DCMS Podcasts

#LetsTalkLoneliness podcast | Episode two

Episode Summary

From an East Devon woodworking shed to a radio production project in the North West, the second #LetsTalkLoneliness podcast takes us back around the country to meet inspiring people and tell their stories of overcoming loneliness in communities big and small.

Episode Notes

For top tips, advice and inspiring stories visit www.letstalkloneliness.co.uk and join the conversation on social media using #LetsTalkLoneliness.

The full transcript of this episode is available at www.dcms-podcasts.simplecast.com.

With thanks to Beer Men's Shed and Rising Stars North West.

Episode Transcription

Just over one year ago we relaunched the Let's Talk Loneliness campaign to support people across the country who knew someone struggling with loneliness, or who were finding it hard themselves. Incredible acts of selflessness have marked this period in communities big and small so I've been to explore just a couple of these stories to understand what loneliness means to people and how they're working to alleviate it. In Beer, East Devon, a community built around a woodworking shed is doing exactly that. Last month Baroness Barran the Minister for Loneliness joined them for a special virtual tour of the shed and heard the inspiring stories of those who use it. Barry Mike Roy and Dave joined the call to share their experience but the first voice you'll hear is the chairman Chris Pickles. 

People of our age group who sometimes have difficulty pushing the right buttons so when you mention about using google hangouts and, hi dan, I immediately thought oh i can see that we'll be sat here calling IT support for the next 45 minutes and the call won't actually happen while we sort things out. I'm sure you know what that's like. Yeah absolutely absolutely. Mike's just joining us. Mike's another one of the members. Hi. 

Hi Mike. 

Beer Men’s Shed started back in spring 2019 um where a few of us got together and started discussing the issues that we were hearing about in our village. I think it happened to be at the Christmas of 2018 that one of the chaps in the village decided that he didn't want to carry on living and because we have cliffs here then he took the short way out. Married man in his 40s with a couple of teenage kids and people knew he was a bit down but they didn't really recognise how bad it was and that was quite a shock to a little village like ours. We've got about 1400 people who live in the village so it's your classic seaside fishing village that's changed and morphed over time and people in the village started thinking about this and what it meant and what we could do. So we got together in spring and discussed it and we had to make a decision about what we would do and why you know. Was this going to be a carpentry club or a car maintenance club and we made it very clear to ourselves that really this is about providing somewhere for men to get together and do things in order to help men deal with life better. That's what Beer Men's Sheds about it's part of the community it provides a place for men to join in to make friends to have fun to feel valued to know that they are contributing. Life's not over yet no reason why it should be. 

Lovely well it'd be lovely maybe to hear from a bit from your fellow what do you call yourselves shedders i don't know fellow members. Just a little bit about kind of how you got involved and what you're hoping for I guess as the light sort of is sneaking through at the end of the tunnel and we look forward hopefully to a better year and being able to get back in the shed. 

The shed for me I first found out about the shed I think it was on facebook and I've always been the kind of guy that wants to help people if I can do something for someone I want to do it. I don't want to get paid for it just a thank you is more than enough for me and I think that's what I do do. But yeah to actually do something and have somewhere to go and meet fellow like-minded people, you know and we can get on, we can have a laugh, we can have a cup of tea and you know just it's an escape. It's pretty good and I know. I enjoy it, it does it does me the world of good just to get to have somewhere to go and meet like-minded people and at the same time help out the local community.

If the shed wasn't there I wouldn't be catching up with Chris during lockdowns you know, so to be fair working from home isn't the be all end all. It's great because I don't have up to travel up to London and other places to see clients but I don't actually see that many people in the village because you know we're following the rules down here and getting out in the shed is a good way of catching up with people and you know meeting other people who as as Roy said you wouldn't meet if you didn't go to the shed so there's some really good stuff that the Shed’s done.

When you've been used to working most your life you you miss the the sort of routine of getting up and meeting and working with people, it's very easy to sort of withdraw and just end up sitting on your own or doing your own thing and you start to deteriorate mentally and physically and it's important to get together with other people and to share your experiences and your skills so that everybody can benefit from it and it does you a world of good as well.

