Bexley’s ‘Men In Sheds’ nail new funding boost

Men in a south east London borough can learn new skills and make friends – thanks to new funding for a woodworking social group for older people.

Age UK Bexley has been awarded an £82,781 grant from City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charity funder, for its Men In Sheds scheme.

Based at Christ Church, Erith, the project brings together older men who get to know each other while at work in the woodwork shop fashioning items such as children’s toys, garden equipment and ramps for disabled access.

The group also takes on commissions for work from local businesses and organisations, something which it is hoped will ultimately make the scheme self-financing.

City Bridge Trust Chairman Giles Shilson said:

“Men In Sheds Bexley is a simple but very effective way of enabling older men to get together and make new friends while doing something constructive and rewarding.

“They’ve produced some very high quality work and I would encourage businesses and organisations in the area to consider supporting this project if they are looking to have some woodwork done.”

The idea for Men In Sheds originated in Australia and there are now over 600 such schemes running across the UK.

As well as working together on woodwork projects, members of the Bexley group have also been busy transforming an area of waste ground at the church into an attractive outdoor space with a seating area and accessible raised beds.

Age UK Bexley Community Development Project Officer Emily Willey said:

“The idea behind Men in Sheds is that members find it easier to build friendships and develop social connections by completing activities rather than just sitting in a room chatting.

“We have people from a wide variety of backgrounds and trades – we’ve even got an actor and a singer – and the activities are very much member-led so they decide the kind of things they want to make.

“The group provides crucial peer support and social contact as some members are single men living alone, carers or widowers. The project enables members to share their skills with each other and other organisations, which helps build confidence in our client group and provides valuable outreach services for the wider community.”

Anyone who would like to join the group, or to commission some work, is asked to contact Emily Willey by emailing emily.willey@ageukbexley.org.uk or calling 07780 655185.

More information is available online at www.meninshedsbexley.com

The City of London Corporation’s charity funder, City Bridge Trust, is London’s biggest independent grant giver, making grants of over £25 million a year to tackle disadvantage across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk

Case studies: ‘The shed is therapy for me’

Neil Sutton, a 69-year-old Shed Member from Bexleyheath, said: “I get a lot of pleasure from going to Men in Sheds. It has been nice to meet up with other men of my own age, and I have made new friends. I like the practical tasks that we take on and have learnt some new skills from others. It’s good to help other people as well, and we support each other.” 

Bill Philips, also 69 and from Bexleyheath, said: “The shed has help me a lot because its therapy for me because I’ve got prostate cancer. Coming here makes me feel a lot better, it’s the camaraderie. Everyone sits and talks about different things and I find it helps me a lot.”

John Venton-Walters, 45, from Bexley, volunteers for Men In Sheds. He said: “I feel more confident in general and have found a calmer, more serene state of mind since I started volunteering at Men in Sheds. I feel working with others and interacting in a shared, co-operative community is a vital part of being human. Organisations like this are an important source of social contact for many people who would otherwise feel lonely.”

Picture captions

(1) From left: Men In Sheds members Bill Philips, 69, Roger Elliot, 74, Richard Websdale, 45, and Barry King, 72, at the Men in Sheds Bexley Workshop

(2) Roger Elliot, 74 and Barry King, 72, completing a commission for a local forest school

(3) Barry King, 72, participating in a taster printmaking session

(4) Roger Elliot, 74, planting wallflowers in his handmade planter

- City Bridge Trust Chairman Giles Shilson

Notes to editors

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile, dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK – www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

The City Corporation is the sole trustee of Bridge Houses Estates, founded in 1097 to maintain London Bridge, and Members of its Court of Common Council form the Bridge House Estates Board.

Bridge House Estates is responsible for maintaining Tower, London, Southwark, Millennium and Blackfriars Bridges, and its charity funding arm City Bridge Trust – founded in 1995 – gives out over £25 million a year to good causes across the capital – www.citybridgetrust.org.uk

Tim Fletcher | Media officer – public services

City of London Corporation

07738 862229 | tim.fletcher@cityoflondon.gov.uk