Welcome to the UK Men's Sheds




Support Information


The essence of a Shed is the relationship between a group of men who have practical interests. In many cases, especially in smaller communities, the initiating person(s) will recruit via word of mouth from the people they know.  To go beyond this group Sheds have found recruiting partners amongst local women, organisations who have an interest in the welfare of older people (carer's groups, health workers, charities etc), organisations supporting the voluntary sector like Councils of Voluntary Service or Rotary/Lions, or organisations promoting particular interests such as material reuse/recycling.

An article in the local newspaper will reach a lot of people and show you are open to all. Flyers work for those who read them but for others all the essential information can get printed in colour both sides on to business-cards very economically and handed out. These are more likely to be read and even passed around. Shopping malls are said to be great for approaching couples, betting shops and pubs before midday are good if seeking individual guys. An unusual means was used by Gosport who printed bright yellow t-shirts with a slogan 'Give us your men' on it. The way to reach the biggest audience is through BBC regional radio stations whose audiences are predominently over 45's and male.  

With all this you will need to be aware that some men will reject the idea instantly because they think it has to be for people with ‘problems’ and men generally don't like to recognise their needs. The press in particular will want to portray a Shed as a 'project to combat loneliness' which would put virtually every man off whereas many men will be looking for access to a workbench, some tools and maybe to learn from their peers. You don't need to be lonely to want to get out more, do more, fix something, make something, or even to rub shoulders with other guys. We are sociable people if its on our own terms.

Another problem is that people will hear about it and come along to a group but not feel they can do anything to help create the Shed or simply are not people who can work easily in a group. They might be future users/members but only when the facility is open. Whoever is leading on the idea will need to be offering some activity in the interim which ideally would be supportive such as doing some publicity or researching empty buildings in the area. For those that don't feel able to do that any other sociable activity might keep the group in touch whilst the start-up issues are tackled. Examples could be BBQ's or visits to nearby Sheds. One Shed found that men would come back to discuss common issues - they called it philosophy - such as discussing topics like 'Life is hard' or 'Women'. 

A public meeting is often called. If publicised through the means above these can attract a lot of people (e.g Earley a suburb of Reading had 39 men) and from these the steering committee can be formed or endorsed to take the idea forward.  

For cheap website design you might like to try advertising for free on Student Gems www.studentgems.com. which has produced many keen youngsters almost immediately.

There are online guides to writing press releases for getting in the papers or on radio.

There are two groups of organisations, unincorporated and incorporated. In unincorporated organisations (associations, trusts) the committee are operating as individuals and can be personally sued if someone gets hurt or for debts etc  The incorporated forms ( e.g. a cooperative, a community benefit society, a private company) limit those liabilities.

In deciding which to choose other issues will be considered such as how much the membership is to be in control, who can become a member, whether the service/facilities will be available to non-members, whether it will employ (now or in the future) staff on permanent contracts, and whether it will (now or in the future) trade regularly where risk, significant borrowings or long –term liabilities are involved.  To read an online guide to different structures and how to choose one link to http://www.getlegal.org.uk/legal structures. In getting advice it is best to go to a specialist. See also www.cooperatives-uk.coop ( advises on all types of organisation) and www.communitymatters.org.uk

In February 2011 the founding group of the Camden Town Shed decided to form an association (similar to a club). As we had also agreed that we were going to operate for public benefit and not to distribute profits to members we found we adopted the “Small Charity Constitution” found on the Charity Commission website See http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/Start_up_a_charity/default.aspx  To complete this we needed to state the purpose of the association and who it was to benefit and accept the simple rules it contained. It only required three people to sign. We used one of the model clauses also found on the website to state the purpose clearly and succinctly and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the document signed the Shed was formed. A Small Charity is one whose annual income is less than £5000 and it is not registered with the Charity Commission.  The management committee and the trustees can be the same people.

The main benefits of being a charity are that it confers status (helps with your credibility in fundraising), enables you to get tax relief on donated income and it reduces premises rates by 80%. If you decide not to register with the Charity Commission these benefits would need negotiating with each authority. Becoming a charity places some requirements on an organisation to provide accounts and a report but it does not mean that you cannot sell goods at a profit providing that such activities are in pursuit of the charity’s Objects and the income derived supports the charity. The Objects clause needs careful consideration.

