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Huddersfield's new Men's Shed project teaches men new skills and encourages them to open up

New men's den set up near Huddersfield Railway Station

The humble shed has long been a place of refuge for men sneaking off from everyday life.

It is a place for contemplation, failed DIY experiments and, of course, escaping nagging relatives.

But in Huddersfield, men are flocking to a homely shed not for solitary escape but to meet new friends, learn new skills and open up to each other.

The free to attend Men’s Shed is the latest project of Yorkshire Children’s Centre , an all-ages support charity based in Brian Jackson House in Huddersfield.

It is the only such project in Kirklees that is signed up to the national Men’s Shed project, which aims to bring men together.

Anyone over the age of 21 is welcome at the surprisingly spacious site, which is hidden away between the front-facing Huddersfield Railway Station wall and platform two.

Men's Shed in old railway carriage and shed behind Brian Jackson Centre, Huddersfield.

It has, in fact, not one but several ‘sheds’, including one made from an old train carriage that is wheelchair accessible.

Around 15 men have been meeting there every Friday since summer, where they learn skills including bike repairs, growing vegetables and woodwork.

They can also enjoy a game of snooker, watch the TV or simply enjoy a cup of tea with each other.

One regular is Terry Barnes, 58, who said the Men’s Shed has helped with his mental and physical wellbeing.

“I’ve got long term health problems and have struggled with loneliness and a lack of confidence for around 20 years,” he said.

“It makes me feel happy and gives me a sense of achievement and belonging.

“But it’s also given me the chance to learn new skills, make new friends and meet people with similar problems to me.

“I like helping in the garden, where I’ve been making raised beds for the vegetables we are growing.”

Through going to the Men’s Shed, Terry has been able to share his problems with others.

“People have said I look well even when I don’t feel it. But it’s hard to open up.

“There’s a stigma around mental health and men can think that it’s not manly to do so.

Men's Shed in old railway carriage and shed behind Brian Jackson Centre, Huddersfield - Charlie Smith with volunteer Ben Roberts in bike repair workshop.

“I hope that changes and think this project is really helping.

“It can be really hard to go out and meet others but by coming here I feel comfortable to talk to the friends I’ve made.

“It’s helped me realise that other people have the same problems as you.

“Sharing your problems doesn’t make you any less of a man.

“We try really hard to be inclusive here. Even if someone comes who isn’t into gardening, woodwork or bikes, we will try find something for everyone to do.

“It’s because there aren’t other groups like this for men nearby, so if they leave feeling unwelcome, where else can they go?”

Charles Smith, 40, is another Men’s Shed member.

“I can sometimes feel alone and quite down.

Men's Shed in old railway carriage and shed behind Brian Jackson Centre, Huddersfield - Charlie Smith and John Line in the garden with volunteers Kay Palliser and Ben Roberts.

“But I really enjoy coming here.

“We share our experiences, which really helps.

“It also gives me structure in my life.”

Ben Roberts is the lead Men’s Shed volunteer and a qualified bicycle mechanic.

He works in partnership with Huddersfield-based social enterprise Streetbikes to repair the bikes, which are then rented out to those who need them.

Ben said: “I was being paid to work on another project with the centre but when the funding ran out I joined Men’s Shed as a volunteer.

“We’re going to extend our garden area to create space for fruit bushes and will be selling the produce to fund the project.

“People have built things like benches. We do lots of different things.

“I’ve seen how it helps the men who come here. For example, a couple have drinking problems but being with others can mean that they don’t drink as much.”

Yorkshire Children’s Centre is now looking for businesses to help sustain the project.

Donna Sylvester, training manager for the centre, said: “The Men’s Shed has been relying on volunteers and community donations.

“Now we are looking for businesses to sponsor the project by donating items such as DIY and gardening tools.

“We also need to keep up to running costs, which we hope the vegetable selling will help with.”

Any man interested in going to the Men’s Shed can call the Yorkshire Children’s Centre for more information on 01484 519988.



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