Westover ward councillors Kathy Pearce ,Brian Smedley and Leigh Redman joined Bridgwater Mayor Graham Granter as he cut the ribbon this week to launch the Bridgwater Men Shed – the first local version of this growing national phenomenon, in it’s Westover location along the canalbank down Old Taunton Road. Men’s Sheds are community spaces for men to connect, converse and create. The activities are often similar to those of garden sheds, but for groups of men to enjoy together. They help reduce loneliness and isolation.
Men’s Sheds (or Sheds) are similar to garden sheds – a place to pursue practical interests at leisure, to practice skills and enjoy making and mending. The difference is that garden sheds and their activities are often solitary in nature while Men’s Sheds are the opposite. They’re about social connections and friendship building, sharing skills and knowledge, and of course a lot of laughter.
Sheds are whatever the members (or Shedders as they call themselves) want them to be. Although labelled sheds, they often aren’t sheds at all. They can be empty offices, Portakabins, warehouses, garages, and in at least one case, a disused mortuary. Some Sheds are purpose built workshops, but they rarely start out that way. Many don’t have premises at all in the beginning and instead form a group that meets regularly for the social connection, company and camaraderie until they can find somewhere to kit out with tools. Many Sheds get involved in community projects too – restoring features, helping maintain parks and green spaces, and building things for schools, libraries and individuals in need.
Activities in Sheds vary greatly, but you can usually find woodworking, metalworking, repairing and restoring, electronics, model buildings or even car building in a typical Shed. Sheds typically attract older men, but many have younger members and women too. Whatever the activity, the essence of a Shed is not a building, but the connections and relationships between its members.
A Personal Story
Colin Gorton is the Chair of the new Bridgwater Shed and spoke emotionally at the launch event about one specific ‘Shedder’ saying “Just the other day I received an unsolicited email from a relatively new member. This email sums up what Men Shed’s are about. He wrote ‘Before the Shed came to Bridgwater I was in my garage or home on my own at least 5 days per week and 12 hours a day. Chain smoking, I know not good for me, I really did not give a monkeys. I was lonely, depressed and felt I had been given a really bad hand. Health wise I hurt all over all the time. Some days I was so low-well, I am sure you get the idea. I spent all day alone, just me and the dog in the garage or the house. I contacted Colin and he told me about the plan for the new Shed just 2 minutes from my house.”
“I was there from the very first wall to get knocked down and the first hot drink being made, I made it. The first job I did as de-nailing and sorting rotten wood, I knew I could do more and it was a little demeaning but to hell with it, I was doing something constructive and I had company. Since that first day I have spent so many hours in the shed, often first there and last to leave.”
“Bringing you up to date…I have halved my whisky habit and am working on further reduction. I have cut my cigs down to about 25 a day, most of this in the evening. I went to the COPD nurse today and have gone from chronic COPD down to ‘yeah you have COPD but it’s not as bad. My next appointment is in a whole years time and I had been going every 6 months for the last 3 years. Now I get up every morning to go to the Shed. Yes my life is sad I know it. I don’t have very good health, no private pension or income but I DO have the Bridgwater Shed. And I now have a reason to get up tomorrow morning. This is the most open I have been for years and it’s only been possible through this Men’s Shed.”
The new Men’s Shed was set up by SLaMS – Somerset Levels and Moors Shed, which was originally devised in Burrowbridge after the disastrous 2014 floods to meet the needs of Men on the Levels and Moors. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01823 698612 (Colin) or 01458 442212 (William)
The new Shed is open 9.30-12.30 Tuesday and 13.00-16.00 Thursday.