Hi, I am Tony Smith-Crallan, Chairman and one of the founder members of The Silvers’ Workshop, Reading Men’s Shed.
Prior to the formation of our Shed, I was a Rotarian for over 19 years serving as President twice, and held most of the posts on council at some point. I have been interested in being an Ambassador for Men’s Sheds since the idea was first brought up by Brian Cooke at the Birmingham ShedFest, and I now ‘look after’ the M4 corridor from Windsor to Swindon. Since becoming an Ambassador I have helped set up a Shed in my local town, Wokingham, and have been involved with setting up several more Sheds in the area.
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My involvement in Men’s Sheds started when I attended the first annual meeting, held at the Indian YMCA in London in November 2013. I came back to Berkshire full of enthusiasm but no real idea how to go about starting a Shed. In February 2014 a local organisation, The Earley Charity, held a public meeting and over 50 people turned up to see what it was about. At subsequent meetings, we discussed what we wanted from a Shed and where we could find premises.
Since becoming an Ambassador I have helped set up a Shed in my local town, Wokingham, and have been involved with setting up several more Sheds in the area.
From an initial group of eight on the management team, which soon reduced to just four, we decided on our priorities. One was a name, but this was difficult as we had no idea where we were going to set up shop. Reading, Earley, Woodley, Wokingham, Tilehurst, we looked at properties in all. We decided to ask the attendees at our meeting for ideas and finally agreed on The Silvers’ Workshop.
Named after the colour of our hair, it gave us an identity to set up a registered charity and pursue premises. We eventually found a home in the basement of an old department store in the centre of Reading. Before closing, Jacksons had been a very old fashioned place that made Grace Brothers look modern. There was no lift, but they did have of the few working vacuum cash handling systems in the UK.
Named after the colour of our hair, it gave us an identity…
After less than 12 months, we moved to our current abode, a former pharmacists warehouse, which had been previously an upholsterers workshop and a Mr Whippy depot. Our membership has now grown to 70 members and we have become completely self-sufficient.
My involvement with UK Men’s Sheds Association (UKMSA) and the Ambassador programme has continued to grow throughout this time.
I have attended all the ShedFest events and been to a number of other events as a UKMSA/ Silvers’ Workshop representative. These have included manning a stand at the Zero Suicide Alliance conference at Canary Wharf (which reminded me how little I missed commuting into central London), constructing sheds at CarFest South for members of the public to decorate, and then manning the UKMSA stall for two out of the three days of the festival.
Fourteen Sheds needed to be put together over two days; one group of Shedders put up two sheds over the two days, another local group of Shedders managed four, but the remaining eight were the work of a Silvers’ Workshop team.
I have attended all the ShedFest events and been to a number of other events as a UKMSA/ Silvers’ Workshop representative.
In addition to my work in our workshop, I have provided IT support for UKMSA staff for several years and I’ve just taken over the management of UKMSA’s website and other infrastructure projects. Having worked on and around computer systems for over 50 years it seems I cannot get away from them, and nor would I want to.
During the pandemic I have qualified as a Mental Health First Aider, which I hope will prove useful in my work with my Shed and UKMSA. This was the result of a free course I undertook covering two full days of instruction and discussion with people from all across the UK.
In early 2019 my wife and I visited Australia and New Zealand and, to the amusement of our friends travelling with us, I tried to visit Sheds wherever I could. Over the 14 weeks, I managed only two in Australia but 14 or so in New Zealand. I can and will tell anyone I meet about Men’s Shed and how brilliant they are, so much so the my wife and daughter now go ‘NOT again’ and walk off…