How one church is using handy work to tackle men's isolation

Some of the men who meet up together for Men in Sheds(Photo: Diocese of Manchester)

Men have a bit of a reputation when it comes to enjoying DIY and a church outside Manchester is tapping into that time-honoured hobby to help breakdown loneliness among men in the local community.

St Paul's, Heaton Moor, is pioneering the Men in Sheds initiative to give particularly older men in the community a chance to meet up each week around wood working. 

Instead of pottering away by themselves in a shed at the bottom of the garden, the project invites them to meet up with other like-minded men to indulge in their love of making things.

For the church, it's an important way of reaching out into the community and making the church building more widely accessible. 

The church hosts wood working sessions in the choir vestry each week, where in addition to learning how to make useful objects, the meet-up gives the men a chance to socialise and talk. 

Wood working projects have included making bird and bat boxes, plant troughs and bottle openers. 

The project got off the ground after the church reached out to local charity Pure Innovations for ideas on how it could better support people who struggle with loneliness or mental health issues. 

Pure Innovations is based in nearby Stockport and works to help disabled and disadvantaged people live independently. 

Together with local community group, Heatons Together, they hosted a meeting at St Paul's on the issue of mental wellbeing and loneliness. 

At the meeting, local men were asked what kind of group they would want to be part of and Men in Sheds was started as a result of their suggestions. 

Men in Sheds coordinator, Anthony Williams, said the project is having a noticeable impact on the men coming along. 

One of them didn't have much contact with people outside of the home because he was a carer, Williams said. But now he's starting to become much more outgoing. 

For some of the men in the group, it's the only social meet-up they go to all week. 

'Men in Sheds is aimed at older men who don't have a lot of outlets or opportunities to come together and chat,' said Williams.

'Instead of doing things in a shed at the bottom of the garden, they come along and do it as a group.

'For some it's the only thing they do during the week.'

In recognition of its success, the project last year won a 'Church for a Different World' award from the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev David Walker.