Within a few months we had received more funds than £5000 and so we had to register with the Charity Commission. That required completing an application, answering some rigorous questions and making a trustee declaration. The key issue is to demonstrate that the proposed activities have a public benefit and that this benefit extends to a wide enough group or groups of people.  The key part of our response on the question of public benefit was the following:-

“The aim of this organisation is to relieve distress derived from unemployment or enforced retirement at the end of our working lives. This distress can include loss of purpose and direction, loss of social interaction, loss of opportunity to exercise skills, loss of identity and status, and loss of control over your life. These and other factors eg. the effects of reduced income and ageing can lead to further health problems, including depression, reduced confidence, decline in abilities etc. Research indicates that this distress tends to be worse in men because men are less likely to have developed social relationships to the degree women usually do, and men are less likely to be able to have a validating domestic role which they can continue after retirement.”

The key part of our response in reply to the question whether the benefit was unreasonably restricted included the following:-

“The intended beneficiaries are people who have come to the end of their working lives either through retirement or redundancy and to whom this presents challenges. The beneficiaries qualify if they are no longer working and do not expect to work and have need of social interaction and practical and creative activity of their own choosing, which they are not able to obtain in other ways.”   We did not make this gender-specific as we could not say that women would not be included in some way. We also had to show that people experiencing poverty would still be able to attend.

The Charity Commission website offers registering organisations support in the form of model Objects clauses which as they are already approved speed up the process. We thought of using one that fell under the Recreational Charities Act which focuses on leisure activities and is normally used for sports clubs. The Commission said this was not appropriate and so we did not use that category but adopted a clause which states our purpose as:

"To promote social inclusion for the public benefit by preventing people from becoming socially excluded, relieving the needs of those people who are socially excluded and assisting them to integrate into society.

For the purpose of this clause ‘socially excluded’ means being excluded from society, or parts of society, as a result of one of more of the following factors: unemployment; financial hardship; youth or old age; ill health (physical or mental); substance abuse or dependency including alcohol and drugs; discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, disability, ethnic origin, religion, belief, creed, sexual orientation or gender re-assignment; poor educational or skills attainment; relationship and family breakdown; poor housing (that is housing that does not meet basic habitable standards; crime (either as a victim of crime or as an offender rehabilitating into society).” 

This was accepted by the Charity Commission and so may be a helpful precedent to other groups who want to register a shed as a charity although since 2014 a new legal format of Charitable Incorporated Organisation has ben created which offfers further benefit. Adopting the Small Charity Constituion is still a useful quick way to get started but as an association the committee officers bear some personal liability. With a CIO the organisation can be both registered as a charity and have the benefit of Incorporation whilst still only having to report to the Charity Commission and not Companies House. 

NB. The above is simply the experience of the Camden Town Shed and is not intended to offer any legal advice to other groups.

The Westhill Men's Shed in Aberdeen has also registered with the Charity Commissioners in Scotland. Their charitable puposes are:

The advancement of health.
The provision of recreational facilities and activities with the object of improving the quality of life of the participants.
The relief of those in need by reason of age, ill health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantage.

The Shed Economy

This section gives an overall picture of costs (premises excluded) and income plus some specific examples of Shed economies. Bear in mind that not everything has to be done at the outset, plus there is something about Sheds that seems to generate goodwill and most Sheds find potential costs being whittled away by member ingenuity and community gifts of all types.


Set Up costs : Once you have a useable space workshop-specific considerations could be: better ventilation; lighting over benches; dust-extraction at source as well as airborne fine dust;RCB’s on the power circuit and emergency stop buttons; a safe place to store inflammables and raw materials; enough cupboards/tool racking; an equipped kitchen; and benches with sufficient working space and storage of work-in-progress. An outside space to work on bigger projects or for sanding/varnishing is desirable.  You will need to spend some money on publicity such as flyers/posters initially (allow £150 for that if you do not do your own layout and check prices  with www.urbanprinting.co.uk.) You may also need some First Aid Training

Providing you are willing to use second-hand tools most Sheds find these come as gifts from within their community although some expenditure will be required to fill the few remaining gaps. UKMSA has arranged for Sheds to have trade discount with Triton Precision Tools who as part of Powerbox, an Australian company, appreciate Sheds and have 5000+ products available under various brands. They offer 25% off power tools and 49% off all hand tools and consumables to Sheds and (via the Shed) to their members. Sheds are effectively being treated the same as retailers. Further details from UKMSA. Worthing Shed has good experience of the Kreg brand from Triton.

