoholism.

‘We hope that this exhibition will give an understanding of our history and how AA continues to offer support to anyone who suffers from alcoholism.’

AA’s public information liaison officer for the south east said: ‘AA has helped thousands of people within Portsmouth and the surrounding area. There are daily meetings held both face to face and also online.

‘We have seen an increase in people reaching out for help during the pandemic and have witnessed an increase in new members attending meetings.’

Figures published last November revealed there has been an increase in calls to AA’s helpline and online services of more than 35 per cent in the first quarter of last year and a rise of 15 per cent in the second quarter compared to the same period in 2019.

Tom Fox, a non-alcoholic trustee of AA, said: ‘During the current pandemic there has been a very significant increase in people contacting us to looking for support and help, Thanks to the terrific efforts of members of the fellowship across the country we have been able to reach out to the still suffering alcoholic providing that help, support and fellowship.

‘We are committed to being there for those who need our help and over the last few months groups across the country have risen to the challenge that the Covid restrictions have created to find new ways of being there for those who need help. I would urge anyone who is suffering with the illness that is alcoholism to get in touch we are here to help.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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