How the humble shed is helping Barnsley men to beat loneliness

Sally Gawthorpe, community officer at the DVLP, and Phil Jackson, founder of Barnsley Mens Shed.
Sally Gawthorpe, community officer at the DVLP, and Phil Jackson, founder of Barnsley Mens Shed.
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A shed is often seen as a place where men go to get away from other people and enjoy the simple pleasure of crafting something on a workbench.

But a new project is aiming to transform this theory - and use the shed as a way of bringing men together in a bid to beat loneliness.

Barnsley Men’s Shed is a woodworking workshop designed to bring together men aged over 35 who are deemed to be at risk of ‘social isolation’.

It was established in the town centre last year by a company called Inclusion in Action and the scheme has just secured £2000 funding from the Dearne Valley landscape Partnership for a new project called ‘Understanding Living Wood’.

The scheme will encourage men to work together to learn about wood and understand more about its role within the natural environment. Participants, known as ‘shedders’, will be guided by a living wood expert during trips to woodlands in the Dearne Valley. Armed with their new knowledge, the shedders will then produce a series of factsheets to help others understand more about nature.

Phil Jackson, a director at Inclusion in Action, said it is a great opportunity for men who feel lonely to make new friends.

He said: “Loneliness is not something that people like to talk about or admit to, especially men, but coming together at the workshops allows them to share their experiences and learn new skills together.

“We have shedders who have lost wives, and also those who simply need to get out of the house, and everyone is really looking forward to getting out into the woods as part of this new project.

“The Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership has been nothing but helpful throughout the whole funding process and we’re really grateful to them for the support.”

Sally Gawthorpe, community officer at the DVLP, said: “All of the projects we have granted funding to are worthy recipients, but the Men’s Shed project really stands out in the way it aims to use the natural environment to help tackle social issues. Much of our work at the DVLP is around empowering the Dearne Valley community to make the most of the area they live in, so we’re really pleased to be supporting these groups in their work.”

The ‘Understanding Living Wood’ project is due to begin in the next few weeks. Anyone interested in taking part can contact Phil on philip@inclusioninaction.org