Exmouth Men’s Shed providing vital service

PUBLISHED: 06:30 08 June 2016

Men's Shed. Ref exe 16-16SH 1276. Picture: Simon Horn

Men's Shed. Ref exe 16-16SH 1276. Picture: Simon Horn

Archant

An Exmouth community facility is providing a haven for men to socialise, learn new skills and gain confidence.

The Open Door Men’s Shed, which recently gained a new purpose-built workshop, operates three days a week, allowing men to try out woodworking and other practical activities, or just sit down for a cup of tea and a chat.

As Open Door Exmouth trustee and Men’s Shed project leader Peter Chalkley explains, it provides a vital service.

He said: “Men don’t tend to socialise. They very much tend to be on their own island, in their own sheds, so this is a good opportunity for guys to socialise and get out of the house.”

Peter Banks, project leader for the new workshop, said: “It’s been of massive benefit to a lot of people. There are people that retire and fall by the wayside and we have saved a few, without a doubt.”

But the Men’s Shed is not just about the retired, as Peter Chalkley added.

“Also we’ve had younger guys who have lost confidence and been able to gain confidence. One or two have got jobs as a result of it.

“One guy, who had hardly picked up a tool in his life, is going off to do a woodworking apprenticeship. Not that we’re here for people to be woodworkers – it’s an activity guys can do if they want.”

The story of the Exmouth Men’s Shed began three years ago, when John Cottingham approached Peter Chalkley with the idea, having come across it in Australia.

Peter Chalkley said: “He said, ‘Have you thought about doing a Men’s Shed in Exmouth?’. I hadn’t got a clue what that was.

“He said basically the idea was that guys who are retired or unemployed or whatever would come together in a social setting, and do activities. I said that sounds like a good idea.

“Being a trustee of Open Door, I went to the other trustees and asked if this was something we could do, and they said yes.

“There was quite a lot of interest, people signing up to say they would be interested in being involved. From that we started fundraising and got a grant from the People’s Health Trust. That gave us two years of funding to get going.”

The Men’s Shed was initially established at Clayton House Community Centre, off Salterton Road, which East Devon District Council (EDDC) allowed it to use.

The group still uses those facilities, but now also has a purpose-built workshop next door.

This was built by the Men’s Shed users themselves over six months, officially opening in April.

Peter Banks said: “The massive benefit is we don’t have to put everything away every night. It means we can allocate space to people for individual projects.

“We can also use the community centre for other activities men want to do, such as art, cooking or photography.

“We were very lucky in so much as local councillors and EDDC have been very supportive, and the local people.”

Men’s Shed users also use their skills to help people in the community, with projects such as raised planters and sheds for mobility scooters, and also sell items they make at local fairs.

Peter Banks said: “We need to be sustainable. We’re always looking for donations of wood and tools and anything anyone thinks is usable.

“It’s been really successful – a really good project. We’ve helped a lot of people and, hopefully, it will continue that way. We are looking for more skilled people to help those who aren’t so skilled.”

One of those who passes on skills to others is Tony Bennett, 74. Normally to be found helping with woodwork, during the Journal’s visit he was assisting a man with maintenance of a model train, another of his interests.

He said: “We’ve got a wonderful bunch of people here and it really is a pleasure to come in.

“I was the training instructor for a big company and I like helping people.”

Syd Foulston, 72, said: “I’ve been coming for 18 months. A mate of mine said ‘What are you doing?’, as I was just coming to retirement, so I said I would come up and have a sniff.

“I said, ‘What’s one of these machines there?’. It was a scroll saw, and I had a go and found I was quite good at it, so I now teach scroll saw, among other things.

“There’s quite a lot of skills going on, but a lot of guys look forward to coming up here, and that’s what it’s all about. You get a lot of satisfaction out of it.”

Alan French, 65, said: “I’ve been here 15 months and learned so much in that time, it’s pretty unbelievable, and everybody helps each other out. It’s a very good place to come.”

The Men’s Shed opens every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday between 10am and 4pm, and welcomes men of any age and background.

For more information, call Peter Chalkley on 07710 599742, or fellow project leader Mick Cox on 07913 820362.

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