An initiative that encourages men to get together in sheds to make things has become one of the fastest-growing networks in Scotland.
Men’s Shed, which started with a man in his shed in Westhill, Aberdeenshire, has burgeoned into a movement that incorporates 25 branches and has transformed the lives of hundreds of men across the country.
The founder of the country’s first Men’s Shed, Jason Schroeder, said: “Men who found themselves out of work or widowed had two options: the pub or the betting shop. We wanted to change that. To give them a place to learn new life skills and, more importantly, to give them a purpose.”
Six years after setting up his shed in Westhill as a workshop with an area to socialise, there are 25 Men’s Sheds and 25 planned.
Used by men of all ages who share skills and help local communities, they are held in venues such as community centres, libraries and church halls. The free sessions are designed and run by the men themselves. They also take part in activities such as bridge clubs, model railway making, furniture restoring and cookery classes.
Schroeder, now chairman of the Scottish Men’s Sheds Association, said: “My family were all back in South Africa when I moved here and I wanted a father figure to teach me how to be a good father to my young son. I have gained so much from spending time with other men who have shared their experiences and wisdom.
“We have men from all backgrounds, some retired, some who have lost their wives, those out of work or between jobs. But what we have in common is a need for something to fill our days, to learn from and be active. Women are much better at talking with pals about their problems – men find it easier to talk about things when they have a hammer or other useful tool in their hand and are in the right environment.”
Shedders take part in activities which benefit the communities they work in – producing commemorative benches, stage props for school drama productions, wooden toys for disabled children, repairing gardening tools for local residents – and any income gained covers the cost of maintaining the sheds.
Retired chef Bill Loudon, 71, of Westhill, was one of the earliest members and signed up after retiring and undergoing a triple bypass. He said: “I wanted to be kept busy but felt a bit lost. I missed my colleagues and being around others. I needed a purpose. I have found that at the shed.
“I love it, it is fun and we all go at our own pace and do the things we want. It gives me structure. Whether we are doing up a planter or bench for the local community or sitting having a coffee and a blether we are together and feel at ease.”