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‘It’s like therapy’ – brain injury survivors cooking up a treat at Haggerston supper club

PUBLISHED: 11:26 21 October 2016 | UPDATED: 11:52 21 October 2016

Headway East London prepare for  their next supper club
Volunteer Dave Mercer pictured with Kitchen Manager Thomas Alexander. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Headway East London prepare for their next supper club Volunteer Dave Mercer pictured with Kitchen Manager Thomas Alexander. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Cooking three courses for 40 people may sound like a daunting task to most, but for a group of brain injury survivors it’s like therapy.

Headway East London prepare for  their next supper club
 volunteer Dave Mercer pictured with Kitchen Manager Thomas Alexander. Picture: Nigel SutonHeadway East London prepare for their next supper club volunteer Dave Mercer pictured with Kitchen Manager Thomas Alexander. Picture: Nigel Suton

Headway East London, a charity that supports people recovering from serious brain injuries, hosts a supper club every other month. The food is made from scratch by its service users, who spend hours in the kitchen.

One of those is Dave Mercer, who cannot speak highly enough of the experience.

“It’s amazing to be given an opportunity you never thought you would have,” he said. “It’s an experience I would never get unless I had a brain injury.

“I like cooking. I wasn’t able to do it for a long time after my injury but to think people are paying to eat food you have created is like ‘wow’.”

Dave said the diversity of the people who use the day centre in Kingsland Road means everyone is learning about new foods.

“Watching someone make a curry with 20 spices is incredible,” he said. “Once I just suggested making matcha tea ice cream – I’ve never made ice cream before but they let me do it. People were saying it was the best ice cream they’ve ever had. That sense of achievement is really important because we find things other people take for granted really difficult.

“I was able to go home after a long day feeling 12 feet tall.”

The chefs have differing abilities and rely on a strong team ethic to get stuff done. But they do everything, even bake their own bread, so seeing empty plates after a nerve-wracking night really boosts self-esteem.

Dave continued: “To have everyone paying, eating your food and giving you a big pat on the back afterwards can bring people to tears. It’s a great thing.

“A lot of people here live in isolation – friends disappear when you get ill. But it gives people the feeling of community spirit they don’t get at home. It’s like therapy.”

The supper club costs £15 and the money goes to Headway, which relies solely on funding. “It feels like you are giving back to the people helping you,” said Dave. “Not everyone can run the Hackney Half but you can raise money doing something else.”

The next supper club is on Thursday, but is sold out. Check here for the next one.


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