Simon Poole, Ben North, Robert Visintainer Chris Southern form the Development Officers.
Wow! At the beginning of this year we were all set here in Wales at Men’s Sheds Cymru, weren’t we? After a really positive 2019, when we’d had our EiShedfod down at Builth Wells in May, the Trebuchet Challenge up at Rhyl in October and our takeover of the Welsh Senedd for International Men’s Day in November!
We were approaching a New Year, ready to engage and roll out new Sheds across Wales!
As well as re-engaging with those Sheds slowly coming out of hibernation, I myself had a ‘to do’ list which comprised at least four interested Communities towards North West Wales from Barmouth upwards and along the Lleyn Peninsular,
Everything which we value about our Sheds was suddenly outlawed, banned.”You cannot meet, you cannot shake hands, you cannot breathe each other’s air!”
(A fantastic part of the country to be travelling round, filling the gaps in our map, and a serious perk of the job) and groups in the North East in Flintshire and Wrexham. And my colleagues Ben and Chris had the same in the South West and South East of Wales, lots to do, lots to look forward to… And then… Covid!
Could anything more disastrous to the very essence of Sheds have been conceived? An invisible life threatening (especially to men in our cohort!) virus that attacked every fabric of Men’s Sheds existence… that deterred us from getting together, meeting, sharing, socialising, and doing!
Despite having a somewhat proprietorial sense of responsibility and concern about ‘our’ Sheds and how they’d manage without us, they did!
Everything which we value about our Sheds was suddenly outlawed, banned.”You cannot meet, you cannot shake hands, you cannot breathe each other’s air!” It flew in the face of everything that makes our Sheds the special, creative, supportive, unique, FUN places we know them to be.
And crucially, it potentially undermined the whole point of re-engaging and making resilient all those groups and communities, still struggling from the austerity measures.
Our previous mantra had been ‘Combating loneliness and Social Isolation’ and ‘Supporting Men Shoulder to Shoulder’ and encouraging guys to ‘Get out from in front of the TV, find your local Shed, socialise!’
Now we were told, ‘Stay at home (in front of your TV?) Don’t go out, don’t mix!’ There are enough contradictions there to seriously mess with your Mental Health!
How would the Sheds, and our Sheds in Wales (especially the newly developed ones) cope?
Well, the answer (Oh ye of little faith) was, surprisingly well! Despite, as Development Officers, having a somewhat proprietorial sense of responsibility and concern about ‘our’ Sheds and how they’d manage without us, they did!
Those that could, by virtue of having outside Socially-Distanced-Friendly (?)-Projects like allotment and gardens managed to somehow continue, albeit at reduced numbers. Those that couldn’t because of restrictions, set up Facetime, Zoom and virtual ‘Team’ Sheds AND crucially kept in touch with, connected and supported each other as best they could.
Looking forward, dependant on continually shifting government (Welsh Assembly) directives, our Sheds in Wales are putting a bit of faith in vaccines possibly allowing a bit of movement towards Spring /Summer and a lot of faith in themselves and their ability to come out the other side!
- The team at Men’s Sheds CYMRU