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We are delighted at the positive response we received from our recent voluntary and community sector networking event, Movember on Tyne. We were trialling a variety of new formats for a networking event using a semi-structured programme to focus on the theme of ‘addressing the needs of men and boys’. Attendees and organisation representatives were able to learn from one another, showcase their successes and speak frankly about their challenges. It also offered attendees a chance to hear the unique perspectives of a range of inspiring speakers, and to participate in themed ‘thought exchange’ exercises about their work in men and boy’s health and wellbeing.

Many of you have told us that you benefitted from the chance to meet other organisations and we were pleased to see that people were so actively engaged with the objectives for the day.


Here is a brief outline of the speakers:

Paul Dutton, Volunteer Coordinator at Citizens Advice Gateshead, shared an illustrative personal experience: simply asking a stranger for directions in an unfamiliar place - men are ‘supposed’ to know these things. He reflected on some of the social, practical and emotional barriers that men have about speaking out about their needs. He also posed the question ‘what does it mean for men’s sense of purpose now that so many traditional men’s skills aren’t needed in the workplace?’ He touched on the ways in which men can be digitally excluded from benefits now that Universal Credit applications have moved online because computer use has not been part of their prior working lives.

Harriet Yudkin, Sexual Health Trainer for Newcastle City Council Public Health, gave an inspired and humorous insight into her experiences in a previous role carrying out sexual health outreach work, in particular the challenges and successes in engaging young men and boys on sexual health. She gave a personal checklist of things to ask yourself in planning and delivering services, and suggested that there is no such thing as a ‘hard to reach group’, you just need to reach into the right places in the right ways.

Graham Parkinson, founder of Ryton Men’s Shed, gave a personal account of the reasons behind establishing the project, and the ethos of the Men’s Shed movement. He spoke about why it is so important in the villages in the West of Gateshead Borough. Often mistakenly thought of as being well-off commuter suburbs, they have many scattered pockets of social deprivation, particularly among the older population. Graham demonstrated how wood-turning and other ‘shed’ skills can bring back pride and a sense of purpose especially for older and working-class men.

Iain Miller, Programme Lead for Gateshead Council Public Health, spoke movingly about the rates of suicide amongst men in Gateshead and the wider North East of England. He told the stories behind the statistics and reflected on how the work of a wide range of community organisations can contribute to the quality of life of men in ways that statutory services often can’t. He illustrated a number of factors that seem to be indicators of increased risk of suicide amongst men. For example, social isolation, late middle age, long-term medical conditions, history of depression and poor mental health.

Colin Mallen from Food Nation, talked about how their ‘Men’s Pie Club’ is helping to tackle social isolation, whilst empowering men with life skills. He shared a particularly touching story of a very elderly man who, through pie club, had addressed his loneliness, learned to love making pies, and through a video on Men’s Pie Club Facebook page, had reconnected with distant relatives in Australia.

Thank you to everyone who came along and helped to make this day a success. We will be sharing the highlights of the ‘thought exchange’ exercises soon.

Please keep an eye on our Training and Events page and email newsletter for our future voluntary sector networking opportunities.