Local community group Yorkey Dads is continuing to grow its range of services to meet the needs of local men. Joe caught up with founders Jack Woodhams, Mike Hewitt and Dan Braidley to find out more.
Yorkey Dads was founded after a trio of new Dads realised they felt isolated and had no-one to connect with. Starting with occasional meet ups over a beer or coffee, the group has grown rapidly – supporting hundreds of men across the City.
The informality of the group has continued, which has led to a wide range of activities, group members driving those activities, and as a result, a nice diverse spread of ages, attributes and interests. This is a truly user-led service – with no charitable purpose locking them in, the group is free to flex to the needs of men in York. Here I take a look at some of the excellent initiatives they’ve set up in recent years.
Yorkey Dads found global fame with their hair school, featuring on local, national and even international news channels! The idea came about as Dads meeting for coffee kept saying how rubbish they were with their daughters’ hair. So the group found a local expert, Maria, who could show them how to do plaits, and other works of art, in their child’s hair.
Despite it’s origins over a bacon sandwich and Lego, Yorkey Dads has become a lot more active and regularly finds Dads from across York meeting up without the little ones, for a run, cycle, walk or fitness sessions. The Walk & Talk Group sees any member pick a route and invite other Dads along – it could be the bar walls, riverside, or somewhere further afield. The fitness sessions – founded by Social Vision – continue to grow and have returned post-lockdown, and there is talk of a Dads football group starting Wednesdays at Roko.
A couple of green-fingered members of the group starting talking about the great outdoors, horticulture and growing – which resulted in the acquisition of an allotment on a local plot, where members can chill out, grow stuff, do some physical work and have a natter over a brew.
Recognising a gap for men in York who aren’t Dads – and set against the context that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK – Jack and Mike set about forming a new group that would focus on male mental health with the support of local experts like Pete Quinn. Social Vision went to the first advisory group meeting, in a jam-packed Micklegate Social, where professionals, practitioners and people with lived experience explored how such a group might run. There’s loads of amazing things coming out of Menfulness, including free counselling for men in York and the imminent arrival of both a website and a talking group similar to Andy’s Man Club. Their YouTube channel has some poems and stories from members of the group, including this poem by founder Jack:
The Yorkey Dads and York Menfulness groups both work because of their anonymity, so joining either group on Facebook is the best way to begin if you’re a Dad / Man in York who wants to find out what’s going on. The great thing about these groups is there’s no pressure or expectation to talk – I personally get involved to play sport and socialise, as they’re a decent set of guys. If you’re into fitness, get on their Strava group; if you prefer a slower pace, head down to the allotment – there’s pretty much something for everyone. And if you find that there’s nothing for you, they’ll help you set up something you are interested in.
If you’re interested in either group from a professional perspective – either as a funder, partner, supplier or supporter – you can contact York Menfulness on Twitter
And it’s also worth finishing with saying that nobody at Yorkey Dads is paid a penny for what they do. This is all 100% voluntary. Funding for activities and services is provided by various funders, including City of York Council and UnLtd, to try to ensure money is not a barrier to access.