Graham Stuart, MP for Beverley and Holderness, took the opportunity to visit Beverley Men in Sheds – one of three similar projects combatting social isolation in his constituency.
With other projects in Withernsea and Hornsea, the Beverley branch runs in Oldroyd’s Corner inside Beverley Garden Centre. The purpose of the Shed is for older men (and women) to connect while taking part in activities that are often similar to those of garden sheds up and down the country.
Members, or ‘Shedders’, can pool together tools and resources to work on their own projects at a pace that suits them, all in a safe, friendly and inclusive venue for those who want to meet with likeminded people from around the local area.
Projects can include carpentry and furniture making, moving up to metalwork and model engineering. Some Sheds have also built cars and taken part in other large-scale projects. Many get involved in community projects: restoring village features like improving park benches, for example.
Founded in 2013, there are now almost 550 Sheds across the country, all with the aim of reducing loneliness and isolation in a fun setting. Although the activities are primarily for groups, members can also pursue their own individual projects.
Speaking after his visit, Graham said;
“I had a great time whiling away the afternoon at Beverley Men in Sheds. It was great to see what kinds of things the members there are getting involved in, although I did feel a tad out of my depth when it came to some of the woodwork projects.
“In essence, retired men and women can turn up on their own and be assured of a warm welcome, and I’d really recommend coming along if you fancy meeting new people while learning new skills at the same time.
“A membership here costs just £10 a month – it’d be fantastic if more people could pop along as it would help keep this group going.”
Beverley Men in Sheds is supported by Humber and Wolds Rural Action, as well as East Riding Council and the Humber NHS Trust. However, it is led by those who attend it, who choose the types of activities they are most interested in and can develop and grow around these themes.
Eventually, the project hopes to become sustainable through its own activities – by offering services such as painting and decorating, and upcycling unwanted furniture for example.
Recent research has suggested that loneliness and isolation can be as hazardous to general health as smoking and obesity, while a survey from mental health charity – the Campaign to End Loneliness – found that 9 million people in the UK feel lonely most of the time.
Responding to the problem, the Government launched a strategy to combat loneliness, which included creating a Minister for Loneliness. The role is currently held by Baroness Diana Barran; founder of domestic abuse charity SafeLives and a Comic Relief trustee.
“Tackling loneliness is a priority for this Government and our strategy singled out the need to boost the number of community spaces. Beverley Men in Sheds is a real, tangible example of how a relatively simple idea can help change people’s lives.”