A man’s shed has, for generations, been a place for him to escape the stress and strains of life; a safe haven to gain much needed sanity; to be surrounded by his own, useful things; a place to think, to make things, to mend things, to invent and be at one with the world…..and men the world over have done this largely on their own.
There is now a new way for men to pursue their interests, develop new ones, belong to a unique group, feel useful, fulfilled and have a sense of belonging. The Men’s Sheds movement has arrived in Wales.
‘Men’s Sheds’ are social groups or enterprises set up in local communities for the benefit of men. They are self-governed, self- supported and sustainable with a small committee; their own individual constitution, their own income and eventually their own premises. How each individual shed looks and the activities on offer depend entirely on the skills and interests of the group. You’d be forgiven for thinking a Men’s Shed is all about making things out of wood. While many are wood-working groups there is also a huge array of other activity on offer. Shedders are artists, collectors, story-tellers, amateur radio enthusiasts, train spotters, model makers. Anyone is welcome and any interest, skill or project is given equal consideration – especially if it could attract new members or gain valuable income to support the development of the entire group.
The idea originated in Australia 11 years ago and was developed by the health board to tackle growing concerns of social isolation amongst their male population. They identified that high numbers of men had time on their hands (due to retirement, unemployment, illness etc) and these things often manifested themselves in boredom, men suffering in silence with declining mental health and in the worst cases suicide. While various groups and charities do exist to support men, it has been proven that they are less likely to access and accept support. The Men’s Sheds movement is based on the understanding that men are more likely to help themselves and attend something they have set up or have some control over. While they might struggle to talk face to face, men do talk shoulder to shoulder when engaged in some form of activity or shared task.
There are now over 2000 Men’s Sheds in Australia and the idea soon spread to Ireland with over 200 sheds established in the last four years.
Now the movement has arrived in Wales and, whilst still in its early stages, The Association of Men’s Sheds Cymru is being established to support the 14 existing sheds (May 2015), and to help communities across the country to set-up their own Men’s Shed. Two Regional Advocates have been appointed and are now busy responding to the huge amount of interest coming from Welsh communities.
Mark Bond, Regional Advocate for South Wales said: “It really is a very exciting time for the Men’s Sheds Movement in Wales. Everyone who hears about what we’re doing instantly recognises the need; grasps the potential and invariably knows someone close to them who would relish the chance to join or set up their own shed. What amazes me is the wealth of skills and experience among our older male population… everyone has something unique to offer and sheds are the perfect opportunity to share what you know with peers and future generations.”