“I started Coventry Men’s Shed up about eight years ago, my reason for this was due to me having some issues with my own mental health and the fact that there really wasn’t any groups that catered for male-related problems”. – Mark Gibbins
We run the Shed at the Rose Community Centre in Spon End – an area close to the city centre. The area is made up mostly of social housing with a great community feel to it.
The sessions – two each week for two hours – are mainly attended by men aged from 30 upwards. On a Tuesday we have the Tuesday Makers session and on a Thursday is the Crafty Blokes arts and crafts session. The sessions are run with peer-to-peer support, where the guys talk to each other about any problems that they may have.
At the Tuesday session, most of the guys build plastic model kits, but they are welcome to bring along any building project that they wish to make. In this session we fund ourselves.
The Crafty Blokes session is funded by Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Partnership Trust the session is part of a larger project that was set up to help reduces the high level of male suicides, the highest rate being men aged between 45 and 49. We used our funding to run arts and crafts as part of the project We did some clay head sculpting, which we then decided we’d make into puppets.
This then started us thinking and we decided to put together a puppet show that would be about our own dark days with our mental health. With help from the Belgrade Theatre’s community network group, we got a scriptwriter who was from Coventry and had worked for the Belgrade and also written plays for BBC Radio 4.
He wrote the script that is based on conversations that we had at the Thursday sessions around our own dark days. We called it ‘In the light of darkness’ ane we’re looking at putting on two shows at the end of the project in November for invited guests and family members.
We’re hoping to find some funding to be able to take the show on the road around the UK to highlight this issue and to help to start a wider conversation about the subject of men’s mental health.
Over the years we have run a vegetarian cooking session that went really well especially the eating part at the end. We’ve done photographs, bits of woodwork which was a bit problematic at times when we had to set up the table saw outside to avoid the sawdust covering the main room at the centre. We have also over the last few years had funding from the British Science Association as part of their science week event where we have covered the subject of flight. we’ve also done some electronics bits and looked into the weather and global warming.
We have a large network of other groups that we work with and have also given advice to two other local Men’s Sheds at George Elliot Hospital in Nuneaton and one in Warwick. We also got involved in writing a song as part of the opening event in Spon End for the start of Coventry year as the City of Culture.
We were filmed by the BBC for a programme called ‘Curtains up on Coventry’ about the start of the City of Culture. This was first shown regionally on BBC One and then nationally on BBC 4. – Mark Gibbins