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Men’s Sheds Meet

Yesterday was a good day. I spoke up for the Men’s Sheds meeting at the University of Worcester as per planned and met many interesting people passionate about growing the recognition that men in particular need a space to share their lives after work. Men’s Sheds helps in many areas and that also includes unofficial areas of health care and wellbeing through socialising and such like. What an amazing thing such simplicity brings but the reason for its success is the behind the scenes people volunteering into it.. For many if not most of the members it has indeed been life-changing to discover a space to work with others in a supportive and nurturing environment where the stresses and strains of retirement, ill health and so on can be melted down in some kind of creative sphere of sanity.

The Men’s Sheds movement continues to grow and at an amazing rate. This week the opening of the 500th UK Men’s Shed showed the demand and the success rate. That’s a 66% growth rate in just 3 years, which shows the need. Indeed the community ethos behind Men’s Sheds has been highly effective at reducing loneliness and social isolation in areas right across the country, including among the elderly and retired. Some health care providers working with depression and anxiety issues and more now offer an option, take prescribed medication on the one hand or join a social enterprise like a Men’s Sheds group near home. The testimony I heard time and time again yesterday was how each individual there had been helped by someone to come out of themselves and share their lives with others.

18 Comments

  1. Joe on 4 September 2019 at 5:15 pm

    This sounds like a fantastic and much needed program. What did you talk about? As you aptly pointed out, isolation in the golden years isn’t healthy.

    For my grandmother it was going to the local church events twice a week. For my dad it was taking his daily driver (which had become a classic car over time) to the local weekly car shows. For me, it was bowling and now is the local trap league. When I retire (and have more time), there is a local woodworker club that I very much look forward to joining and going to the meetings. I know my godparents moved a few years back to a retirement community to be more active with those of similar age. When they started talking about all the things the local community had, it actually sounded quite nice.

  2. Eddy flynn on 4 September 2019 at 5:27 pm

    I was supposed to attend but the needs of the shed and our members had to take priority, I hope the shredders took as much from your talk as I’ve taken from you teachings over the years, the shed movement could do a lot worse than have an ambassador like you.

  3. Randy J. Ewart on 4 September 2019 at 5:28 pm

    What an absolutely wonderful idea . . . ! Affinity group involvement of a variety of interests could be real lifesavers for many individuals. Idle hands and minds take their toll on too many folks. Good for you, Paul . . . !

  4. Mike on 4 September 2019 at 5:40 pm

    If you live in Scotland you can find your nearest shed on this link:

    https://scottishmsa.org.uk/find-a-shed/

  5. Kit Duffy on 4 September 2019 at 9:26 pm

    I heard Paul speak at Shedfest. After the general introductions he opened the proceedings. I have seldom heard a more passionate, inspirational speaker and I commend the organisers for getting him there and giving him the opening “slot”. I am chairman of a men’s shed in Woking, Surrey and we will certainly be looking at his various tutorials and working them into what we do. The whole ethos here fits so well with what we try to do in “sheds”. I consider myself privileged to have heard him.

  6. Samuel on 6 September 2019 at 11:42 am

    I’ve been afraid to work, I haven’t worked for awhile and my life is frozen. My mum died, I used up my savings, now I’m forced to push through all the neutron entanglement I’ve nihilistically sat down in.
    But I think if you have some new goals that are in your own hands, like learning woodworking skills that accentuate and compliment our wonderful, beautiful earth – with the sense that you are gaining mastery. You need hope and it needs to be your own – I don’t think you can afford to wait until retirement to seperate your work identity from a better and unsackable/retireable human.
    On the small scale: I used a birdcage awl today, sharpened to a pyramid and polished brass ferrule. I marked a straight line with fingers and a pencil sharpened with a knife.
    Paul taught me all that!
    It’s working!

    • Paul Sellers on 6 September 2019 at 11:59 am

      So sorry for your loss, we should all realise that grieving is part of the healing process and the expanse of it varies between individuals. Woodworking with hand tools is an incredible craft and when people try to tell me that machine woodworking is the same as hand tool woodworking `i understand then that they don’t understand and I cut them some slack. The difference in the therapy realms is that hand tools demands all of the sense to be engaged and you cannot detach any one of them as can happen and often does with machines. Working with your hands and allowing the therapeutic value of it enhance your life is the equivalent sleep is to the human mind. Before sleep the world can seem quite overwhelming, after it things seem always to have slotted in place. Thanks for commenting.

  7. Pete on 9 September 2019 at 12:40 pm

    Not heard about Mens Sheds organization before this. do you have details for the Worcestershire group.

  8. Andy on 9 September 2019 at 12:59 pm

    Go to this link, and enter your post code : https://menssheds.org.uk/find-a-shed/

    I am a member of one and fnd it quite invigorating

  9. Rico on 9 September 2019 at 5:12 pm

    I don’t think you can afford to wait until retirement to seperate your work identity from a better and unsackable/retireable human

    Samuel, an excellent turn of phrase and fantastic piece of advice.

