Denny and Bonnybridge Men's Shed opens the door on its activities
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While garden sheds may have evolved and many have been turned into offices, gyms and even private bars, the concept of people needing somewhere to go to relax has never been greater. However, nowadays it is recognised that it is often better for people to spend time together rather than be alone.
The growth in the Men’s Shed organisation is testament to that desire for people to mix and share in camaraderie.
First launched in Australia 16 years ago, the concept of Men’s Sheds is a place for males of all ages to come, spend time together, and in doing so, be provided with opportunities to talk and be aware of health issues, both physical and mental.
Since the first was set up in January 2007 the movement grew rapidly as people quickly realised the benefits, with the next country to get involved Ireland and then Scotland where there are 200 facilities across all local authority areas.
The first Men’s Shed in this area was set up in Denny and Bonnybridge six years ago with the support of Falkirk Council. Thanks to a number of sponsors, it was able to move into a unit suitable for converting into workshops in Winchester Avenue Industrial Estate in Denny. Members quickly set up a space for woodworking, bicycle repair area and rooms for socialising and accessing the internet. The Shed prides itself on continuing to evolve to suit the needs of the members.
However, the local group is keen to stress that, despite the name, it is open to all and currently has four female members from 100 people on its books. Of these, around 40 are regular attenders when the Shed is open from 10am to 3pm Monday to Thursday, and from 10am to 1pm on Saturdays.
Secretary Ian McGregor saw first hand the benefits of the Men’s Shed movement on a trip to Australia several years ago and was delighted to learn that a local group was being formed. He said: “I thought it was a tremendous idea to set up a Shed locally and was something that men and women could do rather than going to the pub.
"I decided to come along and help it get set up but never envisaged that I would still be here years later. I thought ‘get it set up and then exit stage left’ but I’ve enjoyed my time so much I’m still here.
"The principal has always been to help both individuals and the community and over the last six years we have certainly achieved what we set out to do.”
Pop along on any day to the Men’s Shed and you will find a group of people totally engrossed in a variety of projects: some are doing woodwork, others are repairing bicycles and there’s also those involved in photography. Go along on a Saturday morning and there’s a busy music room.
"I never thought that at the age of 75 I would have learned to play the guitar,” laughs Ian, “but it’s been a really rewarding experience.
"And it’s all about people passing on their skills to others and making use of these skills to benefit our communities.”
He added that, as with so many organisations, the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns was difficult, but while a few members drifted away, the vast majority are back making using of the Shed facilities.
"Men are not as good as woman about talking about things and that can lead to isolation, loneliness and depression but when you are in the Shed opportunities arise which allow you to talk to others, sometimes without even realising you are doing it, explained Ian.
"When I first joined, I had my wife and enjoyed golf and curling. But since then I’ve sadly lost my wife and things have changed. However, the Men’s Shed has been a great focus.”
He said that the members were always delighted to help out other local groups within their community in whatever way they could. Last year they made wooden planters modelled on trains for the Rotary Club of Falkirk to install at Grahamston Railway Station. They are currently working on a similar project for Falkirk High station and are making a new noticeboard for Bankier Primary School.
"We would never take on a paid job that a local tradesman can carry out but these groups often don’t have much funds so we either do it for free or perhaps get a donations towards the cost of our materials.”
The current escalating energy costs are impacting throughout the community and the Men’s Shed is no exception. The Denny and Bonnybridge group feels it has outgrown its current premises and would like to expand but that is all reliant on finances.
The local group is part of the Scottish Men’s Shed Association and there were concerns raised that the Scottish Government was about to stop core funding, but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that decision has now been reversed.
Speaking in Parliament she said the men’s shed movement “does fantastic work”, adding: “My understanding is that there has been discussions with the government, an offer of financial support has been made for the next financial year.”
It came after over 40 MSPs wrote to the First Minister urging her government to look again at the proposal to cut funding.
Ian said: “It’s difficult for all charities but hopefully we will be here for many more years.”
He added that the Shed is open to anyone, aged over 18 who can look after themselves, and they would be delighted to see them at their workshop.