Manbassadors Taking to the Streets of Harehills
The groundbreaking Leeds project, Manbassadors, which reaches out to isolated people to support their mental health with a simple intervention of bite size support on a very local level, is celebrating two years of success with a Poem Portrait Exhibition led by Space2 on lampposts across Harehills, in East Leeds.
The Orion Consortium of Feel Good Factor, Space2 and Zest started the Manbassador Project in East Leeds by with funding from the Male Suicide Prevention Fund. More recently funding has been provided by the National Lottery emergency COVID fund and the scheme could be extended to men right across Leeds.
Manbassadors are local business owners trained to identify signs of isolation and potential self-harm or suicide in their customers and who can provide information and signpost to support from a range of organisations.
Each of the six Poem Portraits represents one of the original Manbassadors:
Local writer, musician and broadcaster Peter Spafford is experienced in working with communities on collaborative project and interviewed each Manbassador over the phone to gather material for each poem. Lizzie Coombes, photographer, artist and academic has a long track record of cross art form collaboration and innovative community projects. Lizzie met with each Manbassador to photograph them at a distance.
Lawrence Glyn, Manbassadors Project Co-ordinator says, “Each poem highlights how each Manbassador cares about their customers, particularly those isolated men who use their business. The poems are individual, personal, full of character and honest, just like our Manbassadors.”
The funding received from the National Lottery also included money for an art project and, inspired by other Street Art projects in Leeds, this celebration of some of the original Manbassadors in Leeds 8 and 9, was developed.
An extract of just one poem illustrates the whole Manbassadors ethos:
“Small thing really, the listening,
showing you care.
Taking the time to be with someone,
just being there.”
Lawrence continues: “Too many people feel isolated and down on their luck. Leeds 9 has one of the highest rates of suicide and men in Leeds are five times more likely to take their own life than women. Manbassadors has been a simple and effective way of involving local people working in the area in reaching those isolated people. This exhibition on the streets of Harehills will brighten up the area and is a great way to share this wonderful celebration of local people. And it’s all Covid safe!”
The exhibition starts from 1st April 2021 and will be visible on the streets of Harehills as follows
D-News, 448 Harehills Leeds LS9 6HJ
East Leeds Health Centre, 78A Osmondthorpe Ln, Osmondthorpe, Leeds LS9 9BL
The Gym Leeds York Road, LS9 9AH
Imaan Pharmacy Harehills, 262-266 Harehills Ln, Harehills, Leeds LS9 7BD
Ollies Fisheries, 8 Easy Rd, Leeds LS9 0AZ
W2 Barbershop, 131 Easterly Rd, Roundhay, Leeds LS8 2TP
Until the end of May 2021.
Images: Lizzie Coombes / Words: Peter Spafford