I Have A Dream is a series of honest and heartfelt conversations with young people sharing their goals, dreams, aspirations, influences and hopes for the future as a way of connecting listeners across long distances at a time of isolation and loneliness. To find out more I sat down with Solomon and Jade of Rising Stars North West the brains behind this project.

Basically the idea kind of came literally really out of the start of the old lockdown thing and it started off as we wanted to sort of speak to young people find out how they were dealing with you know the old Covid lockdown because again you know they were so used to what we were used to kind of going out all the time, hosting events and you know meeting your friends and whatnot but when the lockdown started it was like well nobody could kind of really go out so I wanted to capture that really and get people to tell their stories. What they were going through, other people across the country were going through similar things so like now when people that hear it they can kind of be like oh i'm not alone you know i'm not on my own feeling like this. There are other people in the country that feel exactly the same way and you know this is how they were coping with it whether they were like you know maybe books they were reading music they were listening to whether they were going for walks or you know um their eating habits and whatnot just kind of try and get them to basically talk about those experiences to help other people. 

Yeah I think one of the things we found is that over the last year during the pandemic like everyone's kind of had a sense of what it's like to be lonely obviously you've all been social distancing lockdowns and whatnot everyone's been kind of removed from their usual networks of friends and family and support networks so there is kind of greater empathy people know what it feels like but it also still requires kind of brave people to talk about their experiences and i think that's what's really admirable about the project that you guys have done. One of the missions for our campaign is to kind of get rid of the stigma around kind of admitting that you feel lonely, do you guys think that talking openly about experiences as you guys do is like really important for normalising those feelings and finding stigma and if you found that during during the project? 

Definitely it's kind of the whole aim of it like to break down wellness because people don't really like talking about it you know sometimes like there is a stigma where people feel like kind of a bit embarrassed or you know scared that people look at them in a different way because you know they're like it's like making themselves quite vulnerable so i think it's definitely important and it like broke down even like for me because like there's so many different people who like have been affected and do like the effect they're more affected than by loneliness more than you think and like so it's definitely like broke down some of the i guess the stereotypical kind of how society has made us feel. It's like been developed over years and years and to definitely break down the stigmas.

Do you think it's like especially important in young people like that that sense of kind of being embarrassed to admit that you're lonely, is that something they think is more prominent in young people than it might be in in other groups?

I definitely do and I think social media actually has like played a big part, as well with the pandemic because they've like young people they've not had like not even been able to go to school they've not been able to you know like the parks closed. When I was a kid I was going playing on the park. They've not been able to do that and they're just kind of being forced to stay at home and then you know being at home they've got nothing else to do. They can't go outside see their friends so where did they go to social media and you know the scrolling and they're not having that human interaction so then they just get used to being in their own bubble. 

It made me kind of reflect as well you know to think actually yeah it is true that you could be around 20 30 people every day or be like in the all these different WhatsApp groups and whatnot but like you know when once you put your phone down it's still you by yourself. Do you know what I’m saying? So unless like you find a way to actually like sort of learn to be okay with being on your own and you know finding like what helps you to kind of cope with things and you know like just finding those things to distract you is not going to help you stop you from being lonely, do you get what I’m saying? Like you can watch all the Netflix you want you can be on FaceTime all day but eventually you are gonna have to put that phone down you know when that phone does go down you know it's basically you by itself really isn't it. So yes i kind of identify with that a little bit to think actually you know maybe you know where in my life have i kind of like tried to find things to distract me as well.

That point you made Solomon about being physically around people doesn't necessarily make you connected to them and I think often people can be in a space with lots of people whether that's digitally or in real life and they can still feel isolated. It's about finding people with whom you have genuine connections with.

Back in East Devon we spoke to Chris about how they fundraise for the shed and the impact that funding from the 750 million charities package has had on the community.

