Men in Sheds: Working Outside

Jul 18, 2023 | Featured Articles, Interviews



Men in Sheds: Working Outside

Jul 18, 2023 | Featured Articles, Interviews

When we first looked at Age UK Exeter’s Men in Sheds initiative five years ago the focus was on individuals being given a chance to connect, chat and create within sheds and workshops.

Even then there was a strong element of helping local communities. And now, with over 1,000 men in sheds groups in the UK, the number and scope of projects impacting people outside the sheds is remarkable.

At a recent national awards ceremony these included refurbishing furniture for families in crisis, offering free bicycle repair, helping tend local allotments and even putting out walking football teams for the local league.

The Mens’ Shed in Exmouth is an Open Door Exmouth project where Peter Chalkley says the men are able to make very significant contributions locally.

“We recently built over 300 bird boxes for the Wild East Devon rangers, and I was very pleased to see them out in the woodlands around Seaton when I went for a walk recently. That’s thousands of birds we’ll have kept safe this breeding season.”

The Exmouth men also welcome youngsters under the care of Esteem Team, a charity that works with young people who have additional needs or who struggle with their mental health.

Young adults are facing a challenging outside world, but inside the shed the men can teach them wood and metalworking skills, and give them the confidence that comes with seeing your handiwork come to life.

The Exmouth Men’s Shed has also recently made planters for Topsham Primary, assisted the local sea cadets, and built a range of games including whack-a-mole and crazy golf for a Hospiscare Fun Day.

“We used to do quite a bit of fence and decking repair work too, but that’s actually taking work away from local business, and that’s not what we want to do. We have to be fairly selective in what we do now. We focus on the jobs we can do in the shed, and that are too small or fiddly for the local trades”, says Peter.

Over in Budleigh there’s a similar story of community outreach going on in the Old Fire Station, purchased by the Budleigh Community Workshop Trust and refurbished a couple of years ago.  

Chair of the trust Bill McDermott says the Budleigh workshop was designed to provide activities to a wide range of individuals who may wish to learn new skills, socialise or volunteer. 

“We are an inclusive activity centre where individuals do it for themselves under expert tuition. Activities range from carpentry to wood carving, from textile crafts to art classes and much more.”

Over in the Age UK Exeter’s Men in Sheds workshop Nick Jarman told us of a slightly unusual request they recently helped with.

“Bowhill Primary asked us to make a set of stocks for their fete,” he said chuckling, “and those were used to put the teachers in so that the children could lob sponges at them.”

Whether it’s getting revenge on teachers or hosting fledglings, and pretty much any craft project in between, the men from Men in Sheds are happy to help their communities.

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