As the shockwaves of the global pandemic, both social and economic, continue to ripple across the globe, it’s important to keep a keen eye on our local communities to help them remain afloat.
Mid-way through August, it came to our attention that our local Men in Sheds initiative in Bromsgrove, headed by the charity Age UK, was in danger. The charity was still paying rent for its workshop premises despite being closed due to COVID-19. Of course, in a time littered with other financial issues the charity must be facing, such costs without ends could easily be interpreted as haemorrhaging money, which could result in long-term closure. Thus, as a local security business based in Birmingham we saw it as our responsibility to help keep this profoundly important initiative alive, donating £250 to assist in their next rental payment.
Originating from an Australian project, Men in Sheds began its UK incarnation in 2008, established by Age UK.
It is an initiative which provides workshop space for anybody—both men and women—to convene and work on DIY projects, sharing skills, developing new ones and building strong local connections along the way.
Beyond the practicalities of the DIY projects, Men in Sheds hopes to help tackle the loneliness and social isolation that often occurs after retirement, foregrounding connection, mutual goals and community above all else.
Across the UK there are over 500 active Men in Sheds projects, most of which remain temporarily closed due to the pandemic. Many of these sheds are linked to charities, such as Age UK, while others operate independently to the same ends.
Each year a national Shed-Fest brings together the disparate groups from across the nation to share news, methods and promote connection further from home. At Shed-Fest 2018, which took place in our very own University of Worcester, a survey showed that 97% of members had made new friends since joining a Men in Sheds initiative, 89% reported a decrease in depression, 88% felt more connected to their local community and 75% reported a reduction in anxiety. These statistics provide some empirical evidence of the importance of such initiatives for members nationwide—only solidifying the need to support such vital programmes throughout the pandemic fallout.
These life-altering statistics are certainly heart-warming, but also highlight the danger of their doors being forced shut. Fortunately, we are delighted to hear that many members of Men In Shed initiatives, including our local project in Bromsgrove, have turned to holding virtual meetings—keeping the community spirit and support alive through this particularly straining time for physical and mental health.
Meanwhile, Age UK has been working tirelessly to reconfigure the spaces to be COVID-safe. Our £250 sponsorship, donated wholeheartedly from our entire security guard team, hopes to help cover the rental of the collective’s spaces in Bromsgrove and aid in their reorganisation, so that its members can again reap the benefits of task-oriented social interaction in the near future.
Age UK’s Jo Hughes has said, “Once we have done this reorganisation, and are in a position to re-open, we look forward to inviting the TGF Team over so that they can see for themselves the difference their support