Running Costs

The main running expenses could be headed


utilities and rates,


maintenance and consumables.

Staff /supervision would be an addition.

Premises: solutions vary enormously from rent-free, peppercorn but with substantial repair responsibilities, hiring (rates, utilities, maybe insurance and aspects of H&S included), through to full tenancy contracts.  See Premises section below.

Utilities: Power usage looks heavy but is mostly intermittent except perhaps for lathes and dust-extraction equipment.

Insurance : UKMSA checked the insurance market and concluded that the Zurich Insight policy arranged through Tennyson brokers represented the best quality public liability cover for the premium. One specific advantage is that they do not insist on volunteer management needing to be covered by Employer’s Liability as most other insurers do. A small Shed may pay £260 for the basic cover to which you might add other elements such as theft, member-to-member injury, buildings etc. Contact UKMSA for a code that will get a 5% group discount.

Maintenance and Consumables:   Again costs are activity-dependant but will include repairs to tools or premises, H&S upgrades, administration, glues/screws etc etc. Purchasing through the Triton discount (above) will help. You can further cut expenditure by accepting the Triton Challenge which offers £250 of goods in return for a photographic and written record of the making of a product. They will create drawings from the photos and put this on their website as a guide for other makers. You are unlikely to get £250 for anything else you make and still hav esomething to sell!

Staffing: The majority of Sheds are being run with volunteer management which is obviously more sustainable if there is any doubt about the supply of funding. Whilst this factor and the personal commitment of those volunteering might mean a Shed will still be functioning 10 years later there is a cost to those involved and they will need the support of others if the arrangement itself is not to become unsustainable. Aylesbury Shed found maintaining the role over the summer difficult as people naturally want to take more time off to spend with the grandchildren etc. Broadstairs raised £50,000 from the People’s Millions and hired a part-time coordinator. Paid staff can be useful to get things going but can they then get the members to take on responsibility when funding ceases? It is a hard transition but when the Kendal MiS funding ceased enough volunteers were found from within their 70 members for it to continue and thrive.

The average running cost of a Cheshire MiS (staffed, 5 days p.w.) is £43,000 pa whereas some small Sheds cost under £5000 pa. More examples of Shed economies below.


We could describe Shed income as contributions, earned income, donations or grants (these have agreed outcomes). Sheds take different approaches to financing themselves. Some, CIC’s in particular, aim to cover costs as much as possible through earnings whilst others have covered costs entirely though grants. Most will look to get contributions from their users and all Sheds receive donations, often in kind. Each Shed will have a different balance of sources, but the most sustainable will have higher levels of self-generated income combined with strong community connections.

Contributions : Sheds have chosen from the following options:    

a) Everyone pays the same, per day, or per week no matter how often they attend, with the rate agreed in general meeting or set by the committee. (In a general meeting the rate agreed is likely to be the lowest of any proposed).

b) Users pay different amounts according what is agreed with them. This might happen when someone appears as unable to pay the daily charge or for other reasons e.g. when attending as a result of an agreement with a referring agency (e.g. homeless) or with Social Services approval of the use of an individual’s Personal Budget. It also occurs when someone is contributing in kind by making commissioned goods or doing the book-keeping.

c) There is no daily rate but users donate. This eliminates the risk of excluding anyone. This can be into a collection box each day but can also be by a standing order which would also enable the recovery of Gift Aid in most cases and which tend to be more reliable than cash being given on the day. S.O’s of £100pm are being paid. To help people contribute in cash you might adopt a signing-in procedure on arrival where users also record how much they have put in the box.

Contributions for refreshments are often separate from any daily rate .

Getting members to increase their paymens beyond what has become accepted as normal, say when funding declines, is very hard. (Quote Steve) It may be worth setting expectations higher at the outset than face an uphill battle later on.

You could also charge an annual Membershio fee.

Earned : A Shed could be self-funding if it had a sales outlet for its own or other’s goods (like charity shops) or services (check legal status) like repairing or training. Crewe MiS sells £1000’s of its own goods because it’s situated on a commercial estate with few other lunch-time options. Total Re-use CIC incorporates a Shed within an expanding non-profit-distributing business. The Repair Shed aims to combine repair workshops with earnings from repair and training. Nottingham MiS is averaging £400 pm with garden-related products.  Stratford can sell £35 per day from its Town Centre shop premises.

