Men in Sheds project to expand and welcome women as it seeks to secure future

  Posted: 10.09.19 at 17:49 by The Editor

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An innovative project set up to bring men together to share skills and friendship is preparing to welcome women for the first time.

Men in Sheds, based at Oakham Enterprise Park and supported by Rutland County Council and Age UK, is thriving - so much so the group is seeking more members to support its expansion.

On the surface it’s a place for older men to come together in a workshop and spend time working on practical tasks. Yet its purpose runs much deeper.

As men’s health takes centre stage on the news agenda, Men in Sheds puts wellbeing at its core. Its focus is conversation and friendship - craft is the facilitator.

Age UK provides paid co-ordinator Brian Lee and the cost of the premises is supported by Rutland County Council.

From April 2020 the group will need to become more financially independent, which will require recruiting more members..including women.

Retired police officer Ian Allan working on an intricate glass engraving project for his home.

Women's sessions will launch in the near future and more than have already registered an interest in signing up.

Lead volunteer 68-year-old John Whittington, a retired engineer and operations director, attends most sessions.

He said: “We have about 25 members who attend regularly. They are retired and semi-retired men from all sorts of backgrounds – teachers, military, architects and other professional occupations.

"We would like to attract a more diverse range of people. Surprisingly we don’t have many tradesmen or people who have worked in more practical jobs.

“Our members tend to come along to work on a project for their home or for a family member, then they keep coming back.

"The underlying purpose is to improve wellbeing among men – to encourage them to get together and talk in a friendly environment.

“We charge £2.50 per session and take on commissioned work, which helps to raise funds.

"At Christmas we attend local craft fairs to sell decorative items and this also makes a valuable contribution.

"There’s no obligation for members to take on commissioned work but those of us who do simply enjoy it.

“Recent commissions include planters for Oakham in Bloom located at Oakham Library, outdoor book stores for Langham Primary School, items for Rocks by Rail and even some hedgehog feeding stations.

"Most of the materials used by the group are recycled. They are often repurposed wooden pallets from businesses at Oakham Enterprise Park.

“We need to try and stand on our own. The more people who attend, the more sustainable and self-sufficient it will become.”

Retired engineer, 76-year-old John Tickle, recently relocated to Oakham from Derbyshire.

He said: “I joined because I wanted to meet like-minded people and work with my hands. I have been made most welcome by the members and am so glad I joined.

“I no longer have a garden or a shed so it’s ideal to be able to come here and make things for my family or participate in the commissioned projects to help support the group.

"I’m not really a natural mixer but I really enjoy coming here to use the excellent selection of tools and machinery and to brush up my practical skills and develop new skills.”

Anyone who wants to have a look around can either turn up at one of the sessions, currently running on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, or call Brian Lee on 07540 413 805 or email [email protected]

Newcomers will be shown how to use the tools and machinery safely so there’s no need to have previous practical experience.

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