Shed those fears and step inside
A project to counter the effects of isolation in the community is marking its third year. But as Caroline Bingham learns, Louth Men’s Shed is part of a wider scheme to encourage chaps to share their skills and make new friends.
Housed in a former wire works off Thames Street, the Shed blends with the other small business units which operate from this complex. You would not have thought this was an especially intimidating landscape for men but chair of the trustees, Greg Gilbert explained that sometimes the biggest hurdle for their members is actually making that first step across the threshold.
“Men can become isolated quite quickly following retirement or bereavement; others may be struggling with their mental health or live with learning difficulties. Louth Men’s Shed is a community based, social charity which offers a friendly and safe environment where men can work at their own pace using and learning woodworking, mechanical and horticultural skills. The kettle is always on, there is a very well equipped large workshop and there is plenty of lively company. Don’t be afraid to come and see us.”
The Shed was initially set up in 2015 as a collaboration between the Louth Trinity Centre. Greg is ex-army and used to work for the Primary Care Trust with a focus on men’s health and mental health.
“Locally, while there are several groups for women, there seemed to be fewer options for men and the Men’s Shed scheme had already successfully launched in other areas of the country,” said Greg. “Nick Brown, the Rector of the Parish of Louth, one of our trustees and I formed a group to fundraise and get the first Men’s Shed in Lincolnshire off the ground.”
Since then other Sheds have been established in Mablethorpe and Sutton Bridge, with Grantham and Boston trying to follow suit. Louth Men’s Shed moved to its present, larger location in July 2017 and gained charity status last autumn. What began with seven members has now grown to forty, who each pay a £60 annual fee to access all the Shed’s resources. The team are sure that there are many more people in the area who would benefit from regularly joining the group.
Members can come along every Monday, Wednesday and Friday 10am to 3pm, to use the lathes, band-saw, planer, chop or table saw plus a whole range of hand and power tools to fabricate a wide variety of products. Skills are shared and learnt working with wood, metal and fabrics which encompass soldering, upholstery, stained glass, cycle repairs, wood turning and paint finishing.
Finished products are diverse including planters, bug hotels, bird tables, cheeseboards, fridge magnets, bird boxes and more. These are sold direct to customers or from a stall in the Co-op in Newmarket. You can also support their work making purchases at the Louth Christmas Market and the St James Summer Fair which this year is being held on Saturday 7th July.
Greg said: “We regularly take commissions for items such as bookshelves and garden game sets and are happy to discuss any project if people get in touch. The biggest order so far has been for twenty bug hotels for a wildlife sanctuary near Authorpe, so there is always plenty to do.”
Martin Peck, an ex-RAF SNCO is the Shed’s volunteer co-ordinator and helps support the members’ individual challenges.
He said: “We have men who are vulnerable adults, while others may be coping with depression. Coming here can bring people out of their shell as well as give them new interests and skills.”
The Louth Men’s Shed is not an exclusively male environment. Each Thursday a group of local women are using the workshop to undertake their own woodworking projects and there is scope for more groups to use the facilities on Saturdays. Above all the Shed instils a good sense of fun amongst the members and a buddy scheme is available for anyone who would like to see more but is not confident enough to make that first step over the threshold on their own.
You can find Louth Men’s Shed at: Unit 21, Thames Street, Louth LN11 7AD
Tel: 01507 607197 during the opening hours of Mon, Wed, Fri 10am to 3pm.