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People of Wandsworth: Battersea Men’s Shed helping retired men combat isolation

People of Wandsworth: Battersea Men’s Shed helping retired men combat isolation

 

By Beth Ashmead Latham

 

Men’s sheds tackle isolation among retired men, providing a space for people stay active and interact over practical projects and hobbies.

 

Wandsworth has two, and I had the chance to visit one in Battersea last month for a Wandsworth Tonight report.

 

 

Each Wednesday morning the space, once a store room in Dimpson Lodge, comes alive to the sounds of chisels and saws, with many shedders working outside surrounded by trees and birdsong.

 

They’ve made drumsticks, bird boxes and a boat which they launched on the Thames, joined by the Mayor and a choir singing boat songs.

 

“I don’t know what I’d do without it” one of the men told me. A retired undertaker, he’s familiar with manual work from building coffins. He comes with his neighbour and looks forward to it each week.

 

 

His wife is very active: “She’s down the Katherine Lowe [community centre] sewing and dancing, then she’ll have a bit of lunch and go down the ballet school,” he explained.

 

Staying socially active is more common among retired women, according to Geoffrey Cox, the sheltered housing officer who set it up: “we do lots of groups, where women come along, which aren’t designed for women, but women seem to be the ones who join.

 

“Bingo, meetings, social groups. Research has shown that men don’t seem to want to mix with those sorts of things. So this was something which was targeted at men,” he said.

 

The first few shedders got to know each other over minibus trips to other men’s sheds, and then the construction of a timber shed to hold everything from the old storeroom.

 

 

“It was a good early stage bonding exercise” said David, one of the volunteers as he showed me the names of everyone involved, signed next to the shed door.

 

The group connect to the community a lot. One man, David, was busy making a compost timber frame for a community allotment, and the boat which they crafted as a group now sits in a Roehampton nursery school as a quiet corner for reading stories.

 

I met John who explained that he came after his wife died. “It gets me out of the house because I found that I was moping about a bit indoors,” he said. He wanted to do some gardening for the Trinity Hospice, Clapham, which had cared for his wife and supported him.

 

Finding he wasn’t ready, the hospice pointed him to Battersea Men’s shed where he now makes bird houses for his daughters, and enjoys making friends and learning new things “I’m learning a lot on carpentry, there’s always someone here who can tell you something.”

 

 

They upcycle and reupholster furniture which they exchange for small donations to their kitty, though it’s really disused tools and wood, they need. They can come out collect this and sometimes it comes from developers, sometimes it comes from shed clearouts. Semih Denise, a volunteer with background as a builder told me they’re desperately seeking someone who can teach them to use their lath.

 

Geoffrey was very clear that it is open to anyone, not just retirees, not just men. The two women I met there loved it: “there’s just this very peaceful energy of everyone absorbed in their projects and then suddenly tea, and then a whole lot of chat,” Victoria told me.

 

It is very relaxed. If you want to go along, you don’t have to join in, “you can just ask questions and watch what they’re doing,” Geoffrey confirmed.

 


If you want to join, donate materials, or need something fixing, you can go along to Dimpson Lodge at 141 battersea church road each Wednesday morning, or contact Geoffrey Cox 020 7223 5335,gcox2@wandsworth.gov.uk. They have a page on facebook, and watch out for the film of their story coming soon to Battersea Arts Centre.  

 

You can listen to the full report in our Wandsworth Tonight programme

HERE

 

December 4th, 2018

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