A MAN in a shed is no longer a story of loneliness thanks to a national movement, which has made firm foundations in the local area and is growing all the time.
The Men’s Shed movement originated in Australia two decades ago, born out of an acknowledgement that older men can struggle to build social networks, especially after retirement age.
Set up in 2015 behind the TN2 Community Centre, the Sherwood Men’s Shed consists of a large shed with workbenches and equipment, a ‘cabin’ for storage and making tea, and an outdoor work area.
Thanks to the outdoor area – built with funding from Kent County Council – the Shed operated through the pandemic restrictions.
Chairman Tim Tempest said: “The outdoor area meant we could be Covid compliant and have six people here. We were able to meet the needs of the particularly vulnerable members.”
He explained: “The difference is that garden sheds and their activities are often solitary in nature, while Men’s Sheds are the opposite. They are about social interaction, friendship building, sharing skills and knowledge and of course, a lot of laughter.”
Active members come and go, and the group has at times included women, but there are about 30 members on the list, and six or seven people turn up on Tuesdays and Thursdays all year round.
They plan to take a vote on opening over the Christmas period, said Tim. “Sometimes people are eager to get out again. Not everyone will come, but there’s always going to be someone here.”
As for himself, he said. “I guess I need the structure, and organising, so I don’t grind to a halt.”
John, the Shed’s ‘whizz with the lathe’, told the Times: “I’m here for my mental health. I keep myself busy coming down here. I’ve been here about three years, and I do quite a bit of voluntary work.”
John is one of the members who keeps motorcycles and has found fellow enthusiasts in the group.
“They’ve fostered friendships based on interest outside the Shed,” explained Tim.
“We have a WhatsApp group and if someone is having a bad day, we say: ‘We need you. You’ve got to keep coming to the Shed’”
“We’ve only ever had to exclude one person in all the six or seven years we’ve been going. People get on.”
With just a ‘peppercorn rent’ to pay to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, the group is completely self-funded, thanks to its sales of wooden toys and ornaments, as well as commissioned wood projects
“We never say no,” said Tim.
The ‘Shedders’ have upcycled oak shelves from the old Tunbridge Wells library into garden benches and bistro tables, and also made a display unit for the #SheMatters charity shop in Monson Road.
“Our biggest project to date was the construction of the planters situated in the courtyard of the Amelia Cultural Centre,” he added.
Sherwood Men’s Shed will also be selling items at The Pantiles Christmas Market this December.
Details at: facebook.com/kettlesalwayson/