Learn new skills at Axminster community shed

Axminster Community Shed opening

John Hardy, Chris Hine, Roy Oaten, Simon Eskriett and Colin Hayward getting the shed ready - Credit: Barrie Hedges

Crafty and creative folks can pick up new skills at a new Community Shed being launched in Axminster.

The venture opens its doors for the first time on Saturday (January 29) with an open invitation to anyone who would like to try its special brand of ‘chatting, connecting, creating and contributing’. 

Founding member and secretary, Colin Hayward, said: "It's really a big version of a garden shed, but the difference is you can make new friends, learn new skills or share the ones you already have with others. Or you can just come for a chat and a cuppa in great company."

The Shed also aims to play a useful role in Axminster by contributing its members' skills to socially beneficial projects. 

While following the well-established formula of Men’s Sheds that exists right across the UK, the Axminster group decided that women should also be welcomed and chose a name to demonstrate inclusivity. 

And while Sheds typically attract people in retirement, Axminster’s will be for people of all ages. 

The team behind the initiative believes it could have an important role in helping to overcome loneliness and isolation, especially among retired people. 

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Surveys from mental health charities have found that millions of people at that stage in their lives report feeling lonely on a daily basis. With nearly 30% of men in East Devon aged over 65, it is thought that many of them would benefit from involvement in ‘shedding’.

The idea for the Axminster Community Shed was hatched in the shed of chairman Roy Oaten over coffee with Colin Hayward and mutual friend John Froud just weeks ago.

"We never believed it would take off in quite the way that it has and that we would enjoy so much support in such a short time," said Roy.

"We have had a lot of early interest from potential members and from women as well as men - the need for it is very clear."
The first massive injection of assistance came from local estate agent Shane Morgan of Morgan York, who offered the use of an empty shop right next door to his own premises in Victoria Place as a ‘Shed’. 

Over the past six weeks, the team has painted it and erected shelving and a series of work benches that will accommodate woodworking, metalworking, upholstery/needlework and a variety of other crafts.

Meanwhile, offers of used tools came from all directions, and grants were forthcoming to help fund new tools and other costs.

"We are still very much in need of funds to sustain us through what we hope will be a very busy first year," Colin said. 

"But we do now have a basis on which to build something really worthwhile."

While the ‘Shed’ will open for the first time between 11am and 4pm, it will then go into a weekly routine from February 1, with potential members able to drop in any time between 11am and 4pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Membership will cost £12 a year.

While members don’t have to be practical, there will be opportunities learn new skills if they wish to under the helpful eye of specialists who have long experience. All machinery will be operated within strict health and safety disciplines.

The group has already made colourful display boards used in Axminster’s Christmas lights ceremony.

It is also now partnering with Totally Locally Axminster, with lady members busy sewing the fabric from which new street banners will appear in the months ahead. A new nature garden is also planned for the Axminster Primary Academy.

"There is much we can do that will make a difference to Axminster while also making a difference to our members," Colin added. 

For more information, visit www.axminstercommunityshed.co.uk.