Denby Dale & District Men's Shed was the idea of Robert Barber who is Chair of the shed management team, this is his story.
When I retired at the beginning of January 2015, I knew that I would need to find some way of reconnecting with my local community. I had spent my entire working life, first in Leeds and later in Sheffield, both about 25 miles away, and this meant that most of my friends lived quite a long way away and that I was unlikely to bump into them during the normal routine of my new life.
I had heard about the Men’s Shed movement and this appealed to me as it fitted well with my own interests. I have always designed and made furniture and have a very good workshop at home. However, although I get a lot of satisfaction from this, it can be a rather lonely experience and this convinced me even more that I needed to make some new friends.
I contacted the Men’s Shed Association in the summer of 2016 to see if there was a local Shed that I could join and received a very quick response from Andy Ryland of Community First Yorkshire and the area coordinator telling me that there wasn’t. The good news though was that he was working with Kirkless Council and that they had plans to set one up in my area.
Andy and I met with Graham Turner, the Kirklees Councillor for the Denby Dale Ward at the time, who had been instrumental in introducing Men’s Sheds to the Metropolitan area. Subsequently, over the next few months, we met regularly and gathered a team of very willing and able volunteers who debated, discussed and eventually decided that we wanted a workshop that would enable serious work in both wood and metal, reflecting the experience of the group and the local demographic. However, we were also aware of the need to maintain sufficient flexibility within the space to meet the aspirations and interests of any future members. Additionally, in the interests of sustainability, we were concerned to appeal to a younger cohort and also to encourage intergenerational projects. As with all Men’s Sheds, our primary aim was to provide opportunities for men to work together in a situation that would benefit themselves and the local community and, where necessary, to improve their self esteem/confidence and avoid the possibility of loneliness and social isolation.
Various people had told us that this would be quite difficult, but in reality it was fairly straightforward. We followed Andy’s advice, together with that available online from the Charities Commission. During this period we also visited a number of established Sheds in other parts of the country and this really helped us to complete the process and to determine what kind of Shed we wanted to become. All in all, the job took about 6 weeks and we received notification in May 2017 that our application had been successful.
In September 2017, with our charity registered and with a small grant from the Denby Dale Parish Council, we felt confident enough to sign the lease for our workshop and we moved into 2500 square feet of dirty and unloved basement storage space with no natural lighting. Since then we have upgraded the lighting, added new power circuits and built a kitchen, toilet and office.
We published our story widely and people responded generously by donating tools, equipment and materials. Additionally, to date we have received a total of just less than £13,000.00 in grant funding, which enabled us buy most of the remaining tools and machinery that we needed to establish a workshop that will support both woodworking and metalworking.
This is just a short summary and the full story can only be told through the individual lives of the people who have made it happen. Our management team is a group of seven volunteers and without their combined efforts, commitment and energy, none of the above would have been possible. We have been extremely fortunate in attracting men who have the range of complimentary skills and experience needed for the planning, development and management of such a project. However, in addition to the management team we have other members who attend regularly and engage with great skill and enthusiasm in the essential practical work of building the workshop. Jeff Todd, who when I first met him, arrived with various tools and equipment that he had bought to donate to the project simply said. ‘I have had a great deal of satisfaction from making things all my life and I really want this to work.’
Although we have had many discussions about the future, we are not sure what it will involve. We know that we will need to generate income and we are already engaged in the process of making and selling the things that we make, at local fairs. Also we have talked about the possibility of running courses where we can pass on the skills of our members, by working with local schools and other community groups.
And what of my original ambition of meeting and making new friends? Well that was certainly achieved within the first few weeks of getting started, but also in ways that I had never anticipated. Just before the Christmas of 2016 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and consequently spent a good deal of the following year visiting clinics, specialists and receiving treatment. Fortunately, the Men’s Shed provided a very positive diversion by keeping me busy and it certainly gave me plenty to think about other than my illness. The satisfaction and sense of achievement that I derived from being a part of such a dynamic team was probably more important then I realised!