A CHURCH in Nottinghamshire has built its own workshop to bring together older men who are lonely, isolated, bereaved, ill, or anxious about retirement.
The workshop is at the centre of the Men in Sheds project, set up by St Thomas’s, Kirkby-in-Ashfield, last week.
Men over the age of 50, led by volunteers who have experience in building, woodwork, and other trades, are invited to meet at the workshop every Friday to make items — including garden ornaments, holding crosses, bird boxes, and ornaments — which will then be sold to raise money towards the running of the workshop.
The “shed”, which was created by knocking through a kitchen and a lounge in the church hall, was opened by the Bishop of Sherwood, the Rt Revd Tony Porter, last Wednesday.
It was built over two years by some of the men who now use the space, and has been filled with tools and workbenches, some of which were donated to the project by local people. A sign by the door reads: “To you it may only be a shed, to me it’s a sanctuary.”
Bishop Porter said on Monday: “I was delighted to support Men in Sheds in Kirkby because there is a real issue with men who are retired or unemployed and feeling isolated.
“It is not just a workshop teaching practical skills, there is a real feeling of community, friendship, and fun. When I spoke to the men at the launch they made it clear that this was more than a shed, it was a sanctuary, and when I spoke to their wives they were thrilled with Men in Sheds.”
The older-persons adviser for the diocese of Southwell & Nottingham, Paul Howard, said that the project not only offers a place to meet, but also gives structure to the day for those who have retired.
“And you don’t have to have great skills to visit the workshop: the most important part of the shed is the tea-making area,” he said.
A Reader at St Thomas’s, Chris Manning, was inspired to set up Men in Sheds after hearing of a similar project in Australia, which provides support and social interaction for men moving into retirement from full-time work.
He said: “We have men who have a better workshop at home but they come here for a cup of coffee and a chat.”
One of the men who uses the workshop at St Thomas’s, John Tuttle, said: “Since I finished work, I have missed the companionship and mixing with people. We take the mickey out of each other something chronic, but that is what the workplace is all about.”