Men’s Sheds first started in Australia in the 1980s around Broken Hill involving a number of former miners.
Men’s Sheds Australia was established in 2002 when it became clear an overarching infrastructure was needed to support men in establishing and managing their men’s sheds in regional, rural and remote areas. It involved documenting practical information and knowledge, tools, checklists, processes and training materials while utilising modern technology. The Australian Men’s Shed Association was established in 2007. There are now in excess of 1,000 sheds throughout Australia.
The Irish Men’s Sheds Association was established in 2011 and was the first shed association to be founded in the Northern Hemisphere. 2013 saw the first shed in Scotland.
By 2015, Men’s Sheds were also active in a number of other countries, mainly based throughout Europe and South Asia. This included over fifty men’s sheds in New Zealand and over two hundred in Ireland. By end of 2019, there were over 550 men’s sheds across the UK. The United States has also set up a national association and had 3 Sheds in Hawaii, Minnesota and Michigan by May 2017.
UK Men’s Sheds were founded in 2013 with the formation of 30 sheds in different parts of the country. We are part of the UK’s National Men’s Shed Association but each Shed is run independently by its own committee.
What is the Purpose of a Men’s Shed?
Men’s 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.
All men are welcome at Men’s Sheds. They’ll find something interesting to do, people to talk with, support and learning, but most of all a place where they can be men.
Men at all stages of their lives are essential to a good society, and Sheds help keep them well and engaged. They also do a lot of community work, supporting others.
What Happens in a Shed?
Every Shed is different. Every Shed is run by the men in it, and they decide what to do. Some fix cars and motor bikes, some hold painting classes but in Wokingham our main focus is on carpentry.
Our Shed gets involved in community projects such as restoring village features and building things for parks, schools, care homes and individuals in need.
So far, we have mainly made items from scrap wood and palettes such as planters, greenhouse staging and therapy boards for dementia patients.
Why Are Men’s Sheds Needed?
For a long time, research has shown the negative impact of loneliness and isolation on a person’s health and wellbeing. Recently we have seen more evidence come to light that shows loneliness and isolation can be as hazardous to our health as obesity and excessive smoking. Surveys from mental health charities are finding that millions of people report feeling lonely on a daily basis.
Men typically find it more difficult to build social connections than women, and unlike women of a similar age, older men have fewer networks of friends and rarely share personal concerns about health or personal worries. This is not the case for all men, but for some, when retirement comes, it can feel like personal identity and purpose is lost. Men’s Sheds can change all of that.
Sheds are about meeting like-minded people and having someone to share your worries with. They are about having fun, sharing skills and knowledge and gaining a renewed sense of purpose and belonging. As a by-product of all of that, they allow men to deal with mental health challenges more easily and remain independent, they rebuild communities and, in some cases even save men’s lives.
Are Men’s Sheds Just for Older People?
No, but most that attend them are retired. Often men miss the routine and camaraderie between colleagues that they found with their working life. Disability is not a reason for exclusion, provided people can work without assistance. Some sheds have younger members and the minimum age for joining is 18.
Are Women Allowed to Join?
There are many Men’s Sheds with female members, but most Men’s Sheds exist for the benefits they bring to men’s health and wellbeing. One of the best things about Men’s Sheds is that they facilitate conversation about subjects that men might usually find difficult to talk about.
What Are the Membership Fees?
In common with other Men’s Sheds in the UK, the annual membership fee is set at £60. This covers the cost of insurance and utility bills etc. We look to find grants, charitable donations and fund-raising events to help us further.
In addition to the annual fee, we charge £2 per visit to cover the cost of consumables including tea, coffee, biscuits and cleaning materials.