When a handful of villagers got together in March 2019 to discuss the idea of starting up a Men’s Shed in Beer, Devon, we had a choice: what comes first, helping men or building a workshop? We decided to focus on our No.1 priority – helping men – and we got going straight away.
We held two workshop afternoons each week in someone’s garage and driveway and started our fundraising campaign in parallel. We searched out every source of grants and donations we could find. We took on projects for local councils and local people to raise donations in return for the work that we did. Within six months of starting fundraising, we broke through our target of raising £10,000 and on 26 October 2019 we opened the doors to our new workshop in the centre of Beer.
We held two workshop afternoons each week in someone’s garage and driveway and started our fundraising campaign
When the Covid-19 lockdown struck in March 2020 we again had a choice: do we just close down or do we use the extra time to build towards a future when the lockdown ends? Positivity won! The words that we heard most in our workshop were “we need a bigger shed!” We decided to set the bar higher and try for a bigger workshop that could give us more space to allow for better social distancing. Being optimists, we set ourselves a crazy target of raising £20,000 and went about that just as seriously as before.
We kept locals updated by posting on the Facebook “notice boards” of Beer and the other towns and villages around us. We made sure that the newspapers in the area knew about us and sent them success stories that they could go to print with. Word spread to our regional radio station, BBC Radio Devon, and we did three interviews live on-air with them.
We thought that the odds of getting a grant from The National Lottery were about the same as winning the National Lottery, so we were amazed to receive a £10,000 grant quickly and with no fuss. The National Lottery likes everyone to know how much it helps people across the UK, and its PR team worked on getting media coverage so that we were interviewed by ITV West Country. All of this led to us having a “virtual tour” on Zoom with Baroness Diana Barran who heads up the Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
And we’ve broken through our target of raising £20,000 towards building our second workshop, helped by a long list of local authorities and local organisations as well as the people of East Devon.
Beer has a population of around 1,300. Remember – you’re never too small to have a Men’s Shed.
Our virtual tour with Baroness Barran is at https://youtu.be/pBW83nm-EBM
Our latest interview with BBC Radio Devon from December 2020 is at https://youtu.be/SPe3Vh3FvC8
Our web site is at www.beermensshed.uk