Men in Sheds Community Project to Build On its Success
A new community project for men in west Cumbria has proved to be just the right tool for the job.
Since it started life on the Mirehouse estate in Whitehaven, the Men in Sheds project has seen local men pick up their tools and pitch in. It offers the opportunity to gather in what is essentially, a larger version of the typical garden shed, where individuals can share tools and resources to work on projects in a safe and inclusive environment.
Taking its inspiration from the ‘Men’s Shed’s’ movement which originated in Australia, the Mirehouse shed was originally set up by Age UK West Cumbria to provide men aged 50 or over with a dedicated space where they can work on projects, socialise, share skills, or just enjoy a brew, in the company of others of a similar age. The foundations of the project lie in preventing social isolation.
A report produced by the Campaign to End Loneliness has found that isolation has a comparable effect on mortality with well-known health factors such as obesity and smoking. Compared with women, men are at greater risk of isolation and loneliness. Older men are more likely to be socially isolated than women of a similar age due to less contact with family and a greater reluctance to join clubs or ask for support. Projects such as Men in Sheds provide men at risk of becoming socially isolated, with a welcoming place to socialise, share interests and form friendships. And potentially with an essential support system.
In recent years the running of the shed was handed over to the Mirehouse Community Centre Association and in 2016 the Copeland Hub – a partnership which brings agencies together to tackle anti-social behaviour and organise community projects – began supporting the development of the project to enable it to offer additional activities and increase capacity. Thanks to the support of local businesses including Morgan Sindall Ltd, West Coast Group, Sellafield Ltd and Travis Perkins, along with volunteers from the community, the construction of a new shed and allotment took place at the beginning of November last year.
Jamie Reed, Head of Development and Community Relations at Sellafield Ltd, said: “I’m proud that Sellafield Ltd is backing the Men in Sheds project, which is a really innovative way of promoting wellbeing in the area. The campaign is doing a fantastic job to raise awareness of issues around social isolation, and is already creating a new sense of community and support for local people.”
He added: “We look forward to seeing how the shed we have provided, and our ongoing support to Well Whitehaven, will contribute to a better quality of life and culture in Copeland.”
The group has so far impressed with their handywork. Over the Christmas period, their handmade Christmas decorations proved very popular within the local community. Meanwhile their Facebook page gives an insight into the extent of their woodwork skills, with photos of all manner of goods from wooden wine holders and children’s toys to bird and bat boxes.
Following the success of the Mirehouse shed, the project is hoping to expand its reach throughout Copeland. The Copeland Hub aims to roll it out to the rest of the borough through the introduction of a Copeland Shed Network. Louise Coid, Manager of Copeland Hub, said: “There can be little doubt that projects like Men in Sheds add value to a community. But what makes the Sheds so special is that they are not health projects or social care projects for people with a particular label.
“You do not need to be lonely or depressed; you can simply be a retired builder or someone who has always wanted to learn woodwork.”
And just like the craftsmanship, the friendships that flourish are built to last.
To see the work of Men in Sheds visit their Facebook page ‘Men in Sheds – Mirehouse’
For advice on how to develop a shed in your local area, email [email protected]