Greetings fellow Shedders.
I am Simon Rouse a retired Company CEO and Social Worker living in the town centre of Shrewsbury. I am a Trustee of Sansaw Men’s Shed, 8 miles north, and I’m currently leading the Steering Group looking to open the first Men’s Shed in our county town. This will be in disused stables on the West Midlands Showground right by the River Severn.
I’ve been a Shedder for 2.5 years and an Ambassador for 2. I stumbled into Shedding accidentally (as we all do) my wife and I were moving into Shrewsbury from a smallholding with workshops and I knew I would miss the space and equipment, especially my water-cooled stone saw! I’d heard of Sansaw Men’s Shed and so took myself down to meet a good bunch of guys in spacious, but somewhat rundown farm buildings. As a former Social Worker I understood the ethos pretty quickly. This period followed soon after the murder of Jo Cox MP, when her work on loneliness and the devastating impact it has on people‘s lives was being shaped into government policy.
This struck a chord with me. Another ‘Eureka’ event was meeting Tony Wilson for the first time. Tony was responsible for setting up eight Men’s Sheds in Shropshire back around 2012. He was clear that one of the reasons Age Concern (as-was) and other voluntary bodies were struggling to engage with older men was because “The majority of men have retired with the dream of not being involved in hierarchical organisations anymore, so it is counter-productive to initiate a project in which they perceive someone or something is attempting to organise them in some way. These men may lack and need a sense of male companionship and a sense of purpose. Organisations without this understanding attempting to recruit older males to a scheme not of their making and where they feel they are being ‘done good to’ will invariably fail”
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I agree with Tony. Men generally want to be ‘rowing their own boat’, which is why as an Ambassador I am a little resistant to any ‘top-down’ management; it seems to me to place at risk the very purpose of Men’s Sheds.
The pandemic has prevented me visiting many of the Shropshire Sheds so support has been over the phone and via email. I do hope to meet more Shedders at the County Show on 17th of July where we have a stand with UKMSA banners and leaflets all kindly delivered personally by Rachel Meadows. If this is a success we may repeat the exercise at some of the other events and festivals.
The push then comes to get the Shrewsbury Shed launched with all that entails. We would want to be open five to six days a week and networking with other charities and groups in the county, we’ve got an eye on setting up a blacksmith’s forge and building a large river raft to navigate the Severn in the spring and summer months.
Wish us luck,