The Prana Café is a new Vegan and Whole Food Café on Horsefair Street in Leicester. It is located centrally, right next to the Town Hall Square with its fountain and a small park. The Café is run by Sukh and Andy, a young couple with much entrepreneurial spirit. The Prana Café is present on Facebook and Instagram, but not on Twitter.

Outside the Prana Café – photo: Gerhard Haas

The building itself is an old Leicester building with a high ceiling, beautifully decorated inside, although from the outside it looks rather inconspicuous. The restaurant is spacious and the food counter offers a wide and colourful range of vegan, health food and wholefood dishes. Everything is presented not only for the taste or for health but also for the eye.

The cake counter – photo: Gerhard Haas

The Café is used in a multitude of ways. In the day it is open to the public and for its culinary purposes, but in the evenings after six o’clock it is rented out for £30.- an hour to groups who want to hold their meetings there such as mental health groups, yoga groups, a music therapy group and others. These groups are generally well established and bring a good membership with them, which is wanted and which seems to be important for the owners of Prana. Drinks or food is not included in a group evening.

The vegan counter at Prana – photo: Gerhard Haas

The restaurant is not cheap; it has rather an exclusive flair about it. We were introduced to Mark Wheatley and Cath Crook, two mental health specialists working for Leicester City Council. We had an interview with them in which they spoke about their work.

Most mental illness is in place by the age of 14. So we really need to try our very best to support children and young people in Leicester – Mark Wheatley, Mental Health Officer, Leicester City Council

Welcome to the Prana Café – photo: Gerhard Haas

Mark explained they are very proud of supporting ‘Planet Leicester Bakers’, where bakers help pupils to learn new skills, how to make bread and at the same time use this opportunity to chat about mental health and being part of the community. He explained that these are innovative ways of helping people to talk about mental health and well-being. Furthermore, he explained that they have grant funding to support a variety of projects.

Cath told us that they do a lot of public facing work such as a talk show in February, World Mental Health Day in October and Mental Health Awareness Week which is coming up in May. They tend to go to these events with a stall and some leaflets trying to change attitudes to mental health.

Their newest idea is a roadshow in various parts of the city, especially the more deprived areas of Leicester, and take their key message into those areas, namely challenging stigma and discrimination related to mental health and help people making best use of the things that are going for them, the things that make them resilient to mental illness.

This approach of Mark and Cath seems down to earth, hands on, innovative and practical. This cannot be said about well established bodies, who seem to only talk and are more concerned about their logo and their image. There seems to be a great difference between an almost corporate mental health approach and the hands on approach of Mark and Cath and similar small groups working in and with local communities.

Our mission is to change the ways that people think and act toward people with mental health problems and we want people to feel as if they can speak about their mental health with no fear of any repercussions – Catherine Crook – Mental Health Officer, Leicester City Council

A new report by the Mental Health Research charity reveals that the level of mental health research funding in the UK is not meeting the scale or impact of the illness.

Comparing the four venues we visited and what they stand for, I felt that the approach of Ant and Izzy of Graff HQ, due to their personal and dedicated grassroots work, is more of a community centered and community media approach, whilst the others were more removed, may it be because of class, brand or exclusivity. I therefore felt that Graff HQ ticked all the boxes. It was by far my favorite community group or organization for what community media and a community media café really stands for.