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Published 12 July 2023

Colin Fleet, Northern Ireland

My name is Colin Fleet. I am originally from Cambridgeshire, but have lived in Northern Ireland for forty years after working here on various projects for Pye Communications. After a stroke when I was 44, I had to retire from my job. This was quite a shock and it took me a couple of years to accept this. 

I have always had an interest in woodwork and anything practical so I built my own workshop and started doing woodturning and small wood projects. I also built my grandson an electric vehicle, which was hours of fun for both us!

I also built my grandson an electric vehicle, which was hours of fun for both us! My largest and most ambitious project was to carve a rocking horse which has been a big hit with family and friends and also to our foster children. 

I am a member of two choirs and recently joined a ukelele jam session group. I will never be great at the uke but the socialising is brilliant. My wife and I are also keen motorhomers so if I’m not in the workshop… in in the motorhome! 

I had never heard of Men’s Sheds but was approached one evening and asked if I would be interested in helping to start a Men’s Shed in our town of Saintfield. I wasn’t sure what I was taking on but I was happy to accept. 

Premises were already sorted so it was a case of kitting out a workshop; it was great buying tools and not using my own money! It took a couple of years before it really got up and running but once it became known our membership began to rise. We have a varied age group of members from all different backgrounds and each person brings their own set of skills and stories. 

I personally have found our Men’s Shed to be a place where friendships are made and new skills are learnt. It is a great place with respect to men’s mental health. Sometimes men don’t openly talk about health or personal problems if asked, but when sat around the tea table with others that are there for the same reasons it’s easier to talk about things. 

A few of us now go regularly on visits to woodworking shows in England or to the larger tool shops. This year we have been invited to Footprint Tools to have a look around their premises. 

Since the Shed has become a registered charity, I have taken on the role of Chair, which is made easy by having a very supportive and active committee. In our Shed we are working with the Groundwork organisation, they organise outings for our members as well as offering support to Sheds in Northern Ireland. They are currently assisting us in sourcing funding for a defibrillator. All men are made welcome at our Shed regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or beliefs and are invited to join in any activity or start a new activity. 

The reason I wanted to become a UK Men’s Sheds Association Ambassador is because I am very passionate about Men’s Sheds and the way they can help people, both mentally, and as a recreational activity. If I can help other Men’s Sheds with what they already have or what they would like to achieve then it makes it all worthwhile. 

Since becoming an Ambassador I have met new people both on Zoom and in person and I am attempting to contact each Men’s Shed in Northern Ireland to introduce myself. I have also taken part in a podcast sharing my story, and have been supporting UKMSA staff to track down the first Men’s Sheds in Northern Ireland. The role is what you want it to be and you’re under no pressure to get things done. When you reach a certain age there is only one speed! 

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