On the top floor of a modern Hackney apartment block is a beautiful large white room with shiny new wooden floors and framed art on the walls.  Glass doors open out onto a deck furnished with stylish outdoor furniture and a fabulous view to the skyscrapers of The City. 

This is not the sort of place that is usually open to groups of people who struggle with mental health problems or those who work with them. But that is exactly who it is for.

Aware E8 opened on the eve of World Mental Health Day in October 2016,  with a beautiful dinner and entertainment from a jazz band. Among those who attended were former local  MP, now member of the House of Lords, Oona King, psychotherapist Camilla Nicholls, Kathleen Miles of Mind and mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin. The food was supplied by near-neighbour Italian restaurant Il Cudega.

In the short time since then it has already hosted events – from meet-ups to off-site brainstorming sessions for such organisations as The Mix, Mind, MQ and Place2Be. They pay no fee for the room nor the refreshments.

“We are a facilitator, not a charity, and we welcome any charity or organisation to use our premises in kind for the purposes of improving help for mental health care,” explains Natalie Bookatz who is behind the initiative, hoping to raise mental health awareness and reduce the stigma for those affected.

“I just feel that not enough has been done for people who have issues - mental health disorders, illnesses that lead to mental illness, and problems that come up in people’s lives. There are too many pills and not enough therapy, and not enough research.”

She has now joined the Charities Aid Foundation so any money that is raised at events in the Aware E8 premises would benefit from 25% Gift Aid to the charities.

Natalie Bookatz says she has worked hard in her life and, within her own family, had experience of mental health issues. “I wanted to provide somewhere that was nicely done, that was not miserable, making people feel even worse.”

People who believe their organisation or group may qualify for using the space, may contact Natalie at [email protected]