folkestone fellas – minding men’s mental health
Folkestone Fellas is the brain-child of Carl Martin. He and his partner moved to Folkestone in 2021 and part of settling in is finding a group of like-minded male friends. The couple are expecting their first baby and Carl thought it important to find some men mates before he becomes known as ‘xx’s dad’ for the rest of his life. So, he started an Instagram account and within a week it had snowballed from a few followers to over 300. Folkestone Fellas’ first activity was a walk on International Men’s Health Day on November 19th 2023. Carl spoke to Folkelife about the purpose of the group.
“My partner and I visited Folkestone during the pandemic and fell in love with the place. Once that had happened we decided that we had to live here so went about moving down. The Harbour Arm in the summer is just perfect, but there’s more to Folkestone than that. We love walking along The Leas, The Old High Street is full of energy. That’s the thing about Folkestone; there’s a lot going on, but it’s not so compact that you’re on top of each other. We do lots of walking and there are great places to discover along the coast or inland.
“We’re an inter-racial family and Kent isn’t necessarily known for it’s diversity. But here we were pleasantly surprised. It’s lovely to see a real mix of ages, races and different faces all around the town. We’re also creative people and felt that creative energy from The Old High Street and the artworks. Everyone is very friendly. We didn’t know it at the time but our street is full of the friendliest people ever. It feels like people are looking out for you and want you to settle in and be supportive. It’s a really positive place.”
“The first year we were here was all about discovering our new place. You’re busy fixing things and making the house right and it’s exciting. Our second year was spent making sure that our friends and family were welcome here too. Inviting them down and showing them what’s here and making sure they feel the love for the place we do is important to us. So it occurred to me that we’d been here two years and we’d been so focused on settling in that I hadn’t found a group of my people to hang out with. I hadn’t spent the energy on that, on building my own network of people.
“That’s not to say I hadn’t met people. We have a dog and you always meet people if you have a dog. I’ve been doing some sea swimming so there’s a group of people there who are all very nice and friendly. I’ve joined the paddleboarding club that works out of the Folkestone Yacht Club and again, really nice people but I just haven’t found my tribe, my people, if you know what I mean?”
making friends as a grown adult
“Over the last 6 months I’ve really felt the strain of not having deeper connections here. I’ve felt lonely and that’s been hard. We’re also expecting our first child which is quite an exciting yet terrifying experience but I don’t want to form a friendship just based on the fact we’re both having a baby around the same time. Making friends as a grown adult is hard work. We’re not looking for a future best man, or the friend that’s going to bail us out of trouble at 2am but someone you can walk with who isn’t as close to your problems as you are. It’s a valuable part of the human experience.
“So I thought I’d put it out there, set up a group and see if I could find one or two people to go for a walk with. We’ve got a WhatsApp group and to be honest, it’s blown out of all proportion! There are 80 people on there already and we haven’t done our first walk yet. So I suppose that validates my point; there’s a real need for companionship.”
creative and active
“This group needs a bit of stewardship at the moment but I wasn’t setting it up to be the person in charge. I’m hoping that people will meet, find their people, and then create groups from that. We’ll organise some events to they suit different people, and run at different times so that they’re accessible.
“What I want though is these events to be healthy, active, creative, inspiring. If you want to meet in the pub for a drink that’s great, but none of these events will be tailored around a pub. This group for me is about focusing on our mental health, and alcohol can mess things up sometimes. I don’t want to set up a group that meets in a pub where people feel uncomfortable around someone else’s drinking behaviour.
“So, absolutely, if you find your people and you want to go to the pub, that’s great. But it’s refreshing to have a mens’ group that doesn’t focus on that, but looks at gaming, pottery classes, playing golf, a book group… you name it. Sometimes we fall into the slots we’ve been nurtured to operate in. It would be great to challenge some of those and see how we can find new activities that bring out positive behaviours and good feelings. Why not?”
The Folkestone Fellas met on 19th November 2023 for their first walk. The WhatsApp groups have grown and connections are being made. For information about future meetings and activites follow their Instagram account.