Oranmore Men’s Sheds
The first shed to feature in our ‘Shed Stories’ is Oranmore Men’s Sheds in Co. Galway. We asked Terry and Bernard to tell us what their biggest challenges were, how they got the shed back up and running, what their hopes for the future are – and what they really missed about being a part of their Shed.
What were the biggest challenges for you and the men in your shed over the past 2 years?
“When sheds were forced to close in early 2020, the most immediate concern was how do we stay in touch. Like most of the country, we started video meetings on “Zoom”. But this only suited some of our members and it was good for them. However, there were many who, for one reason or another, did not participate. ‘WhatsApp’ groups kept the majority of the members in touch with each other and provided encouragement to those that may have needed it… while text messages were used in [other] cases. If we had not stayed in touch, it would have been a lot more difficult to resume activities.
In our particular circumstances the premises that we operate from is a “portacabin” with no insulation and poorly fitting windows and doors. When there was no activity in the shed there was no heat and no circulation of air. The physical condition of the shed began to deteriorate with significant mould growth on the walls. When we did eventually get a chance to examine it the mould was quite a problem. A significant amount of effort was required to bring the shed back to a useable condition again.”
What did you miss most about your shed?
“The overwhelming feedback from members was a sense of isolation owing to the loss of social contact to which they had become accustomed. Of less importance was the activity routine which had grown into. Zoom or other electronic communication, while useful, was found to be a poor substitute for face to face contact . Inability to get out and about was also a big issue.”
What would you say to other Sheds to encourage them to get back up and running again?
“In every community where a shed has been established it fulfils a vital need. I think that it is very important not to lose sight of this fact, especially for those with the responsibility of running their shed. It has been my experience that many members rely on their shed for face to face contact with people. I understand that many may be nervous about reopening. But a great number of sheds have reopened without any problems. When reopening it is important to do it in a manner that suits your particular circumstances. If you have issues with space, consider a staggered opening. If your shed only operated for 1/2 days a week perhaps if it was opened for 3/4 days with fewer people. Perhaps a pre booked time in the shed would work for others or maybe you can carry out projects outside. If your shed has been closed, try opening with just a social event i.e. just meet for tea/coffee and a chat and take it from there. As I said at the top, remember the vital role that the shed plays for your members and wider community.”
What experiences brought positivity to the shed?
“The sense of interdependence and camaraderie on our return was so evident and demonstrated just how social isolation can have such a negative effect on individuals. It was also evident that the pandemic impacted more on rural families and particularly those living alone. Without a doubt there is a fresher sense of togetherness since our return which will have long lasting health and social benefits.”
What are your hopes for the future?
“The benefits we offer have given us greater resolve to provide a new shed layout and design which will be inviting to new members and offer a range of activities suitable to individual skills and talents. This is a short term aim, the longer term one being to be a more effective resource to those in need of support and to be complimentary to the work of local organisations and state bodies like the HSE.”