All sheds sell some of the things they make either speculatively (we’ll see what we can get for this) or to order.  The latter are most often community projects in need of things they can’t afford and Sheds have frequently charged ‘materials x 2’ or less rather than for labour. Private commissions will likely be charged a higher rate but organisers need to consider that everyone is a volunteer not wishing to ‘go back to work’. Speculative sales are most often through fairs and market stalls but can be through local companies or websites such as Etsy and Folksy. (See also Milton Keynes Shed).

A human tale: when some members of the Canterbury Shed (Australia) got fed up with being pushed to increase sales by their sponsoring organisation they took the toys down to the local children’s home and gave them away. The goodwill this generated resulted in more income than the sales would have produced!

Donated . Unconditional gifts flow into Sheds. Examples include a container load (almost) of kitchen units; ‘any timber in our yard - indefinitely’ from a civil engineering firm; a prestige motor company that brings round off-cuts of exotic timbers and takes away any power tools that need sharpening, even rent-free periods and so on. Cash gifts also occur and include many examples of local ward councillors giving from their personal allowance. The mayor of Bedford told its Shed members to seek this support not just for the ward in which the shed is situated but also from wards where its members each live.  To double some donations check out Localgiving.com.

Granted: Many Sheds receive grants to achieve objectives agreed with the funders. Grantees are required to meet conditions and report back. Lottery funds are the biggest source of grants but there are many trusts too. Local companies may also help but most are much more reluctant to part with cash than say, staff time. See Fundraising.

Sample Shed Accounts 2013-4 :


Camden Town Shed: From Yr 3 accounts. Open 2 days pw. Average attendance 7.

Expenditure (purchases related to sales achieved excluded)

Premises: Hires a room for 2 days pw.


Utilities /rates: Included in hire


Insurance: Public liability only 

£  384

Maintenance/consumables: (Only activity woodwork)


av.£4 pppd£2819

Sales of made goods:
£  844 (net) 

Sales of service (training)

£1500 (net)

Balance met by reserves.

£ 5163




2.Westhill Men’s Shed accounts 2012-2013  (First year)

The Shed is run entirely by volunteers. 70 members. Open 3 days.

The building is Council owned and leased at a peppercorn rent. The council are responsible for the building (wind and watertight). As a Scottish charity there are no rates or water/sewage charges.

This is our first full year of operation and in 2014 we are finding Workshop costs falling as the equipment becomes more complete and commissioned income rising.


Personnel costs
Includes first aid training for Supervisors (9 men, renewed every 3 years) and expenses of £100.

Facility costs 
£600 Insurance (inclusive of many risks)
  £700 Electricity

Workshop equipment
and materials

Admin costs
Phone, internet, postage, etc.

£850 Brochures, banners, stand fees

£3500 Electric heating, large poorly insulated building


Red box 
£980 in-shed donations (no member fees)

Commissioned income
£1500 sale of goods made/repaired

£500 raffles, bag packing etc.



If you are a start-up one problem your group will have is credibility. Who are you? With no track record even the biggest distributors of small grants like Awards for All will wait until you can show what you can do. Some ways to overcome this are by starting small and raising money from those with whom you do have credibility, borrowing another organisation’s credibility if they will guarantee your group, or looking for funds that back start-ups or social entrepreneurs. It always helps if you can demonstrate that your group are doing as much as they can to meet their needs themselves.

The key to raising funds is to show that you are going to fulfil the funders objectives – that you have a well-thought out plan that will address one of their aims and you have the capacity to deliver. Other criteria will also apply. Public bodies usually set out clearly what their objectives and criteria are but trusts each have their own ‘personality’ and ways of working. Fortunately there are some very good guides around.  

For a no-nonsense introduction to fundraising from trusts and foundations link to http://www.knowhownonprofit.org/funding/fundraising/grants-funds-and-corporate-fundraising/trusts-and-foundations . This site also has links to all the main sources of information including online databases. 

