Mental Fight Club (MFC) was founded by Sarah Wheeler in Southwark in 2003, as a creative force for change led by service users. The group has been running pop-up creative events since 2003 to explore issues around mental illness, recovery and wellbeing. The Dragon Café is one of its most successful initiatives.
Mental Fight Club at the Dragon Café – a bold project
In 2012 Maudsley Charity began funding the Dragon Café project: MFC’s most innovative endeavour to date. Fuelled by a regular volunteer workforce, two-thirds of whom have themselves experienced mental health problems, the Dragon Café is open every Monday in the Crypt of St George the Martyr Church. It offers a support structure to the work of MFC, creating a hub which draws together people from a diverse range of backgrounds and mental health experiences.
A programme of creative or wellbeing-related events is delivered every Monday, with different themes each month; from poetry to painting, Tai Chi to boxing, there is a new experience to suit every palate. The café is free and open to all, people can come and go for creative activities with payment only required for the delicious and healthy vegetarian menu.
The Dragon Café prides itself on being a “free, open, creative, welcoming and high quality community space where all can feel at home”.
Providing safety and support
Feedback from visitors show just how much of a difference the Café has made to people, especially those experiencing mental illness and recovery.
“It’s a shared experience where everyone is in it together, and there’s a sense of camaraderie. It turns my mood around almost immediately”
The Dragon Cafe on film
Filmed by Film-Works participants and edited with their approval by Chris Haydon of Southwark.TV who led the sessions. The project continued into the second 10-week set of workshops that started in May with the aim of completing a definitive documentary portrait of The Dragon Cafe by the end of July 2013.
With guidance, participants have shot interviews, created a raft of ‘colour’ material to support editing, some have also stepped firmly into the post production environment, all in a considered attempt to capture the rich spectrum of activities, life and character that inhabits and defines The Dragon Cafe.
"The Dragon Café space is a creative café space with a focus on mental health. We want it to be engaging menu of creative activities, but also a safe, relaxing space. So actually managing the energy and the opportunities that are here for you is a bit part of your role."