RammyMen was dreamed up in October 2016 as yet another close friend was packed away in a box after taking his own life.
In the past our town was a whole community. You would live alongside your cousins, uncles, brothers and mates; you would work with people from three doors down, play in the brass band and the cricket team, you'd go to the footy on Saturday, and round to your auntie's after church for Sunday dinner.
In today's society we work in a call centre in Bury and get pissed in front of Sky Sports on our own. Relatives live miles away, and our mates all wandered off to get a job.
We men thrive on doing stuff together. We're not always great at chatting for chatting's sake, but give us a lathe or set us off walking up Peel Tower and there's a companionship that is otherwise lost in today's society. And when things go wrong in our lives... then there's someone there to talk to about it.
And so, at that funeral, RammyMen was born. Why couldn't we get back to doing stuff together? Why couldn't we play in the brass band, join the singing group, meet up for a brew and a game of poker, or learn to cook from a trained chef?
So our aim is to help get back our community identity and sense of purpose. It is to recreate the relationships that used to exist in our society, but somehow drifted away. We do that through bringing people together, through creating, organising and running activities that anyone can get involved with, man or woman.
We also provide mental health support for when things get too much: we run an annual suicide awareness conference, have a number of professional counsellors we can call on, an extensive referral network, and our own helpline. As well as advocating for our community in a number of high-profile mental health forums, during lockdown our ranks even mustered over 360 volunteers to help with support for isolated and vulnerable people across Bury.
We are completely run by unpaid volunteers as a not-for-profit Community Interest Company, and any money that comes in goes straight back out again, helping to support and run our activities.
If we encounter more than two people interested in organising any activity then we get it going - providing funds, advice, support and promotion. If any of those activities then get to the stage where they are viable businesses in their own right then we do everything we can to make that happen - we already have a number of great success stories where our volunteers have managed to 'give up the day job' and get paid for doing what they love.
Ultimately we hope to never again experience the feeling of despair at seeing yet another of our friends prematurely disappear behind the curtains at Radcliffe Crematorium. Is that so unrealistic a target?