For suggestions on local fundraising try these links http://www.how2fundraise.org/ ;   http://fundraisers-uk.co.uk/

Sheds could appeal to funds specialising in health, social welfare, elderly people, unemployed people, or possibly the environment. A check should be made on how the Government’s ‘wellbeing’ agenda is to be implemented locally. Contact your local authority’s officer with responsibility for the voluntary sector to get a picture of local grants. To date grants have come from a wide range of sources including: the Lottery, a Neighbourhood Renewal Fund, the Tudor Trust, the Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust (an exception), the Wakeham Trust (a tiny family trust), the Cooperative Bank Community Fund, the Lions and Rotary Clubs, individual donors, a local company and UnLtd. some sources of info are

  1. lwww.fundingcentral.org.uk free funding website developed by NCVO with the support of Office of the Third Sector
  2. lwww.j4bcommunity.co.uk You can register and carry out FREE grant searches
  3. lwww.greengrantsmachine.co.uk free site focuses on green grants!
  4. lwww.grantsonline.org.uk free trial
  5. lwww.fit4funding.org.uk/sample-newsletter  subscribe to this highly recommended funding newsletter
  6. lwww.trustfunding.org.uk Online equivalent of the directory of grant making trusts from DSC with high subscription fees.

Steve Iliffe, Professor of Primary Care for Older People offers the following summary:  ‘Participation in meaningful activity is one of the five determinants of health and well-being in later life, according to the Age Concern & Mental Health Foundation Report, “Promoting mental health and well-being in later life”, published in 2006. The other four are: discrimination, relationships, physical health and poverty. Participation in meaningful activity has three components: staying active, having a sense of purpose and avoiding social isolation. The evidence that the first two components have a positive effect on health and well-being in later life can be found in two literature reviews at www.mhill.org.uk.

Having a social role and social activities was the second most common attribute of a good quality of life reported in the National Statistics Office Omnibus Survey (2001) of people aged 65 and over, higher than having good health (4th ) and having no financial worries (7th ). (Adding quality to quantity: older people’s views on quality of life and its enhancement Age Concern 2003). However, the same survey showed that 93% of respondents had plenty to do.

Social isolation is particularly important because it is associated with present and future physical ill health, increased mortality and worse mental health. Social isolation means objectively measurable lack of social contacts, and is different from loneliness, the subjective experience of social isolation. This is an under-researched topic. There are few well-designed studies of interventions to reduce social isolation, but those that have been carried out suggest that group activity is more effective than individual alternatives, like ‘befriending’. The evidence for this is summarised in the report Promoting Health & Wellbeing in Later Life, by the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research & Policy in 2010 (www.SCPHRP.ac.uk)’

Steve Iliffe,FRCGP FRCP Professor of Primary Care for Older People, UCL Royal Free Campus, Rowland Hill St., London NW3 2PF  (October 2011)

Detailed sources include  Age Concern England’s ‘Working with Older Men’ 2006 – Sandy Ruxton.The ‘Grouchy Old Men’ report (Mental Health Foundation 2010). The Men’s Health Forum www.menshealthforum.org.uk has data on the health inequalites faced by older men. Local health statistics will also be helpful. Age UK will be releasing a report on the Men-in–Sheds Programme by Lancaster University on July 26th2012. More detail on available information is needed.


This section shows what premises solutions various Sheds have found.

1.  Minimal premises

The Holywood MS (Men’s Shed) started three years ago and is focused around doing cleaning and repairing jobs in the public spaces around the town. After a while they got a lockable cupboard in a public space to store their tools and materials and only recently got a larger one.


2.  *  Loaned by members/friends.

The Shed in Douglas (Isle of Man) started in a double garage.   

The Carmel and Holywell Woodworking Club, which is a Shed in all but name, started in the founder’s garage until it built up enough members and sales to feel confident in hiring a publicly-owned premises 1.5 days p.w. 12 years later it has some 50 members and is remarkable for operating without having had a public or trust grant. 


      *  Using hard-to-let shop premises

Local authorities may prefer to have empty shops used rather than detract from the environment.   Stratford on Avon MS started by sharing a local Sea Cadets hut but this proved difficult to manage. They then moved to a disused local shop that the local authority had given for temporary use to an arts organisation. It had no electricity but a lot of natural light on the first floor. 


      *  Finding an under-used space. Housing Associations can be large property owners with a whole range of buildings e.g. disused garage blocks and a social remit.

Shettleston MS was immediately offered a potential building by its local housing association along with the support of a community development worker. 

