A Men’s Shed is a larger version of the typical man’s shed in the garden – a place where he feels at home and pursues practical interests with a high degree of autonomy. A Men’s Shed offers this to a group of such men where members share the tools and resources they need to work on projects of their own choosing at their own pace and in a safe, friendly and inclusive venue. They are places of skill-sharing and informal learning, of individual pursuits and community projects, of purpose, achievement and social interaction. A place of leisure where men come together to work.
Men don’t talk face to face, they talk shoulder to shoulder
– Barry Golding
What is a Men’s Shed?
For the Scottish Men’s Shed Association’s latest awareness-raising animation, the national support hub is going back to basics to highlight ‘What is a Men’s Shed?’ from the Association’s perspective.
This is the question that the team get asked most at the SMSA Shedquarters. Unfortunately, there are still misconceptions that Scottish Sheds are just a workshop for elderly men and that could not be further from the truth.
The Scottish model serves all men aged 18+or and offers boundless opportunities for connections, camaraderie and to be an active part of their community. Activities are all member-led, and the members are all volunteers. The Shed can be for whatever the member wants it to be—to make friends, share existing skills or to learn new ones, respite, and/or gain the confidence to participate in walking groups, outings and fishing trips outwith the Shed. The possibilities for life-long friendships and camaraderie become endless! Scottish Men’s Shed Association – Get connected and join us for free today
A Shed’s activities usually involve making or mending in wood (e.g. carpentry, joinery, turning, carving, whittling, marquetry, furniture renovation) but may include metalworking (milling, sheet metal, welding, etc.) bike repair, gardening, electronics, tool renovation, boat renovation, model engineering (model railways, planes) and even building a car! Reclamation, reuse and restoration typically feature strongly. Although Sheds mostly attract older men, some have included men of any age, women, and younger people. Whichever activities are pursued, the essence of a Shed is not a building, but the network of relationships between the members.
What goes on in a Men's Shed?
A Men’s shed is a place where men can learn news skills, reconnect with old hobbies they haven’t had time for, share their passions and interests with others or simply pass on their knowledge to fellow Shed members to help them. And no, you don’t have to be good at DIY, woodwork etc to join a Men’s Shed!
A Men’s Shed is a place where a man who has time on his hands can go to make things, use tools, relax and make friends. Members of Men’s Sheds come from all walks of life – the bond that unites them is that they are men with time on their hands and would like something meaningful to do with that time.
Men’s Sheds usually have a social area and workshop area. Ideally, they will also have a kitchen where food preparation and cooking can be learnt.
Men’s Sheds are not just for men who like DIY and woodwork. There is usually space to try arts & craft activities as well as board games, computing, cooking and reading.
You will see tea, coffee, mugs and a comfortable area where men can sit and talk. You will probably also see an area where men can learn to cook for themselves or how to keep in touch with their friends and families by computer.
Many people imagine that Men’s Sheds are all based in wooden huts. However they take place in a variety of settings; industrial units, community centres, Portakabins, shop units and shipping containers.
As men don’t often make a fuss, any problems they have can be either ignored or swept under the mat both by health systems and by modern society. The Men’s Shed movement is a powerful tool in helping men to once again become valued and valuable members of the community.
Many men have typically learnt that it is unusual for them to talk about feelings and emotions; many do not take an interest in their own health and well-being. Unlike women, men are often reluctant to talk about their emotions, meaning they usually don’t ask for help. Probably because of this, many men are less healthy than women, drink more alcohol, take more risks and suffer more from isolation, loneliness and depression. Relationship breakdown, retrenchment or early retirement from a job, loss of children following divorce, physical or mental illness are just some of the problems that men may find difficult to deal with on their own.
On a deeper level, Men’s Sheds provide acceptance, a sense of purpose, increased well being and improved health. Older men have a wealth of experience, stories and knowledge to share – Men’s Sheds provide a place for this to happen. Younger men can benefit from the chance to be shown new skills as well as exchanging their own knowledge of more modern technology or culture.
Let’s face it, many men are not comfortable with the idea of just sitting down for long periods of time with a cup of tea and a biscuit and talking in a café or similar type of setting. However, if you shift that idea and combine it also with ‘doing’ where men can help others, learn something new or perhaps show other men their skills, learn to cook, upholster furniture, play music, practise speaking with one another after having a stroke, swap stories or learn computer skills, the possibilities are endless and it takes on a whole new life of its own. Men change from a passive lifestyle e.g. watching loads of television to an active, participatory lifestyle.
A phrase you may hear in Sheds, which was first coined by Professor Barry Golding, patron of the Australian Men’s Movement is :‘Men don’t talk face to face, they talk shoulder to shoulder,’ whilst working or enjoying a hobby with their mates. They might discuss their own health issues with other men and find that someone has had a similar experience and has a lot of helpful insights on how to get through it themselves. Once this camaraderie has been established in a Shed over time, the members may ask outside speakers to come and share their knowledge. A variety of speakers and talks have been hosted in Scottish Sheds already e.g. Chest, heart and stroke, bereavement, prostate cancer, suicide, healthy eating, wills etc. Men want to know about this kind of information, not just to increase their personal understanding but also to understand how to support a friend, partner, family member or neighbour in the outside world.
As life expectancy continues to extend, the need for men to maintain a healthy lifestyle and active engagement within the community has never been so important.
History of Men’s Sheds
The Men’s Shed movement has now become one of the most powerful tools in addressing men’s health & wellbeing, helping men to once again become valued and productive members of our community.
Men’s Sheds are designed to appeal to men in ways which traditional ‘community groups’ don’t. Men generally like to get involved in practical tasks and get to know people by working alongside them, rather than sitting down face to face. Men’s Sheds feel familiar and welcoming.
With their origins in Australia, the Men’s Shed movement was seen as a way for “blokes” to feel good about themselves, be productive, contribute to their community, connect with friends and maintain an active body and mind, all within an atmosphere of old-fashioned mate-ship.
In 2007, the Australian Men’s Shed Association was formed to offer practical support, specialised services and resources to Men’s Sheds across the country. A major achievement for the Association was formal recognition by the Federal Government of the role that Men’s Sheds play in addressing social isolation, health and well-being. Its inclusion in the National Male Health Policy launched in 2010 lead to funding through the Federal Department of Health with a major proportion of this funding quarantined specifically for direct financial assistance to Men’s Sheds. In Australia there are currently around 950 active sheds.
The first shed in the UK was opened in 2009 in Hartford, Cheshire and since then the numbers have swelled. In 2013 the UK Men’s Shed Association was formed to give advice, support and guidance to groups wishing to start up their own sheds. As of May 2023, the number of open Sheds across the UK has grown to 548 with over 13,000 members and a further 129 Sheds in development.
In Scotland, the Westhill Men’s Shed pioneered the way. Opening in 2011, it showed what was possible and soon other sheds began to develop. The Scottish Men’s Shed Association formed in 2015 to give further assistance to groups across Scotland that wanted to set up their own Shed. In Scotland, as of May 2023, there are 136 open Sheds with over 10,000 members and a further 66 Sheds in development.
The Men’s Shed movement is developing in other countries too, with Sheds in Finland, Greece, Ireland and Canada.
With thanks to the Australian Men’s Sheds Association, UK Men’s Shed Association and Scottish Men’s Shed Association for content and inspiration. Videos used with owners permission and shared via YouTube.