Holbeck Shed project boosts men’s health

A South Leeds initiative is encouraging men to spend time in the shed.

Men in Sheds MohammedOriginating from Australia in 2006, ‘Men in Sheds’ is a growing initiative that is spreading across the UK, there are currently 70 sheds in the UK, one of those being in Holbeck in South Leeds.

Funded by Leeds City Council and managed through community charity, Groundwork, Men in Sheds have created an exciting new way for men to learn new skills. The Holbeck shed is open every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and is completely free to attend. No previous experience is needed and with the guidance of the skilled ‘shedders’, men can try their hand at carpentry, wood turning, carving and whittling, in a fully equipped workshop. There’s even a constant supply of free tea and biscuits.

Health experts now agree that in addition to the practical skills men learn in the shed, there is also a whole host of health benefits to be gained. Groundwork’s Will Gore, who runs the Leeds shed, comments;

“We’ve found that men, especially of the older generation can find it hard to deal with momentous life transitions, such as retirement, redundancy, divorce and bereavement. When faced with these challenges, sometimes isolation and loneliness can set in. This initiative seeks to tackle this head on in an environment men feel comfortable in.”

Professor Alan White, a leading expert in men’s health from Leeds Metropolitan University has identified that pottering in sheds helps men to keep fit, lowers blood pressure and boosts self-esteem.

He states; “It is great to see that Leeds has a Men in Sheds initiative. They are now an established way of life for men in many countries who have retired and are keen to learn new skills while making some new friends. They are also really important in keeping men fit and healthy. Men can experience a great sense of achievement and satisfaction through these schemes, aiding relaxation and relieving stress. The idea taps into the male psyche, men know what a shed is, it’s not something new or daunting, so they feel comfortable in that setting and are more likely to relax, share thoughts and also have some fun. The work that Groundwork is doing is invaluable and I hope people support the shed in Holbeck.”

Men in Sheds Ted Spencer and Ellie Branch-EvansThe Leeds Shed has been running since September 2012 and now has 12 regular members. Encouraged to make things independently as well as within a group, the men have completed projects for crafts fairs, created flower beds for Holbeck in Bloom, bird boxes for a local school and they are currently turning their hand to animal shaped blackboards for a local nursery. Where possible reclaimed or recycled wood is used and occasional items are sold to raise money for local causes or donated to local community projects.

Will concludes, “All the sheds around the UK are independently managed. So we don’t follow a framework, it’s entirely up to the men what they choose to do. There doesn’t seem to be any other community group which is focused solely on older men and allows them the freedom to be busy making and creating but still chat shoulder to shoulder with other men. We’re desperate to maintain this ethos and we’re always on the look out for additional support from organisations and individuals, whether it’s supplying materials for our shedders to use, making a monetary donation or offering volunteers as part of corporate social responsibility programmes, we need this support. Our current funding only supports us until July and then we may be forced to close. So do get in touch if you want to play your part in our shed, or if you’re a man wanting to attend, pop in any time, the kettle is always on.”

The shed can be found on the ground floor of Barkston House on Croydon Street, Holbeck, LS11 9RT and is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 10am – 4pm. Will can be contacted at will.gore@groundwork.org.uk or (0113) 238 0601.