Faringdon has made a start by using the woodwork room of a local college of an evening.


      *   Using redundant premises where the owners take a benevolent approach. 

Collingham MS has found a local builder who is willing to let them use a spare building.

Sansaw MS has been granted the use of a farm building which had become too small to house today’s larger machinery. 


        *   Using temporarily redundant buildings where the managers/owners seek formal, free but temporary use of their premises. They may be empty for a range of reasons such as planning blight, lack of liquidity, changes in management etc. When buildings are sold for adaptation for example it can take 18 months before planning permission is granted. The owners will normally be paying 100% Business Rates but charities get 80% mandatory rate relief and other organisations may qualify too.  The building’s security may also be a motivation for the owner. Healthy Planet is a not-for-profit agency that identifies building owners and then looks for groups with charitable objectives who need the space. The arrangement can save the owners a lot of money. The places are held on temporary licenses but as they are rent-free it is a way of getting the group stated and focused. https://beta.healthyplanet.org/get-involved/sustainable-community/healthy-spaces

MakeitWorkshop in Southport has had a large modern shop premises through Healthy Planet for over 18 months. 


        *   Using premises by ‘paying in kind’ or other reciprocal arrangement. 

Gosport MS got use of two large casements in the walls of Fort Brockhurst, a truly massive structure. The owners, English Heritage, anticipated more benefits to accrue than the Shed could offer and Gosport is now looking elsewhere.  

The Repair Shed, Hemel Hempstead has the use of part of a building on a site occupied by a horticultural social enterprise in exchange for occasional work. This arrangement recently needed some discussion as, like flat-sharing, it’s the little differences in expectation that can begin to undermine it. 

The local history museum in Louth (N.I.) offered a space to the Shed in exchange for help maintaining the exhibits. This provided the Shedders with a rich vein of activity and learning.

Brixham is now housed in a charity shop interested in getting some of its incoming goods fixed.


        *   Public authorities can have property that they do not wish to part with but do not have the funds to enable it to be let.  Extensive leases can be gained in exchange for repair/maintenance.

Broadstairs Town Shed has a rent-free lease whilst it does up a long-empty building owned by the local council.

Maldon CVS obtained a redundant mortuary from local authority which also helped fund its restoration.

3.  Adapting a vehicle

Thanet Men’s Shed are planning a mobile Shed in order to reach smaller communities and also to promote the Shed concept. This will be a trailer that looks like a Shed.   A van with a range of equipment is a way that some tradesmen work and that idea could be adapted.

4.    Eastleigh is starting by demolishing a dilapidated shed in the large back garden of a widow’s house and building a new one.  They are getting a tenancy.

Brentwood has built a Shed in the grounds of a church.

5.   Hiring 

With hiring the whole cost of the usage is rolled into an hourly/daily charge. This means there will be no additional bills e.g. utility, maintenance, safety checks etc. This can help with budgeting and you only pay for the hours you use. It can mean restricted usage, and almost certainly you will need to clear up afterwards for others to use the room. However it is available, can make for a quick start, if affordable it can last indefinitely, and it does not require taking on onerous responsibilities.  If booking blocks of time seek a reduced hourly rate as most bookings are for short periods. 

Cockermouth MiS (Men in Sheds) started by hiring a room in a community centre one afternoon a week but as it became more popular the local Age UK Board rented a workshop. The aim is that the Shedders would cover the rent from sales of donated and refurbished goods and so far it is working!

Macmerry MS hires a community hall and storage cupboard and uses an outside space in good weather. 

Camden Town Shed hires a Community Centre room two days p. w. and pays by the quarter. An initial rent-free period was negotiated on the basis that it was raising the profile of the Centre by bringing in a group of people targeted by the local authority who funded it. The Centre subsequently found it could not let the room and granted full use without any alteration to the charge. 

Southbourne MS operates out of an old village school cloakroom courtesy of Age Concern which leases the property from the County Council. It has taken six months for the men to put the building in a state where it could be used. This has been made possible by a donation of £1000 from Age Concern’

Eltham MiS began by hiring a room 16’x 12’ in a community centre in which 6 people could work. It opened 6 days p.w. and grew to having 40+ members before moving.

6.    Premises provided within an organisation’s current space. 

The Ecology Centre at Kinghorn, Fife, formed a Shed group around the idea of repairing/reusing tools and offered the group a space.  