  10. David Laurie on 9 September 2019 at 5:19 pm

    Good to see the Mens Shed associations growing and succeeding internationally…

    And let’s not forget that this all started down here in Oz, over two decades ago..

    https://menshed.com/

  11. Susan on 10 September 2019 at 6:24 pm

    I’d really like to join one but… I am a woman. I know most sheds do not admit women. I really don’t understand how a charity can discriminate on gender and I promise if I could join, I would not be talking about knitting or soap operas. I’d be interested in working alongside anyone male or female on woodworking and carpentry and talking about projects and methods.

    I support Rico’s view that this sort of organisation should aim to be more inclusive though I know it is possible for younger men to join Mens Sheds. I do think that we are in the UK generally quite ageist in stark contrast to other European countries that have more social integration between different generations and this sort of activity and organisation, if it were made more accessible could help to change that for the benefit of many.

    If anyone knows a tolerant woman admitting shed within 10 miles of East Grinstead that have some decent facilities and where I can attempt some proper projects please let me know! ( I don’t want to make bird boxes)

    • Paul Sellers on 10 September 2019 at 7:38 pm

      I think that it is fine to accept many points of view, Susan. I liked his comments and thoughts. Fine. Re East Grinstead Men’s Sheds opportunities for you, why not just try the link: https://menssheds.org.uk/find-a-shed/. It will only take you one minute to find a number and call it. They will always be helpful and steer you in the right direction though I do understand that some Men’s Sheds cater only to men as do say Women’s Gyms and so on. This comment section is much less likely to provide the right information as we are not technically associated whereas Men’s Sheds are geared up and more than able and willing. Also, as you brought it up, I am not sure if it is any more discriminatory than special classes for different categories of our wonderful society. I think not. Speaking to Men’s Sheds organisers and staff, both women and men at that, they seemed mostly open to women joining but without changing the name as such and that is obviously because of the need men have that far outweigh gender peculiarities and prejudices. I recall the days when girls couldn’t do woodworking in UK schools and hearing now how many women complain that it was the boys who ‘had all the fun‘. Well, truth is, it was equally wrong that boys could not do domestic science classes yet no man or woman ever recognises that general prejudice. I would have loved to do cooking and bakery, sewing and such. Most biases seem only to have led to a dumbing down of curriculum and expectations, to the point that woodworking today is a mere shadow of its former self in schools. We have an ever growing generation of men who know very little about manual work.
      About agism too; I don’t think we can state that the UK is more ageist than the rest of its European counterpart without statistical facts to support the statement. I doubt that that is the case at all. I will concede that some countries have greater familial ties across the generations than others and this has in turn engendered familial ties that prosper. The Brits do have a culture of ‘being private’. Great at building fences. So, I hasten to point out that the charity Men’s Sheds is meeting some very specific charitable needs that men have with regards to wellbeing, sharing and caring for one another and, yes, in cases of course, going beyond the commoner things of repairing a lawn mower, a bike or a piece of furniture, listening in a way that perhaps one might consider only other men can. If it, as it does, saves lives and provides for men’s mental and physical healthcare then I say let’s let it fly! It’s not at all discriminatory but a strategy to counter the culture of male loneliness, isolation and lostness.
      Good luck finding a shed home. The shedders I’ve met are amazing men and women!

  12. Neal Yermish on 12 September 2019 at 7:34 am

    Hi Paul,
    Do you happen to know if something like this exists in the US? East coast, especially

    • Paul Sellers on 12 September 2019 at 7:49 am

      Sorry, I really have no knowledge of the movement in the US although there will be ‘unofficial’ Men’s Sheds in the form of woodworkers guilds and so on. I think that they might even preface before Men’s Sheds

  13. Mike on 13 September 2019 at 2:44 pm

    We tend to be more egalitarian in Scotland – our shed is the ‘Inchmarlo Community Workshop’ based in a renovated bothy at the Bridge of Canny (Aberdeenshire) that welcomes everyone irrespective of age/gender — women are amongst our keenest woodworkers & wood-turners.

  14. Charlie Bethel on 14 September 2019 at 6:57 pm

    Hiya. There are certainly Sheds in the States, it’s new there but developing. I’m sure a google search will find them, if not email UKMSA and we’ll find out.

    The rationale for Men’s Sheds is that it provides an environment for men, an environment that does usually exist in our society. Our make up as men generally doesn’t usually enable us to engage with groups in the same way as women. Men’s Sheds are like a pill that works for men. That said plenty of Sheds include women and are welcoming; but don’t be surprised if there are men only sessions. I’m sure people don’t think the WI is discriminatory, they provide a service to a group in society…… now to my main point….. what an inspirational speech from Paul at ShedFest. You could have heard a pin drop as people hung in every word Paul spoke. Turkey inspirational and I only wished every Shedder could have been there.

    Truly inspirational and such a massive impact. Thanks Paul.

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