A comedy show from the Depressed Baker's back garden

Stratford man converts back garden into a comedy club to support LGBTQ+ mental health charity

A Stratford baker and comedian has converted his back garden into a comedy club to support an LGBTQ+ mental health charity.

Krishna Vytelingum, also known as The Depressed Baker, started Strangers on a Patio (SOAP) last year, inviting upcoming comedians to perform in his back garden in Maryland, Stratford.

The diverse line-ups include a real mix of comedians, some talking about their own mental health struggles, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Through SOAP, Krishna has raised £1330 from tickets so far this year which he has donated to LGBTQ+ mental health charity ELOP.

Krishna said: “I’ve deliberately created what I think is the most beautiful spot to try and make the world a better place.

“If it’s raising money through laughter and beautiful things then that’s fighting the battle in a different way.”

He started The Depressed Baker after his mental breakdown about four years ago following the loss of his job, which he was made to sign a non-disclosure agreement for.

As a result, the 38-year-old started off by selling nutritious brownie biscuits on market stalls.

He said: “It was never really about the biscuits but a vehicle to telling an honest story.”

The story Krishna wants to tell is about people being honest about mental health and feeling like they can talk about it.

He explained that through comedy, he could tell his story in a much more effective way thus, giving rise to the birth of SOAP.

ELOP chair Sarah Humphreys said: “I think the work that The Depressed Baker is doing fits with us because it is thinking about people’s mental health.

“He is doing this because he has a real belief around wanting to do things that are positive for mental health and we know that laughing is good for people’s mental health.

“His gigs really highlight people who don’t often get seen.”

STRANGERS ON A PATIO: @the_depressed_baker, @sumicomedy, @ck_standupcomedy. Credit: @the_depressed_baker

Humphreys added that in his shows, Krishna was thinking about groups of people who have been marginalised by the mainstream, referring to the ‘all brown events’ he has done in the past where he focused primarily on people of colour.

She explained how important this sort of thing was for the LGBT community as it is so welcoming, inclusive and provides a sense of belonging which is otherwise not there for a lot of people.

She said that as an LGBTQ+ mental health charity, ELOP find it difficult to raise enough funds and claimed there is a lot of inequality in terms of funding and that the LGBT sector gets a really small amount.

Despite that, ELOP has the largest counselling service in London, seeing 120 people every week.

The charity has a reach of about 5,000 people a year although they are a small organisation of only nine members of staff and about 75 volunteers.

They offer a number of services including various mental health support groups, crisis prevention work, women’s trauma support groups and a wide range of training and education.

Because of fundraisers like SOAP, ELOP is also able to continue services that are not currently funded such as the LGBT asylum group (which naturally consists of many people of colour).

Humphreys added: “We save lives. People say to us sometimes I don’t think I would have been here if it hadn’t been for you and that speaks volumes about how being connected to an organisation at the time that you need support really makes an astounding difference.”

Su Mi is a 31-year-old British Malaysian comedian who often performs for Strangers on a Patio.

She described her comedy as high energy storytelling, and she often does social commentary on intersectionality, queerness, racism and mental health as a woman of colour.

She said: “Awareness especially amongst people of colour is crucial and often overlooked. 

“In my comedy, I regularly do social commentary on mental health as it is such an important issue.”

As someone who has suffered from depression and severe anxiety, Su Mi explained that mental health has always played a vital role in her life.

She added: “Krish has managed to create a space and community for comedians to perform and also feel safe.

“He is not only a fantastic promoter and comedian but genuinely a very kind and warm-hearted soul.”

Through the comedy club, Krishna believes he has found something that can alleviate the symptoms of racism and how they affect a person.

Krishna explained: “Necessity is the mother of invention.

“I’ve got a million things that I have tried because when you’re a brown person or a black person, you have to send out millions of emails because you only get a response one tenth of the time.”

For the next shows, Strangers on a Patio will be paying tribute to Simon Harris who died by suicide on 20 December 2014 after fighting a hard battle with mental illness.

The shows will each begin “Today’s show was bought to you by Simon Harris”

Krishna explained that while he cant bring Simon back, he wants to celebrate Simon’s life and honour Simon’s mother and sister who were VIPs at the last show.

The next show is scheduled for 3 September and tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite.

Featured image credit: Max Paley | Photography (@max_paley_photography)

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