A person walks into a bar and says 'Help'

A person walks into a bar and says 'Help'

One morning, in the toilet of my London office job, I had an idea. It was one that burrowed deep, it grew, it developed and has now become an obsession.

We’ve all been to pubs and enjoyed a few drinks, relaxed, had a laugh, been welcomed into the warm, friendly embrace of a boozer, but how many of us take the time to notice the people that work so tirelessly to let us enjoy ourselves?

Growing up in a house where my older brother suffers from long term mental illness, I’ve always had a huge interest in mental health. How can we stay healthy? And, if we aren’t feeling too good, how can we take a Lemsip mug for our mind in order to get back to peak condition?

These were questions that plagued me as I was standing in the toilet that morning, when I noticed a poster drawing attention to the fact that there was a trained Mental Health First Aider on site. I was immediately drawn to the practical nature of the idea, if you’ve stubbed your toe on a filing cabinet, the first aider comes with a splint and a plaster, if you’ve been feeling down, the Mental Health First Aider comes with an ear and advice.

Inspired by this measurable, feet on the ground approach to mental health I began thinking of my other job, working as a barman in The Queens Arms. I thought of how much that workplace could benefit from this training. So, I did what all great innovators do, I nicked the idea and called it my own!

The Compass Project is an initiative that involves training bartenders, in the north, south, east and west of London to become Mental Health First Aiders with Kelly’s Cause Foundation (an incredible charity that specialises in improving mental health support for hospitality workers). With 70% of hospitality workers reporting a stigma on mental health in their workplace, I knew we had to create an environment where people felt safe to take the first step and open up about their mental health. So, with Post Pieces, (an amazing charity that offers a creative approach to mental health) we are running arts workshops across London, inviting all the staff of these pubs to come along and dispel the stigma that surrounds mental ill health.  

Once we have collected together this community of bartenders from across London and unearthed their stories and experiences of working behind the bars of London, we'll take all the pieces of art created in the workshops and devise a theatre show to explore pub workers' relationships with their work, their mental health and themselves.

If anyone is reading this and wants to get involved, give us a follow and a message on our instagram @the.compassproject to find out what we're doing next!

(Published on: 14.10.20)