Sawbridgeworth petrolhead Lewis Warren driving home mental health awareness with Coffee and Cars at 4T café
Getting his first car provided Lewis Warren with an escape from his difficult home life in a rural Derbyshire setting.
His father is an alcoholic and his parents had just broken up, but living in the sticks meant he struggled to get away. A bright orange 1988 Mini Mayfair provided the answer.
"I was effectively trapped and as soon as I could drive I could escape," said Lewis. And that experience struck a chord in him as to the importance of enabling young men in particular to find space to talk over their problems.
Lewis had an insight into mental health when he worked as a healthcare assistant in a psychiatric hospital for three-and-a-half years after deciding to take a break from his job in accountancy.
Then he got chatting to some friends about launching a clothing brand with a car theme and a mission in driving mental health awareness came hand in hand.
Takona, a name he came up with for a dream supercar at school, was formed and the mission is ongoing.
On moving to Sawbridgeworth with his partner Grace during the pandemic, the 28-year-old managed to combine his love of coffee and cars after popping into the 4T café run by Mike Mason.
"We got chatting, then I noticed his Audi TT in the back and I'm always thinking of doing different events," said Lewis. That's how the Coffee and Cars event held on the second Sunday of the month at Mike's Bell Street café started.
Lewis says he expected around 10 people to turn up to June's inaugural event but it was an all-round success.
"The car community has always been welcoming and engaging," he said. "Coffee and Cars is about building a community."
He was delighted to hear from one car fan who said the event encouraged him to get up and out after being cooped up for so long.
Lewis, who drives a Toyota GT86 and his beloved classic Renault 5, strongly believes cars can provide a talking point for men in particular who find it hard to speak about their feelings.
"The biggest cause of death among men between 18 and 45 is suicide and one in four people will experience mental health issues in their lifetime," said Lewis.
The second Coffee and Cars event will be held this Sunday (July 11) from 8.30am to 11am.