Special barbers shop pops up at train station

Tom Chapman barber

Tom Chapman - Credit: Submitted

Newton Abbot Station hosted a special pop-up barbershop where men could get a free haircut and discuss their mental health at the same time.

It was one of the first pop-ups to be hosted by The Torquay-born Lions Barber Collective following a £25,000 grant from Great Western Railway.

Three barbers who have been trained to recognise signs of poor mental health in their clients were on hand to cut hair, trim beards and provide a listening ear.

They were joined at the station by South Devon Samaritans volunteers, who handed out cuppas to passengers ahead of the charity’s annual Brew Monday campaign on Monday January 17.

Torquay-based barber Tom Chapman founded The Lions Barber Collective in 2015 following the death of a close friend.

Recognising that barbers and hair professionals are often a friendly ear to their customers, Tom collaborated with experts to develop a training programme for hair and beauty professionals to support their clients and communities.

The clinically-backed BarberTalk programme gives barbers the skills to direct questions to trigger conversation and to signpost clients to the support they need.

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Tom said: "We’re fully-trained to make people look and feel amazing and most importantly listen with empathy and without judgment to those in the chair. We’re using this as a vehicle to connect with the community and start conversations around mental health.”

GWR was able to provide a grant from its Communities and Education Programme. As part of its franchise agreement with the Department for Transport, the train operator has funding to assist schools, colleges, community and other not-for-profit organisations.

GWR Community Manager Emma Morris said: "The Lions Barber Collective carries out vital work in helping to open up conversations around mental health and we believe these pop-up barbershops could be of real benefit to some of our customers and colleagues.

“We look forward to working with the Collective to bring more of these events to our stations.”

While the third Monday in January is sometimes referred to as ‘the most difficult day of the year’, the charity is highlighting that there’s no such thing as ‘Blue Monday’ as people can feel a range of emotions any day of the year.

South Devon Samaritans branch director Dean Sanders said: "As we enter another winter in these difficult times, we are encouraging people to look out for their family, friends and work colleagues and be that listening ear that they might just need.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s Monday morning or Thursday night, or if you’re drinking lemonade, black coffee or apple juice. If you’re sharing a cup of something and listening, you’re making a difference to someone’s day.”