The Town That Cured Loneliness

Yes, Frome in Somerset. Patrick Abrahams of Frome Men’s Shed kindly forwarded an article from last weekend’s Telegraph Magazine. 

Plus news we can announce of an initiative that has been forming in Whitby District since just before lockdown that has essentially the same underlying objective as in Frome for our community. 

However, first, something salutary from Victoria, Australia. Australia had successfully kept a lid on Covid-19 spread with interstate barriers to travel to regionalise the threat.  Mindful of announcements yesterday by UK Government that are very welcome in the way of relaxations, accompanied by maybe less prominent messages about being very cautious, here is this morning’s news from the Benalla Times newspaper in the Victoria region (somewhere!).

We – and that includes Shedders – must not consider the easing of restrictions as some kind of message that Covid-19 is defeated. It isn’t. We have to continue to work hard to keep it under by the main tool we have which is “stay well apart and THINK about what we are doing”. Be responsible for ourselves AND those around us. We need to train together to achieve good health safety practice.  We have been preparing in our minds for opening up, we have been procuring cleaning materials and we have some sound guidance through UKMSA of what other Sheds are mulling over. 

Are we a type of Village Hall that could open in July? Thankfully our Sheds are predominantly “our space to use” and control we might consider that we don’t have the risk that Village Halls have of multiple use by groups. Easier therefore? BUT every activity will need to consider the regulations for themselves and matters of hygiene, movement and separation. We still need to face up to that, and we will, when we reopen in coming days or weeks we hope!

The Telegraph Magazine article is a long one, but a VERY informative summary indeed of 6 years of SOLID progress towards one woman’s goal that was health inspired. A GP with the fortunate freedom to explore a long held dream based on evidence, however. In some ways it is very Shed like in terms of self help and indeed the Frome Men’s Shed and Patrick were very important and active supporters of Helen Kingston’s dream.

The book on the project is about to be launched tomorrow (25th June) and we have received pre-ordered copies today via Amazon..

Having whetted your appetite to read the Telegraph article I have moved it further down the stack of news in this blog (you can of course skip down to it).

Now I want to introduce Whitby Community Alliance. It includes the Sheds.

 Whitby Community Alliance was christened this month but it began with another working title just before lockdown. Development of the idea has been a child of Zoom! 

Here is an extract from the notes made by Claire Robinson of Carers Resource about a month ago; they are is orchestrating first steps (but not in any way exerting control which is important to say). The orchestration is to facilitate the sharing of ideas.

“Our purpose and developing the WCA:

It has been agreed we will work with the group title:  Whitby Community Alliance . We discussed lots of positives as to why we should continue to build the Alliance (beautifully summed up by Yvonne)

  • Genuine support from peers and partnership working
  • Genuine honesty and sharing in order to maximise our individual and collective expertise, knowledge, training, resources
  • Collective voice and representation of the sector and our service-users
  • Creating positive noise about the communities across Whitby and district
  • Joint project planning, applications [for funding]
  • Building on the emerging strength of the group – [it is] something positive emerging from the pandemic/crisis “

This was written after the first meeting that we participated in. Thus we had no hand in writing it BUT I found it resonated 100% with what I’d been hoping for  many months and indeed years for Whitby. Close working in our “island” town and village network.

“Yeeeeah!”    I nearly wrote Hallelujah!

Our Shed association with Frome and Graham’s visit in October 2019 to meet with leaders in the Frome project (including the deep thinking Dr Helen Kingston and a range of equally deep thinking partners in the work like Patrick Abrahams of Frome Men’s Shed AND OTHERS) left a deep impression on several Shedders in Whitby District. We tried to promote “Frome thinking” (it’s not a formula to blindly follow) to others in our contact list in Whitby District. 

Health is a very important driver in the Frome project and the involvement of the GP health network in Frome Town was instrumental. It was leadership in a very real sense that left the bulk of work to be done by others COLLABORATIVELY. Not control, but respected leadership. Same story in Fleetwood, by the way.

It is pleasing that Charlotte Angus and her Link Worker colleagues Lisa and Steven had a Zoom chat with Patrick in Frome a week or so ago to hear the background that has led to the present foreground.

Whitby has its way, as we all know. How we manage evolution of Whitby Community Alliance will be unique (just as Sheds in UK are individually very unique). The gold is the trusting collaboration and joint enterprise of an alliance but also the community itself represented by many “stars in the sky” including businesses potentially . 

The skill is to arrive at something we can all accept as good, worthwhile and with the living drive to evolve organically. How was that held together in Frome? Trust, quite frankly. It’s what is written in Whitby Community Alliance’s Mission bullets above.

