Find calm in the barn

Barn-raising brings better mental health to Liverpool

IT can be a place of quiet contemplation…or a hotbed of inventive genius.

It’s given us the aeroplane, the clockwork radio and the Dyson vacuum cleaner.

A modern day haven – the last bastion of calm in an increasingly chaotic world.

We’re talking about the humble garden shed and in Liverpool it could very well be the key to better mental health and wellbeing.

Thanks to a partnership between Liverpool City Council and health and social care charity Person Shaped Support (PSS), the ‘shed model’ is now being used to create an innovative new space where anyone can get support with their emotional health and wellbeing.

Situated at PSS’s urban farm in Garston, the Dutch Barn is a stylish-looking wooden shed that harnesses the therapeutic power of the natural environment to give users that feel-good factor.

One of the specific target groups for the barn is men aged between 45 and 60 who may be experiencing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression – but anyone who wants to look after their mental health and wellbeing can use it.

Funded through the council’s Improved Better Care Fund, the Dutch Barn will be put to a variety of community uses. And as for the activities it will offer, well there’ll be shedloads.

A city council report on the project says: “The shed could be open seven days a week making it more accessible and flexible to the local community. It is envisaged that there will be set periods offering activities that focus on men’s health and wellbeing, with the remainder of the time the service will be open to the local community, actively encouraging participation.”

The report adds that it will offer men’s shed groups, gardening, mindfulness, healthy eating, keeping active, bird watching, bee keeping, music, arts and crafts.”

Nicky McGovern, who is service manager for PSS’s Wellbeing Centres said: ‘Spending time in nature can improve your mood, reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and help you feel more relaxed. It’s a place where everyone’s welcome; space for people to meet and interact with others, develop friendships, feel less lonely and have a bit of fun. We’re really thankful to Liverpool City Council for providing us with a new way to bring vital mental health and wellbeing support into the community.”

The project has been steered by a network of PSS volunteers, The Cabin Crew, experts by experience who have all used PSS mental health and wellbeing services. They’ve have had a hand in everything from the building’s design and fixtures and fittings through to the programme of events.

Crew member Kate, said of the project: “I’ve enjoyed watching the barn come together right from beginning and having my say about the decor. It has helped me to get out of the house, even going shopping to get ideas. I’m attending an anxiety group there at the moment. It is a quiet and relaxing atmosphere.”

After the initial council investment, it is hoped The Dutch Barn will be run independently and become self-sufficient.

It will be officially opened on Thursday August 23 by Liverpool City Council’s Mayoral Lead for Health and Wellbeing Cllr Roz Gladden.

Cllr Gladden said: “Poor mental health is a growing area of concern for us as a city and indeed the entire country. It is estimated that one in four of us will experience a mental health problem each year. Sadly there is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health and that is something we want to combat.

“The Dutch Barn is built around the simple age-old idea of bringing people together. It offers a chance for people to confide in others, share their experiences and try out new activities all of which will help to boost their confidence and improve their self-esteem.

“We are certain that this facility will be well-used and have a positive impact on everyone who gets involved. The message to everyone is, if you feel you would benefit from talking to others and getting involved in a range of exciting activities – head for the shed.”

  • Anyone can access the Dutch Barn by self-referral. All you have to do is call the PSS Wellbeing Centres on 0151 708 0415 and answer a few questions. Visit for more information.

PHOTO: Going Dutch: The new Dutch Barn at the PSS urban farm in Garston.


Liverpool Waterfront