Why I organised a pop-up light cafe?
A few years ago during the winter I had an idea to set up a beach cafe rather than a pop-up light cafe.
It was dark and dismal outside and I wanted somewhere to relax and brighten my mood. I asked friends about it who really liked the idea but thinking about it, getting premises was going to be difficult and then there was the sand, how would I find somewhere to put the sand! Furthermore, I didn’t have any experience of working in a cafe or where to start with fancy coffee machines.
I had wanted to have lights for seasonal affective disorder in the cafe so I started to do some online searches and found there had been one set up at Leeds University.
I got in touch with the lady who had set it up and she told me how she did it. Having organised events for businesses, I was hopeful that I could set up this cafe because it didn’t need to be permanent – it could be a pop-up cafe for a limited time period.
A cafe with a purpose
I wanted the cafe to have a purpose and to link it to mental health which is why I got in touch with MIND who are kindly providing leaflets.
I hoped that people wouldn’t mind talking about mental health issues because there is still, to some extent, a stigma surrounding mental health. However thanks to the princes and Catherine at Heads Together as well as Stephen Fry who has been so open about his bi-polar disorder this is slowly breaking down.
I started doing my own research into depression and the effectiveness of the lights and found out some alarming statistics, namely that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 35 and that mixed anxiety and depression has been estimated to cause one fifth of days lost from work in Britain.
I found out that higher education institutions have seen a massive increase in mental health issues amongst students (a jump of 8,000 students to 18,000 in the four years to 2012-2013 according to the Higher Education Funding Council) and that students were at increased risk of harming themselves due to depression and anxiety.
I found out that 24% of people (according to a survey of 2,000 people by Lumie) experience the winter blues, so it wasn’t just me that really missed the sun. However, the lights are very powerful and emit higher light intensity or lux (the amount of visible light a person receives at a given point) than standard lighting to provide typically 10,000 lux compared to 500 lux for a well-lit office.
This exposure to light stimulates the brain to produce more serotonin, a hormone that positively affects your mood, and less of the sleep hormone melatonin so you feel more alert. Just 30 minutes or so of sitting with a bright light is enough to make a difference.
Finding the lights
I approached Lumie, which is based in Cambridgeshire in 2017 about using the lights they provide for seasonal affective disorder. They kindly offered to lend me the lights and we planned to run the cafes during the e-Luminate festival (Cambridge light festival) as that would be a fitting time to showcase the lights. It seemed amazing that such a company should be local to Cambridge.
Lights for those who most need it
It’s funny how just from talking to people, you can find suggestions of who to talk to and I got in touch with the manager of a new charity for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mental Health Foundation – Head to Toe. She suggested I talk to John, the chaplain at Fulbourn Hospital who was excited about the idea.
Together we planned it for Valentine’s Day at the chaplaincy, it is an ideal place for the lights at their regular cafe for previous inpatients. John suggested another ideal venue would be Lifecraft. Lifecraft is a user-led organisation for adults in the Cambridge area who have experience of mental health difficulties in their lives. I therefore planned to hold the pop-up light cafe there too.
Lights for everyone
I racked my brains for a cafe in Cambridge that would be appropriate to hold the light cafe and Stir was suggested by a few people 1) because they have a spare room and 2) because when I met with them they were really keen on promoting mental health issues.
It was great to hear that they were launching a new pizza menu so the cafe would be a chance to bring some customers along to try the pizzas which are made from sough dough at the bakery next door.
It has taken some time, but finally the pop-up light cafe has come together.