There are currently have 14 members:   

Caring Together Whitby
Coast and Vale Community Action
North Yorkshire Youth
Pannett Art Gallery
Revival North Yorkshire
Scarborough & Ryedale Carers Resource (including My Neighbourhood)
Wetwheels Yorkshire
SWR Mind
Whitby and District Sheds
WHISH – Whitby Hidden Impairments Support & Help
Whitby in Bloom
Whitby DAG
Whitby Interactive
Whitby Lighthouse

And so to Frome!


The book on Frome arrived today. 

What happened to videoconferencing during lockdown? 

These news pieces reveal the massive leap there has been in use. A twenty-fold increase in use of Zoom for a start.

But look at the adoption by older people. 

ITV News

According to the report, UK visitors to video-sharing app TikTok have more than doubled – from 5.4 million in January to 12.9 million in April.

The proportion of UK adults online making video calls has also doubled during lockdown, with seven in 10 people now using such services at least weekly.

This increase has been most noticeable among older internet users – with the proportion of over-65s making at least one video call a week jumping from 22% in February, to 61% in May.

But Ofcom said the biggest increase was seen on video conferencing platform Zoom, which rose from 659,000 UK users in January to 13 million in April.

Two snippets of good news

Staithes Shedder Colin now in Larpool Care Home has triumphed! We could not get Zoom working on his tablet, not helped by the fact that Colin had to describe things over the phone to Graham. There can be several flaws in that process! However, Colin decided to clear the tablet of gathered rubbish and, lo, he managed to get Zoom loaded. WE HAVE LIFT OFF!!!

Then opposite the Primary School in Sleights there is a huge stone trough. Nobody “owns it” but a lady who lives close by gives it some tlc as and when she is able. She has sown wild flower seeds.

They are growing a little but the weeds have better stamina. She is removing them and hopefully they will become a delightful riot of colour. This kind of good turn really encourages everybody.

Thanks Denise.


Where was the next photo taken?  Was it on Bournemouth Beach yesterday? Maybe the birds understand social distancing better than humans:-)


Answer: Lakes Entrance. Round the corner from Melbourne, Victoria. Quite a long corner!  Yes, Fish & Chips.








Shedder Rob Shilson in Contact!

Rob sent an Alexa Question – Alexa, when will Whitby Shed reopen?  Based on the science, Graham gave him a response which amounted to “search me guv” and Rob responded with the email below including a short essay on 3 months in a very different Whitby.

Hello Graham

I hope you are keeping well and happy. Thank you for posting the Laurie Santos Happiness programme which I am slowly working my way through. It is very inspiring and just what is needed for these 😷 times.

I would also recommend  ‘The Happy Life Formula’  by Nils Salzgeber. A very easy read and so uplifting.
Do you need any shed preparation assistance? Can I do anything to help? Let me know.


Dear Rob,

Cannot do much at present unless we work outside.

I will be contacting Whitby Scouts soon about allowing us to use the back garden, the stage and the toilets.

Like to chat; it would be good. Do you Zoom yet😊?

Good to talk. Look on our web site in latest blog. It announces Whitby Community Alliance which should be a bit of Frome. I’m optimistic.

Yours, Graham

Hi Graham,

Whitby Shed – OK I understand cannot do much yet.

The Whitby Community Alliance sounds amazing, great news.  Frome… what a shining example, an inspiration for us all and (maybe) for the ‘New Whitby’ !

Zoom (always reminds me of the sixties ice lolly) is possible from West Cliff but not from the beach caravan (July – October) due to fluctuating signal.

Will call, the good work is appreciated.  Below is my take on the last quarter.


Three Quiet Months in Whitby

For the last three months and until very recently Whitby has been an unusually quiet place. This quietness has reflected another often unseen side of a busy, bustling, fun filled holiday town.

When the ‘closedown’ began I continued my daily walks around the town in a now strange almost surreal environment. Hardly anyone around and serious mutual distancing in operation whenever another human was sighted.

Interestingly there was usually some acknowledgement of ones fellow citizens and as days moved on a brief smile would lead on to a ‘hi’ or ‘hello’. I started recognising the same faces and it was obvious that these familiar connections could perhaps become acquaintances. At the top of hilly streets folk often stopped for a breather and  seemed ideal locations to now enjoy a little socially distanced chat.

About two or three weeks on and half a dozen or so ‘regulars’ were now happy to discuss a little more than the weather. Views were exchanged on various light hearted topics but it became evident to me that:

All were elderly, all were men, all were single or widowed, some felt lonely, some felt a bit low.

Yes, Whitby is a very friendly town but just like most places loneliness and isolation exist. My perception is that in Whitby it’s just a little more hidden.

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