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Renew Men’s Shed: Evolution

Renew Men’s shed (soon to be known as Swindon Men’s Shed) is a project of Renew Swindon and started in October 2017. Since returning from lockdown this year in May, the membership had reduced to a handful. However, by talking to agencies and social prescribers throughout the town, the shed membership is up to 18 and likely to be over 20 by the end of the year.

“We’ve been on a bit of a journey since we started” commented the Shed Manager, Kevin Prosser.

We began in a woodwork area of another charity, moved into a retail unit for a year, then into Swindon Makerspace who adopted us for a while and finally moved into a community centre which we have renovated and had the use of since September 2019. 

The centre had not been used for a number of years and was in need of a lot of attention, it even had a broken full-size boxing ring inside plus equipment.

 We are now in the process of becoming a CIC in its own right and turning Renew Swindon into a CIO so we can take on the lease for the centre.”.

We began in a woodwork area of another charity, moved into a retail unit for a year, then into Swindon Makerspace who adopted us for a while and finally moved into a community centre

Originally a men’s woodwork session on a Tuesday morning, the sessions now welcomes both ladies and men at the moment from 10 to 1 pm.  From September 14th, they will be starting a men’s session for stroke survivors from 1 to 4 pm in partnership with the Community Stroke team at the Great Western Hospital.

“On Thursdays, we are very fortunate to have a professional upholsterer who donates half a day a week to teach traditional and modern upholstery techniques” commented Kevin.

“We started with donated pieces of furniture and used those to learn all the basics. “However, this can become quite costly buying all the materials etc as you then have to try and sell them on which relies on the prospective customer liking the furniture, how it’s finished, and the colour was chosen. 

We have now changed this to upholstering items for other non-profit organisations and charging for materials or taking on commissions. This also sorts out the issue of having to store lots of finished items somewhere!”.

we are very fortunate to have a professional upholsterer who donates half a day a week to teach traditional and modern upholstery techniques

Other than a yearly membership and monthly subs, the shed mainly funds themselves using the profits of selling Frenchic Furniture Paint. They became a local stockist in 2018 and stocked it in their shop. A volunteer then built a website for the shed in 2019 and this proved to be invaluable, especially during the pandemic, as customers could purchase paint and then have it delivered, or once allowed, click and collect.  The shed also uses the paint for weekly upcycling sessions.

Other than a yearly membership and monthly subs, the shed mainly funds themselves using the profits of sell

Their other activity is to partner with Swindon Night Shelter and Penhill Community church to provide a community food share on a Friday afternoon from 1.30 pm to 4 pm.

The centre is right in the midst of an area which is in the top 10% of most deprived areas of the UK and many people for different reasons, especially in this time of uncertainty struggle to have enough food.

The food share offers packet and canned items, along with 1 or 2 meals of fresh meat, milk, fresh fruit, vegetables, bread and cakes to everyone who comes along. 

At the moment, you don’t have to have a referral to attend.

Outside the centre is a garden space and courtyard which hadn’t been looked after for many years. The shed started working on this in 2019 but stopped during the pandemic and only started again a few weeks ago. 

“We’ve had a dedicated team of volunteers help us over the last few weeks, and now a wonderful space for relaxing, having BBQs etc is emerging. We are looking forward to lots of activities in this space next year!!”

For more information, their website www.renewswindon.org.uk or Facebook page Renewswindon.