Moseley & Kings Heath Shed, a Registered Charity.
The idea of setting up communal ‘sheds’ was pioneered in Australia, in response to the needs of, mainly, older men. It had been found that older guys suffered poor health because they were isolated, excluded, or lonely, had no-one with whom to talk, share or work. Over a period, many ‘Men’s Sheds’ were set up and it was soon discovered that being able to get together with their mates helped improve not just their physical, but their mental and emotional health too! Soon they began springing up all over.
Not to be outdone, the concept was brought to the UK, where using the same name, a number of organisations began to try them out. Age UK started pilot schemes in several places, and having proved their worth, encouraged others to do the same. Now there are around 300 ‘Men’s Sheds’ the length and breadth of GB and Ireland, and the numbers are increasing all the time.
The underlying principle of the ‘Shed’ movement is to provide somewhere for mainly older men, to meet, have a chat, enjoy a hot drink, share skills and knowledge, and make, re-purpose or mend things. Woodwork has been a mainstay of many groups, as has metalwork and in some, working with textiles. In fact the range of activities that is possible is generally only limited by the lack of equipment, which all too often comes down to money, and perhaps the limits of our imaginations.
Moseley & Kings Heath Shed (M&KHS), is a registered Charity, number 1161505.
Situated in south Birmingham, the ‘Potting Shed’ in Kings Heath Park is where Moseley and Kings Heath Shed can be found (see map). The Potting Shed is part of the outbuildings attached to what was originally known as Cartland House, the ‘big house’ in the Park.
The journey to the establishment of M&KHS was long, and not without difficulty. It all began in the spring of 2014 when a handful of older men, were trying to find somewhere to get together in a workshop. They had heard about ‘Men’s Sheds’ through a TV programme and wanted in. Despite their searches, nothing suitable was found anywhere within the 1.1 million populated ‘Second City’.
There Is one some 15 miles to the south in Stratford-on-Avon, but that length of journey, given the traffic conditions en-route, was just too much to make it a viable option. What remained was to set one up somewhere in the south of the City. Thus the search began for somewhere that was accessible, suitable and perhaps most importantly, financially sustainable, given a starting point of no funding but plenty of enthusiasm, experience and skills.
There was, however, one very bright spot which came about as a result of one of our member’s relationship with the company where he had previously been employed, Haldex, a Swedish multi-national engaged in the development and manufacture of hi-tech braking systems. He successfully negotiated for a significant volume of unused furniture, benches, tools and equipment from their laboratory, not to mention a welcome cash donation.
After a year-long search, many false starts, several distinct possibilities, but nothing at the end that could provide the right home for this ‘shed’. Then, following parallel approaches to a number of the City’s Councillors and Officers, the NHS and other organisations, and a series of chance meetings at a City-inspired conference about Community Asset Transfer, we were promised that ‘something would be found’ for us. At the same time, through a family contact, one member discovered a link to a potential location for the ‘shed’. After just a few meetings, the ‘Potting Shed’ was suddenly on the horizon as a home for what was starting to be called ‘Moseley & Kings Heath Shed’.
A rental agreement was signed on the 27th May, and access was given soon thereafter. It was at this stage that the members realised the scale of the task facing them. Several decades of use as a literal Potting Shed by Pershore College for its horticultural courses, and latterly as a storage space for things that no-one knew what to do with, left a jumbled mass of ‘stuff’.
Further challenges were ahead, not least that of obtaining insurance to cover our public liability once we took charge of the space. After what seemed weeks of checking, chasing and reducing our range of desired activities, insurance was purchased.
M&KHS became a registered Charity on the 1st of June 2015, then applied for a grant from the Big Lottery Fund, which was later granted. Working groups were established, and gradually, as junk was removed, potting compost swept away, spiders dispossessed of their lairs and webs, the size of the space became obvious. Thankfully, other donations also began to arrive, among them was umpteen litres of ‘Magnolia Emulsion Paint’. Guess what colour the walls are now?
The manufacture and fitment of steel grilles to improve the security of the premises has been completed, as have the repairs to the window-frames. The ‘kitchen-rest-room’ has had its roof retiled, new guttering fitted, its walls cladded and the drains have been rodded and power-flushed. Benches, shelving; cupboards and bench-mounted power-tools have been installed, as have additional temporary power-points. A fire-exit has been created and a sink unit has been sourced and plumbed-in.
The Trustees decided to open to members with a ‘phased’ start, initially on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons between 13.00 and 16.00 until Christmas.
Want to know more? email brum1shed.org.uk or call 07505 002577.