The Canterbury Umbrella Centre is an important social support centre for adults with mental health and learning difficulties, and those who feel or are isolated in the community. The centre provides a place for people to come and relax, meet and make new friends, and receive support from the staff, volunteers and other members.

Centre: Archie Torrance, MBF President with Paul Nolan, Canterbury Umbrella Trustee

Our national charity, the Mark Benevolent Fund (MBF), has provided this important community hub, which is an NHS approved and recognised referral centre, with grant funding in the sum of £45,582 to aid the renovation of the kitchen and other equipment, including a walk-in refrigerator and the toilet block.

Support groups at the centre, in St Peter’s Place, include Rethink, Carers’ Matters and a mental health forum, as well as others supporting those with bi-polar and epilepsy. Additionally, Canterbury Umbrella is proud to be working with students from Kent University to develop a “breaking barriers” group which provides the opportunity to discuss issues important to students and reduce stigma. These sessions are well attended by students, including those from Canterbury Christ Church University and surrounding sixth forms.

Activities at the centre include:
– Social Health café
– IT peer support
– LGBTQIA+ discussion group
– Peer lead meditation
– Wellbeing courses
– Art group

The building is designed on two floors and has a large communal space, with café facilities on the ground floor, whilst upstairs there is a large meeting and activity area with an adjacent smaller computer/quiet room. There is a lift to the first floor so that all rooms are fully accessible.

Commenting on their Facebook Page, Canterbury Umbrella expressed “a massive massive thank you to Mark Masons’ Hall and the Mark Benevolent Fund for their generous donation of the new kitchen and walk in freezer, what an amazingly kind group of gentlemen.”

As can be seen in the above video, Centre Manager – Anna Debrauwer, could not hide her excitement and delight that the difference the MBF’s grant has made to the facilities and important services provided by Canterbury Umbrella.

Support & Wellbeing is provided to those who feel or who are lonely, isolated, anxious, down or experiencing an ongoing mental illness; they receive much support from Canterbury Umbrella either by telephone, email or visiting the centre as there are always staff and trained volunteers to help and support, whether it is a chat over a cup of tea or by helping access peer support groups, classes or by regular telephone, text or email support – whatever helps.

The Social Health Café provides high quality inexpensive meals and snacks that are cooked by chef Robert, in a 5* hygiene rated kitchen; it is at the heart of the building and everybody including members of the public are most welcome to enjoy high quality food; a takeaway service is also provided. The centre is also fortunate to have an outside seating area. The café is open from 10am-4pm every weekday with a hot meal service 11am-2pm. Robert is a chef of 45 years who has held high-level positions in London, both as Head Chef of a Clinic and within Harley Street. He has cooked meals for Princes, Lords, Marquesses as well as many celebrities.

Financially, Canterbury Umbrella relies upon donations and has a small income from room hire and from the café. To assist financially, the centre has embarked upon a membership scheme at a charge of £12 per year. Membership offers access to all in-centre and online activities, café discounts and support from experience and friendly staff.

The President of the MBF, Archie Torrance, attended in person to witness the official opening of the upgrades, which resulted from a petition in 2022 by Peter Lapage, of the city’s Cantwara Byrig Lodge. Also present, and seen above, were Malcolm Burkett (Provincial Grand Treasurer & KMBF Trustee), Peter Hayler (Provincial Grand Almoner), Phil Clare (Provincial Grand Charity Steward), Fred Brown (KMBF Trustee), Dr John Shervington (KMBF Trustee), Paddy Langdown (W.M. of Cantwara Byrig Lodge), Arthur Pybus (W.M. of St Martins Lodge) and of course Peter Lapage.