Obviously you had an incredibly helpful grant from the lottery who we should probably pause just to you know reflect on the fact that the different lottery distributors have given away a billion pounds in Covid support this year which is a pretty awesome achievement and really rather brilliant that they're able to run so deep into communities that they find a men's shed in East Devon is I think a tribute to the way they work really.

The other grant we got was to put together a digital museum on a website for the village because with over 2 000 years worth of history back to the Romans, then all those things that people have stored in their attics like the photographs of the village in 1850 and the paintings of the days when painters will come down to South West England because the incredible light then that's now being put into an online museum thanks to a grant that we got from the National Lottery Local Connections Fund, and that's due to I mean it's already live but we're doing the the prettying up professional stuff starting next month. So all that's going extremely well at the minute and again it's thank you to the National Lottery for firstly responding to a little group like us but certainly doing it so quickly. I mean we were quite amazed it wasn't months and months of waiting perhaps to hear something it was a great positive contribution to our community.

The I Have A Dream project from Rising Stars North West was all about personal stories of loneliness and how people went about overcoming them. In speaking to Jade it was inspiring to hear how she wanted to bring her story back to a positive message which might help someone in a similar situation.

I did one as well that was talking a little bit about how I was feeling lonely through like sexuality and like coming out gay at a young age and how that's kind of impacted me like growing up and going through my life but I think like what someone was saying about the range of radio stations reaching out and being like oh we want to play this we really like we love this content like it makes it all seem like so much worth it.

Jade, I wanted to ask you if you're happy to just to expand on your experiences with loneliness due to some of the issues you've you faced around your sexuality, if you're comfortable kind of expanding on them?

I grew up in an area which was like a very small town and me and my twin andIi think there was one other Black person was the whole like there was no Black people in the school so there's just me naming in the air is predominantly white and like we did face racism and it made things it made it make things hard for my mum and obviously meaning they got bullied sometimes for it and like meaning didn't always necessarily understand like why would kids would look at us weird and like and then I started to compare myself to like other girls like I want my hair like theirs or like why my body shape not like theirs and then it made me feel very like very introverted and then I didn't want to kind of like socialise to people because I feel like I would get the same reaction from you know what I previously had and it wasn't very nice. So then when I came out gay um like when I was 17 I thought I came out bisexual first because I was thought okay like I'm gonna become a bisexual because I’'m not really sure um and then I came out fully gay and like my mum was really supportive but like some of my family members were a bit like like didn't really understand and didn't understand like what it meant for them but like it I don't think at the time they understood like that it's not gonna affect that. I’m still the same person and then so I kind of was battling a little bit of loneliness there kind of feeling a little bit isolated from my family and yeah like I always felt like in the I Have A Dream interview I did I was like talking about always feeling like like a black sheep and always you know like feeling like the odd one out and it's such a lonely space and it's not very it's not a very nice experience but I feel like it's kind of helped me you know. Bringing it back to positive because I like to end things with positive messages it's made me like develop tough skin and just like look more inside myself and kind of like love myself more.

Do you find like talking about like we’ve just done and like you guys do for I Have A Dream, do you feel like that’s helped you kind of deal with stuff yourself but also have you seen it help the people who’s spoken about it on the other kind of episodes of the show? Have you seen the positive impact of talking openly about experiences of loneliness?

Like it's so nice that we've got such a different range of people talking about from different angles. We've got obviously people talking about like how they was at uni and they've caught with willingness and studying at uni has been mad and then obviously people with mental health and then there's people who um you know the stigma around like men talking about the feelings like I think it's it's it's great to talk about these things I think we need to talk about these things more and I'm I'm happy to be part of like a project like this because I think it's really important.

Taking a step back and listening to all the audio and everything like that it's really like it's quite powerful that even though you see people every day you know you don't really get to see them be vulnerable.

It’s a good note to end on, I think. Thank you guys thank you so much for taking the time to chat to us.

For guidance, top tips, inspiring stories and pathways to support visit the Let's Talk Loneliness website at www.letstalkloneliness.co.uk and join the conversation on social media using #LetsTalkLoneliness thank you.