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Rachel Reeves and Seema Kennedy visit woodwork shed for lonely older men

MPs on the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness suspend election battle to visit heralded Maiden Lane centre

09 May, 2017 — By William McLennan

Rachel Reeves at the Camden Town Shed [Pic Michael Crabtree]

TWO political opponents took a break from bitter election campaigning to visit a community woodwork shed in Camden Town that has been heralded for countering social isolation in older men.

Conservative Seema Kennedy and Labour’s Rachel Reeves joined members of the Camden Town Shed in the Maiden Lane Estate last week as part of Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, which was set up in the murdered MP’s honour.

Ms Kennedy, who is standing for re-election in Lancashire, wanted to carry on work that Ms Cox began looking at the impact of loneliness in order to “upheld her legacy”.

She said the Camden Town Shed was a practical example that could be an inspiration to others, adding: “A lot of men are lonely and they find it difficult to open up and admit that they are. They need these social spaces where they can do something, they don’t necessarily just go to somewhere and sit down and say I’m so lonely. They need to just get out and talk to people and space like these are ideal.”

Pointing to figures published by the commission this week, Ms Reeves, who is hoping to retain her seat in Leeds West, said: “What I think is the most worrying statistics is the number of men who wouldn’t admit to family or friends that they feel lonely. Projects like this are really important, because you don’t have to admit you are lonely to come here and many people who do aren’t lonely. But it’s a way for groups of people to come together and take part in an activity they enjoy.”

She added: “I’ll be going back to my local autority, but also some of the community groups in my area, and saying: ‘I’ve seen this great scheme in Camden, are there things like that that we can be doing?’”

Seema Kennedy with Mike Jenn [Pic Michael Crabtree]

The shed was opened by Mike Jenn in May 2011. It was one of the first was one of the first

to open on a similar model in the UK, picking up on an Australian trend. Mr Jenn went on to set up the UK Men’s Sheds Association and has provided help and advice to dozens of sheds operating on a similar model. There are now 381 sheds across the country, he said

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