Men join forces to combat isolation and loneliness

Following a cancer diagnosis and treatment, he found himself spending more time at home, passing the hours watching television, not venturing far from the house.

Elwyn Jones, 62, was working as a minibus driver when he diagnosed with cancer of the larynx after a doctor picked up on his cough and urged him to push for tests.

After responding well to treatment, he found himself needing a new focus in life and the need to spend time with like-minded people.

It was an advert in the Mail which caught Elwyn’s attention, appealing for members to join Men in Sheds, a new registered charity set up in Hull to help men combat loneliness and isolation.

An initiative first started in Australia, it encourages men to get involved in different projects and activities, such as woodwork, photography and IT, sharing skills and hobbies with each other.

Elwyn, of north Hull, said joining the group has been a positive step.

“Men talk to each other in the pub, at work or at the shops, but then they go home to empty houses,” he said.

“I have worked since I was 11 and I was really active. Joining Men in Sheds gives me people to talk to instead of sitting at home watching television.

“I’m a practical man and I would encourage others to come along. It’s given me a new focus.”

Men in Sheds’ temporary home is at 101 Greenwood Avenue, north Hull, and it costs about £6,000 a year to run the charity.

But when new, permanent premises are secured, running costs are expected to escalate to about £20,000, which includes new equipment.

The charity relies on fundraising, donations and other offers of support to continue, and runs its “brew and biscuits” drop-in sessions for men, primarily over the age of 55, from 10am to 4pm every Tuesday and Thursday.

Father-of-two John Nicholson, 64, of east Hull, said Men in Sheds has also had a positive impact on his life after he began to feel low when he was off work through stress.

He said: “It’s about how men feel when they retire. Women will talk to each other and there are loads of groups for women but not so many for men.

“Men tend not to talk much. But if they have somewhere to go where they can do something practical, they will get more involved.

“Some say men won’t talk face-to-face but will stand shoulder-to-shoulder.

“We want people to do more practical things.

“I got involved 15 months ago and thought I would give it a try. I had never heard of it before but I have never looked back.”

Men in Sheds (Hull) is currently looking for a base to renovate and call their own and the Hull and East Yorkshire (HEY) Smile Foundation is supporting them to achieve this goal, as well as constructing a website for them and plans in place to help with printing in the future.

John said men’s health leaflets and talks on the subject will also become a feature of the group as member numbers grow.

“It’s important to know about things like that,” he said.

“Men in Sheds has got us out of the house every week and it gives us something to work towards.

“My wife said she has noticed a difference in me since I joined Men in Sheds.

“She said I was slightly depressed but I have overcome that now. Men in Sheds has certainly played a part in that.”

Former prison tutor Barry Cooper, 67, of north Hull, is chairman of Men in Sheds in Hull and started the group after watching a television programme on the initiative more than 18 months ago.

He said: “I thought it would be a great idea and give me something to do.

“I hadn’t been in good health and had a couple of strokes, so I wanted something to focus on.

“I organised a meeting and people came along, so they were interested. It has occupied my life and I have found some new friends.

“We know it can make a positive difference to other people if we can get them through the door.”


The Hull and East Yorkshire (HEY) Smile Foundation decided to Support Men in Sheds after inviting the group to attend one of the charity’s fundraising surgeries.

The surgeries encourage worthy causes to apply for help and items to progress their projects, ranging from those who need marketing materials to charities aiming to launch capital projects.

Fundraising surgeries are held at Smile’s base inside Gosschalks Solicitors in Queens Gardens, city centre, on two days each month, with one hour meeting slots available to book in advance.

Members of the Smile Foundation team, who have supported dozens of charities over the past five years, are on hand to offer help and guidance, signposting to other services, or support if they are unable to help.

Smile Foundation manager Andy Barber said: “Men in Sheds really jumped out as a group we could support.

“It helps to give men who may feel isolated, lonely, or just want some company to join forces and share their interests.

“It’s really important to encourage initiatives like Men in Sheds, as it opens up new doors for the members and it’s great to see the positive impact it is already having on their lives.

“We are looking forward to seeing Men in Sheds go from strength to strength in Hull and we are delighted to support them.”

For more information about Men in Sheds, call 01482 803940, 07934879657, or e-mail

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