Being aware of local statistics showing that life expectancy in the Garnock Valley is lower than the Scottish average in four out of the six neighbourhoods in the area and having read in the media about the health benefits on men's sheds, we were surprised to discover that there were no men's sheds in our own locality.
Further investigation into the matter, including a number of research/study visits to other men's sheds, revealed that men's sheds were instrumental in reducing loneliness, social isolation and depression, leading to improved mental health and well-being amongst men. We formed a start-up group and with the great assistance of Project Kilbirnie we have been able to acquire premises that were previously a North Ayrshire Council maintenance depot and are in the process of finalising an "Asset Transfer" for the property.
The Men's Shed Association was founded in Australia over 20 years ago where there are now over 1,000 sheds and it has spread to New Zealand, Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales across Europe and as far as Kenya in Africa.
It was identified originally in Australia that men with time on their hands e.g. pre/retired men, offshore workers, ex servicemen, men out of work, men who have a disability can find it difficult to socialise outside of a work environment. The Men's Shed is the new place in our modern society offering a healthy and creative solution.
The task that faces us is to get the premises up to a standard that is safe and secure for all our members which will involve the following;
1) Getting the building secure and watertight - we have received estimates of over £21,000 to repair the
fabric of the building, upgrade the electrical system and improve access for wheelchair users.
2) We intent to install a heating system, using wood and sawdust, to heat the building and water supply.
This has been estimated at approx. £17,500
3) It is also our intention to create an IT room to assist the members with completing online applications
which in today's world is an necessity on the road back to work. Estimated cost £2,100 which includes
installing a BT landline.
4) We are currently using the toilet facilities of our local library so the installation of proper facilities are
estimated at £1,800.
5) We must make the premises secure and we estimated an alarm system at £950
6) Part of our refurbishment of the property is to construct a log cabin within the premises which will
provide a tearoom, training room, meeting room and most importantly a place where the men can
relax and socialise. The estimated cost of this is £3,800 of which we have already received £1,582 in
a grant from North Ayrshire Council.
7) The workshop requires heavy tooling in the way of lathes, band saws, drill presses and a metal
working area all at an estimated cost of £8,500
The impact of opening in mid February is that over 30 men are now using the Shed which we have open on Tuesdays and Thursdays and already we are getting very positive feedback from the members, for instance we have a member who had a mental breakdown leading to panic attacks therefore he has been unable to work for over 5 years. We are delighted that not only is he attending on a regular basis but is now becoming confident in socialising with the other members. As one shedder put it " to you it may only be a shed, but to me... it's a sanctuary.
Furthermore, members are now hosting a pilot project for a local dementia respite centre in therapeutic woodwork, and having established a music room, decorated by shed members using paint donated by the local community, this has had a dramatic impact on the wellbeing of members with significant personal issues. This has improved their literacy and enhanced their employability. Also increasing their confidence and self-esteem and enabled them to become more positively engaged with their peers and in the wider community.