The Duchess of Cambridge carries out her first regional solo day of engagements in Liverpool
14th February 2012
Crowds cheered and waved flags as The Duchess of Cambridge arrived for a Valentine's Day visit to Liverpool today.
First, Her Royal Highness visited a charity that helps addicts recover from drink and drug dependency. The Duchess became Patron of Action on Addiction in January.
The Duchess, making her debut solo regional visit, smiled at the dozens of people who had gathered at The Brink, a dry bar run by the Action on Addiction charity.
The Duke of Cambridge is on a six-week posting in the Falkland Islands as part of his role as an RAF search and rescue pilot.
The Duchess was serenaded by the resident choir at The Brink - made up of recovering addicts called the Raucous Caucus Recovery Chorus - singing a traditional native American Indian song titled, Wings Of A Dove.
Michael Edwards, 32, from Kensington, Liverpool, and a member of the choir, said: "It's a song about hope and happiness.
"I got involved in the choir because I'm in recovery from drugs and alcohol.
"Doing this, it's built my confidence, it's risen up. I didn't have any before.
"It's a bit scary with a royal audience but this is what the choir has done for me, to give me the confidence to sing in front of people. Everybody has been excited here for weeks because of the royal visit, that something this good is happening here."
Her Royal Highness was shown behind the bar at The Brink, where Paula Carey, 37, from Dovecote, Liverpool, served her a smoothie, named The Duchess in her honour.
Miss Carey mixed the almonds, skimmed milk, drop of honey, banana and a dash of cream in a blender, before presenting the drink in a cocktail glass with a slice of Orange to the Duchess.
The Duchess took a sip of the drink and with a nod of approval said: "Amazing, well done."
Miss Carey added: "She said it was delicious. I didn't think she would drink it.
"She was asking me how long I had worked here and if I was enjoying it.
"She made me feel relaxed and at ease because I was really nervous before."
Before The Brink choir sang for The Duchess, she heard a personal story from one of the people the centre has helped.
Rachael Lyons, 36, from Toxteth, Liverpool, took to the stage to "showcase" the work being done at the centre.
The mother of two said: "This time last year I was at the worst of my alcoholism. Agencies had been called in with my children because I was not being the parent I should have been.
"I was in the depths of despair, my life was chaotic."
Miss Lyons said she then got help for her problems and will have been sober and off alcohol for 11 months on the 18th of this month.
"I didn't know I had a choice, that's how it was. I'm the parent I should be now, which is amazing.
"I'm now volunteering for The Brink and hoping to give something back to people in my situation.
"It's just a fabulous place to be, I'm in a really good place in my life now."
After her speech, which was greeted with applause and cheering, Miss Lyons added: "It just felt wonderful our future queen was sitting in front of me - she seemed really interested in what I had to say.
"Never in a million years did I think this would happen to me, it's amazing. And it's amazing what she's doing with Action on Addiction because this saves lives."
Hundreds of flag-waving fans gathered at Alder Hey well ahead of The Duchess's arrival this afternoon.
Among the crowds was nine-year-old Ivan Layland, who has been a patient at the hospital for most of his young life.
The youngster, who has the condition irreversible bowel syndrome, met The Duke of Cambridge when he opened an MRI facility in February 2010.
Today, Ivan, who underwent a bowel transplant last year, was anxious to meet The Duchess.
Waving a flag he said: "I remember meeting William was very exciting and he was very tall.
"It's good that they come here because the doctors and nurses work very hard to make everyone feel better."
Ivan's carer, Darrell Prescott, 57, from St Helens, said: "Ivan talked about meeting Prince William for weeks afterwards so when we heard The Duchess was coming he was very excited all over again.
"Alder Hey is a wonderful hospital and it's magic to be here today and see so many people smiling and waving flags."
Jacquie Johnston-Lyons, head of service at Action on Addiction in Liverpool, thanked The Duchess for her support of the charity and her visit to the city.
"Thank you so much, your Royal Highness, for being here today," she said.
"This is just such an incredible honour. Anything that can put recovery on the map is 100 per cent amazing.
"What we are trying to do is save people's lives. Recovery is available for everybody, it's not just an option."
Before The Duchess left for the next royal engagement in Liverpool, she was presented with flowers, cake and a St Valentine's Day card by Jaqson Johnston-Lynch, as his mother Jacquie thanked The Duchess for the visit.
Jaqson told The Duchess he was sorry her husband could not be there for St Valentine's Day.
Mrs Johnston-Lynch said The Duchess replied: "Do you know where he is, Jaqson?
"He's in the Falklands but he's sent me a card this morning."
Mrs Johnston-Lynch added that The Duchess said she received flowers as well as the card from her husband.
The Duchess left The Brink for her next engagement at Alder Hey Children's Hospital.
The Duchess arrived at Alder Hey to loud cheers and applause from hundreds of well-wishers.
She gave a smile and a wave as shouts of "Kate" were heard from the crowd.
Her first stop was Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC), an independent charity which aims to provide free "home away from home" accommodation at hospitals across the UK, enabling families to stay close to their child and maintain a degree of normal family life.
The Duchess was met by director Jan Harris and introduced to various VIPs, including the leader of Liverpool City Council, Joe Anderson, and RMHC president Lady Stoddart.
She also met trustee Sylvia Lewis, who thanked her for visiting.
"It's a fantastic place," The Duchess replied.
Her Royal Highness was then introduced to families who use the centre on a long-term basis.
She was met by 10-year-old Ethan Harris, who presented her with a Valentine's Day card he had made himself.
The card, on red paper with painted spots, included on the front a picture of his brother, Carson Hartley, cut into a heart shape.
Inside, Ethan had written The Duchess a poem which read: "You're smiley like the sun, you're bright like a star, you're light when it's dark and I love your spark."
A delighted Duchess said: "Thank you, that's lovely."
Ethan's family have used the RMHC since Carson, who will celebrate his second birthday on Sunday, was born premature.
Carson has complex medical needs resulting from a heart problem.
Their mother, Kirsty Harris, 32, from Accrington, Lancashire, said: "Ethan has been up since 5am this morning, he's been so excited.
"It was his own idea to make the card and write the poem. I couldn't believe it when I saw all the effort he went to.
"This is a day he will remember for the rest of his life."
The Duchess also met Emily Welch, seven, who was somewhat star-struck when The Duchess said hello.
Worried-looking Emily turned to her mother, and Mrs Harris told the little girl: "The Duchess doesn't bite."
The Duchess laughed and said told Emily she had "lovely, cute eyes".
Mrs Harris then gave a formal welcome to The Duchess and said: "Years ago the families of children in hospital were encouraged to stay away.
"Wonderfully, times have changed and we now know children make a better recovery when their families are nearby.
"We know some families will never take their children home but being here for the last few weeks and days makes the world of difference.
"We're very proud of the work we do here and we're very proud to welcome you here today."
Ethan then helped The Duchess unveil a plaque commemorating her visit, with The Duchess telling him: "Your name should be on this too."
The visit marks the opening of new flats at RMHC.