The Tool Shed in Skelmersdale is part of Total Reuse CIC, a large social enterprise in premises funded from its earnings.

7.    Renting at commercial rates

Age UK and its affiliates have opened several Sheds in units on industrial estates having first raised the funds and hired staff. Before owners let property they need to assure themselves that any tenant can honour the terms of the tenancy agreement. In these cases they had an established organization to deal with.  New independent Shed groups may face problems in assuring owners. Getting an established organization to be a guarantor is one way forward but be sure you are happy with the conditions. Having one or more ‘public’ or professional figures on your board/management committee can also help, particularly in smaller communities. 

Milton Keynes MiS rents a 4000 sq ft industrial unit   

Leeds MS (Groundwork) rents a 1000 sq ft workshop with funds from Leeds City Council

Community Impact Bucks started a Shed off in an arts centre but then helped it rent an industrial unit.



What to Look For

In most cases this question will be a bit academic as it will be a case of adapting to what’s available, yet it is not an irrelevant one. There are plenty of examples above of options people have taken that have worked. One of the lessons from above is that the units that are on industrial estates away from public transport still get plenty of people attending, though nearer to bus routes would be better. (A physically handicapped man used to travel for up to 1.5 hours to get to the Eltham MiS). 


Here are some other considerations, though not all necessary at the outset:

* Where will you have that vital tea-break/social time and wash up afterwards? 

* Will your noise (laughter?) disturb neighbours?

* If sharing where can store your tools as well as ‘work in progress’ so it is not damaged?

* Is there somewhere nearby where you can store donated wood – it soon clutters your room!

* How would you move goods in or out, especially something heavy? 

* Where will you store inflammables like paint, varnish safely?

* Is there an adjacent outdoor space you can work and increase your space? Much of the year people can work outdoors and with dust inhalation a serious health consideration it can be very helpful. 

* Will you be able to install dust extraction and electrical safety devices in the future?


How to Look

1. Looking for empty Properties

Survey the town You could start by getting your group to first survey the town with cameras to hand and then share the pictures as a group and see what is known about the properties.  It can generate some lines of enquiry particularly with property that has not been used for a while. When repeated at a later date it could generate more information to be followed up. Frome MS


Some local authorities publish on their website the addresses of all the empty business premises in the town, along with the business rates account holder (if not an individual), the rateable value (a useful indicator if size), and the date from which the premises have been vacant. 


2.  Looking for underused properties 

This requires networking as the fact that they are under used will not be visible from the street. 

When visiting properties, chatting to the people around is an invaluable source of information. Travelling by bicycle rather than by car makes this much easier and you see more and can stop anywhere. I've learned that I need to talk to established local charities. A local charity that sells second-hand furniture has offered us a bit of unused space in one of its warehouses, and a branch of The Bicycle Kitchen (it provided space and tools and assistance for people to repair their bikes) has taken on a department store that is awaiting demolition and is keen to have us move in and pay a share of its costs.  Andrew Horne, Reading


‘Don’t be put off by thinking that other community groups are competition – They’re usually not.  So visit any Community Bicycle repair groups, Tools refurbishment groups, allotments groups, etc. We used this approach, and were quickly introduced to a Youth Enterprise – Supporting Apprentices (Age 18-24).  They had an underused workshop, that we will be renting on a short-term basis until we find permanent premises.’ Patrick Abrahams Frome Shed


3.  Looking for Shared Interests  

There are many instances above where our need for a space has met the need of a property manager ranging from their need for income, to save rates, to make a building more secure, to not have a high street look run-down, to be philanthropic, to achieve a community development outcome and to assist the host achieve their project goals. These are known routes to which will be added more examples such as a health authority backing a Shed to achieve health outcomes, or a recycling charity for re-use goals, an allotment society with spare space that want somewhere to meet on site in the winter or a rehabilitation society looking to integrate its charges. To find more of these its pays to get publicized!


4. Looking for a miracle: Following a newspaper article, Brixham MS was offered for a nominal rent a fully –equipped workshop which the Youth Enquiry Service now found redundant. 




This is in part general and in part specific to your facility. The Health and Safety executive produce loads of very helpful general advice. You will also need  friendly on site professional advice. Local FE Colleges have been successfully approached as have retired Local Authority officers. A signed disclaimer can be a helpful defence providing you have done all you should.