New community hub to open in Kettering in Johnny’s memory

The charity's co-founders are mum Denise Mackay, sister Charlotte Mackay and friends Rachael Nutt and Georgina Barr
The charity's co-founders are mum Denise Mackay, sister Charlotte Mackay and friends Rachael Nutt and Georgina Barr

Family and friends of a man who took his own life are getting ready to open a community hub for the people he would have wanted to help.

Johnny’s Happy Place was set up after Johnny Mackay died at the age of just 29 after taking his own life on October 23, 2014.

In just a few months since the charity launched and started fundraising for people with mental health problems, they are preparing to open a space dedicated to supporting people like Johnny.

They have been given a room at Keystone Youth Centre in Rockingham Road, Kettering, and are hoping to open in mid-July.

Johnny’s sister Charlotte Mackay said: “We wanted to open somewhere happy and friendly that people who have difficulties in life like mental health problems could go.”

Johnny’s mum Denise said: “We are hoping that people who live on their own or have no contact even with their neighbours can go there to meet like-minded people.

“We are hoping to get them involved in activities like arts and crafts.”

The new room will be part of Keystone Youth Centre which is currently having a major refurbishment.

People of all ages will be welcome to visit, socialise, chat and enjoy vegetarian food and drinks from the cafe.

Arts and crafts will among various activities offered as Johnny was very creative and loved art.

The charity is also hoping to offer sessions to help those who attend and there will be a book swap, with books displayed on ladders attached to the wall as Johnny used to be a window cleaner.

The charity really wants to capture Johnny’s spirit and creative nature in the room, and they believe if this had been set up several years ago, Johnny would have been the first to volunteer.

Charlotte said: “It is going to be a social community hub where people can come from all avenues of mental health. It will be open to everyone.

“We are going to start on a Saturday but we could be open three days a week or a couple of evenings too.”

She added: “Johnny always wanted to help people.”

His mum added: “He always fought for the under dog and was so kind to others - that’s what we want to emulate now.”

Charlotte said the charity had helped them try to deal with their loss, and said: “It is a way of coping.”

His mum said: “I don’t want people to think his life was all doom and gloom.

“When the news of his death spread, nobody could believe it because they just saw Johnny having fun, laughing and being idiotic.

“He was so popular but there was an awful lot of people who didn’t know about the other side of him.

“He was so lovely, he wouldn’t walk if he could run, he was just that sort of person.

“When the news started coming through in the early hours, we had people shocked, depressed, crying for weeks and some people couldn’t work for two weeks because of it.

“His friends have been around all the time, they text me and come round.

“Everyone has given a huge amount of support to us as a family.”

The charity has been overwhelmed by people’s support since Johnny died, especially all those who have bought tickets for the sold-out comedy gig at Kettering Arts Centre on May 14.

Among those performing is Kettering comedian James Acaster, who went to the same primary school as Johnny and his sister.

Denise said: “I couldn’t believe it, I thought we would be fighting to get people to buy tickets but we had sold out two weeks before the event.”

The charity also wanted to thank Pete Ravenscroft of UK Maintenance who is helping them renovate the room, Keystone trustees Dave and Cindy and James Varlow of the Alzheimer’s Society for their support.

If you would like to volunteer when Johnny’s Happy Place opens, can help out financially or have arts and crafts materials or induction pans you could donate for the cafe, visit the charity’s website at www.johnnyshappyplace.com.