Roehampton Community Shed in Portswood Place

The Community Shed on the Alton Estate in Roehampton reopened this Autumn in bigger and brighter premises after being forced to close during the pandemic.

Its members who mainly range in age from 70 to 85 are delighted to be back in the workshop working on projects for the local community, joking with one another and enjoying a coffee and biscuits together.

John Burns and Iorwerth Harries are two of the founding members who joined the club in 2016. Iorwerth discovered the idea of Men’s sheds when he read an article in a national newspaper. He said: “My family and friends were dispersed and the shed filled a hole in my life. I like working with my hands and get a lot of pleasure from being here.”

John was a civil servant for most of his life and once retired he missed the social interaction of work. He said: “I was looking for something useful to do. This has given me a bunch of good friends as well as an opportunity to do something good in the community.

I would say to anyone interested in the shed; come and try – we are a friendly bunch!”

Loneliness and social isolation are a big problem amongst the over 50s, with up to one million adults across the UK saying they are lonely. Covid and lockdowns have not helped matters. New research shows 36 per cent of older people feel more anxious than before the pandemic, 43 per cent are less motivated do the things they enjoy while 64% feel less confident travelling out and about.

The only paid-staff member at the Shed is Anthony Simmons who is funded by Age UK Wandsworth. He believes the Shed is a brilliant way of helping older people to get their confidence back.

The club is also open to women and has had a number of female members over the years.

It was a female member who first asked the shed members to help her to make a Ludo set and the group has gone on to make a number of sets for the local community where it is a real hit.

Recent projects include boards with various switches, locks and plugs on it which are used by the physio team at the local hospital to help patients exercise their hands.

They have also just finished some hedgehog boxes for SW15 Hedgehogs as well as a series of planters to go round the estate. They were recently commissioned to make 150 Christmas decorations for Wandsworth Council which are now on display in the area.

The green agenda is very much part of the ethos at the Shed, using reclaimed wood and upcycling other projects to create something new.

The council has provided the Shed with its new premises and members of the council’s engagement team for the Alton Estate regularly support the club.

Wandsworth Council’s Cabinet member for Housing Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “This is a wonderful project, working in partnership with Age UK Wandsworth. In light of the last 18 months, this sort of initiative has never been more important. It’s an opportunity for people to get together, build friendships and learn new skills, and the council is very pleased to support it.”

Emma Chisholm, Community & Wellbeing Lead for Age UK Wandsworth, said: “The Roehampton Shed was originally designed to combat social isolation in older men but it has gone on to become much more than that, it’s a real community hub and welcomes men and women of any age. We are grateful to the council for their support on this project and to our regular volunteers for all the work they put in.”