More Head Room as Jami opens Mill Hill shop to showcase work of service users

Charity furthers its campaign to bring the conversation about mental health into the high street. But shoppers will also find some distinctive pieces


The JC can take inadvertent credit for the first sale at mental health charity Jami’s latest Head Room project — a shop in the heart of Mill Hill selling upcycled items produced at its Borehamwood warehouse.

With Jami representatives on the premises to give a reporter the grand tour in advance of this week’s opening, a local businesswoman made the most of the opportunity for some pre-launch retail therapy.

What particularly caught her eye was Napoleon, a male bust of military bearing strikingly spray painted in dazzling shades.

“He makes me smile and I love the colours,” she says, before parting with £75. “I know about Jami and the upcycling. It’s a very worthy cause and environmentally aware. It ticks all the boxes. I hope you make lots of money.”

In a service that may not be availed to future customers, the Jami PR helps the woman ferry the purchase to her office.

Regulars at the charity’s Head Room café in Golders Green, which also serves as a mental health awareness centre, will detect a certain familiarity about the new venue.

Formerly a family butcher’s business dating back to Victorian times, layers of decoration have been stripped to reveal original features. And in a further nod to the past, the meat hooks have been retained.

It is starting out as a pop-up, the premises having been “loaned to us by a very understanding landlord while we decide what we want to do”, explains Jami’s head of development Liz Jessel.

Opening hours will be dictated by the availability of Jami staff and service users and local volunteers — Ms Jessel is encouraged by the interest in the venture shown by Mill Hill United Synagogue members.

“We put the shutters up just before the Yomtovim with a note asking people to have a sneak peek through the window. Everyone has been fascinated to see what’s happening.” The shop will definitely be open on Mitzvah Day for a card-making activity and the plan is to have an onsite workshop where service users will produce cards and other small items such as cake stands comprised of non-matching plates.

Given that Napoleon has been snapped up, a standout item in the shop is an old-style dining table transformed into a games table with integral chess board and pieces and backgammon facility. The legs have been decorated with Monopoly money and while we are talking cash, it’s yours for £410.

There are also “map chairs” with an atlas motif, artworks made from donated jigsaw puzzles and a 1930s’ bureau whose flaws have been creatively turned into a virtue.

“Our scars and life stories should be adding to our beauty,” Ms Jessel says.

“We take something unloved that would otherwise end up in a skip, tidy it up and add some unique elements. It’s an analogy for our vocational programme.”

The Borehamwood warehouse and workshop has given service users “a sense of doing something meaningful”, as well as transferable skills. But they also want the satisfaction of seeing their work showcased and sold.

Other benefits for those who have spent years out of the working environment have been the social interaction and re-engaging with a daily life structure, “like turning up for work at a particular time”.

The Head Room ventures reflect Jami’s promotion of “street level access”, Ms Jessel adds.

“When people want to talk about mental health, they don’t want to go to institutionalised places. We are not looking to open day centres. We would rather have the conversations out in the community.” And there will be scope for those conversations at the Mill Hill site.

“We never expand for commercial purposes. It has to meet the needs of our service users.”

As more passers-by wander in for an advance browse, one asks if the shop will be serving coffee and refreshments, in the manner of the Golders Green café.

Ms Jessel feels duty-bound to disappoint her. But she tells the JC: “We are not saying no. It would have to be a long-term development.”


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