The Linskill and North Tyneside Community Development Trust has been awarded a £140k grant from NHS North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group to convert an existing garage into a Men’s Community Shed, supported with a rolling programme over two years to encourage health-vulnerable, older men into creative, practical and social activities at the Linskill Centre.

This new venture will be the first of its type in North Tyneside and follows the internationally acclaimed Men In Sheds initiative promoting socialisation, developing friendships, sharing skills and most importantly having fun. There are over 500 Men’s Sheds across the UK, operating from garages to disused warehouse, but nothing of this scale in North Tyneside.

The Linskill Trust’s own community consultations evidenced a 30:70% male to female footfall ratio at the Linskill Centre, informing the need to improve men-focused provision. Consequently, the Trust introduced industrial heritage talks, sport taster sessions and gardening projects for volunteers into its community development programmes to encourage male participation.

As a result men’s engagement increased to 42%, from which the Shedder’s emerged, a group of men comprising of veterans, ex-shipyard workers, retired technicians, joiners and service users who reclaimed a dis-used shed at Linskill and bringing tools from home they built pallet furniture for the centre’s community gardens. The enjoyment of working together inspired Linskill’s Shed, a concept born from camaraderie and the sharing of ideas, experiences and even health worries, whilst enjoying time together doing meaningful and practical activities.

Working alongside the Community Development team, the Shedders identified Linskill’s underused large garage as a potential community shed. They visited other regional Men’s Shed projects and worked with a Quantity Surveyor to help scope and plan the garage conversion which informed the successful application to NHS North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group to fund the garage conversion into a workshop and the appointment of a technician/project worker to carry the project forward, with a focus on helping improve confidence, reduce social isolation, combat loneliness and improve sense of wellbeing of older North Tyneside men.

Due to Covid 19, conversion work and appointing the worker was delayed. However, when work was completed, Shed volunteers moved in and have fitted The Shed out with woodworking tools and equipment in readiness for more Shedders joining them. With the project worker now in post, we look forward to opening the doors to more Shedders over coming weeks to make, mend and recycle.

Simeon Ripley, the Trust’s Chief Executive commented, “According to NHS North Tyneside CCG’s Operating Plan 2019-2020, our population is getting older with almost 15,000 people aged 65 years plus living alone and the number of 75 year olds living alone is predicted to rise by 41.9% by 2030. It is recognised that older men find it harder than women to make friends in later life and are less likely to join community based social groups. The Men’s Community Shed is an important project for the Trust, as we seek to improve the lives of all members of our community and create opportunities for all to access and benefit from. The project is primarily focused on older men but is not exclusive and as the programme develops it will also provide opportunities for women and our wider community.”

To find out more about The Shed and how to get involved, contact either David Pearce (Project Worker) via david@linskill.org or Janice Irving (Community Development Manager) via janice@linskill.org or on 0191 2578000.