A group of retired men in Hampshire have formed The Gosport Shed, a workshop and social centre in Fort Brockhurst, and a film about their project has been greeted with praise as far away as Australia, the USA and Canada.
The Gosport Shed aims to tackle problems of loneliness, loss of purpose and poor health in older men.
Martin Corrick (69) founded the Shed last May, after suffering depression following retirement. According to the Mental Health Foundation, one in five retired people experience depression, and those living alone are most at risk. Physical health problems make people more vulnerable to mental health issues, which can lead to alcoholism and excessive smoking.
Martin saw that a Men’s Shed could give him and other men a renewed sense of purpose. “Retirement takes away our main role in life, and most of our friends, too. Our Shed gives us a place to go, things to do and lots of new friends.”
Gosport Borough Council gave Martin practical support to get going, as Ian Lycett, Chief Executive of Gosport Borough Council, explains: “We put Martin in touch with Gosport Voluntary Action and Gosport Older Persons’ Forum, as well as helping him with publicity, planning and his search for accommodation.”
An open meeting at Gosport’s Masonic Hall attracted around 35 men and the enthusiastic support of local MP Caroline Dinenage and local Councillors. A committee was formed and began to look for premises.
“It was an amazing piece of good luck that the Curator of Fort Brockhurst, Pam Braddock, saw the potential of our group,” says Martin. “She offered us space for our workshop and social centre, and we’re now open Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm. The Fort is a fantastic venue, and membership is available to all local men over the age of 55.”
“Our group includes a tiler, two electricians, a wood turner, a basket weaver, a pilot, several Royal Navy veterans, two teachers and a long-distance lorry driver who organises our trips out!”
“Another piece of good luck was getting enthusiastic support from The Southern Co-operative,” said Martin. “The Southern Co-operative is an ideal sponsor. Their community and co-operative values match ours; their shops are small and at the hub of local communities, and the people who work there know their customers as friends. It’s a perfect match.”
As well as donating £2000 for tools and equipment, The Southern Co-operative commissioned the film Shed Men, produced by Utility Films, which is already making an impact online across the world, and will soon be shown on the Community TV Channel.
Since the film’s online launch (20 January), Martin and Utility Films producer David George have been inundated with compliments from like-minded men worldwide.
David Helmers, Executive Officer of the Australian Men’s Shed Association, calls The Gosport Shed ‘fantastic’, and is distributing the film link “to every Shed here in Australia”, of which there are over 1000.
According to research for Age UK, more than one million older men now live alone in the UK, and the number is rising. Not surprisingly, Martin is now in demand to give his guidance to other communities wishing to set up a similar facility, and he is looking to set up a regional Men’s Shed Association across the south of England.
“The shed concept is infinitely flexible, and can be applied wherever you are. It just needs a group of energetic, like-minded people who can make it happen,” said Martin.
Shed Men: The Story of The Gosport Shed can be viewed on vimeo.com/84392065 and will be broadcast on the Community Channel (Sky 539, Virgin Media 233, Freeview 87) at 8.30pm on Saturday 8 March. www.thegosportshed.btck.co.uk