Welcome to the UK Men's Sheds




Support Information

In many cases, especially in smaller communities, the initiating group will recruit via word of mouth.  This needs backing up with some public promotion e.g. through the local newspaper to ensure people are not being excluded just because they don’t have the right connections. Calling a public meeting is a great idea but it might require a lot of money if adverts are to be placed and obviously this is before the group is funded. Seek local sponsorship for this. Newspaper articles, posters and mini-flyers (like business cards) are effective but need to be aware that some men will presume that it is for people with ‘problems’. The audience for BBC regional redio stations is predominently over 45's and male.

If a public meeting is called at the outset and a working group formed then the larger body will need to be kept engaged though subsequent activities/meetings for what will be several months at least. Nicky Wheddon of Nottingham MiS says ‘we record all of our enquiries and find that the two best sources are posters and referrals – could suggest that local CVS could help with networking’.

For website design the Camden Town Shed placed a request for help with Student Gems www.studentgems.com which produced 23 offers in three days. The person chosen charged £140 for a simple 6 page format including a content management system.    Bill, an enthusiastic member of an Aussie Men's Shed is offering to build websites for free. An example is http://blue-gum-hills-mens-shed.com/site/ and his contact is 'This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. '.

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. The incorporated forms ( e.g. a cooperative, a community benefit society, a private company) limit the liability.

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 (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 could become a charity and an association by adopting 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. 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), gets tax relief on donated income and 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. 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 issues are to identify 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.

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.

Malcolm Bird is the Senior Coordinator, Men in Sheds for Age UK Cheshire and has set up four Sheds with Lottery funding. He advises that for a 1000ft staffed Shed the costs will be approximately £6500 rent, £20,000 for coordination, £7500 running costs, plus £12-15,000 of capital for tooling up. A volunteer-led Shed will obviously cost less. The Holywood Shed currently operates without a premises cost too. Actual figures are hard to come by but the Camden Town Shed has a £3600 rent bill and in its first year has spent £2000 on running costs and £3300 on set-up costs.  A lot was saved through public donations of all hand tools and some of the power tools. At Sept. 2012 the no-frills budget for the next year is £6400 of which around £1500 should come from member contributions and £1800 from sales.

A major question is whether a coordinator is to be employed. The alternative is getting someone or a small group of 2-3 to coordinate as volunteers. How would you go about finding them? Would a paid person be more reliable/ more accountable/more professional etc than a small group of volunteers? If you have a paid coordinator will you be able to continue to fund this post and if not, does getting the users to take over responsibility afterwards work? If you want your Shed to be there in years to come is it better to start as you expect to continue or does the project need input, and of what kind, to begin with?  Where is the balance between providing and enabling?


The more a Shed generates its own income the stronger its appeal will be to grant-giving sources.

In Kind. There is something about the Shed idea that seems to generate goodwill. Examples include surplus goods such as a container load (almost) of kitchen units; a civil engineering firm offering ‘any timber in our yard - indefinitely’ plus a new router following a surprisingly short informal chat with the MD; rent-free periods; a prestige motor company that brings round off-cuts of exotic timbers and takes away any power tools that need sharpening; an arrangement with a furniture-selling charity shop for unwanted wood and another with a shopfitters.

Developing sales income – Whilst this is necessary Sheds have to bear in mind that their members attend voluntarily and most have had enough of working to deadlines and targets. It’s also worth reflecting that when some members of Canterbury Shed (Australia) got fed up with being pushed to make things for sale 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!

Some sales examples: The Eltham Shed makes and sells at Open Days a wide range of garden goods from bird tables through to wall pots to benches because almost all local properties have gardens. Nottingham markets similar products through a garden shed retailer who puts the products on display because it improves his sales. The Athy Shed is renovating and selling old bicycles donated by the Police. Camden Town were commissioned by an author working with autistic children to make educational tools he has devised. Nottingham MiS is averaging £400 pm with garden-related products. Crewe sold £18,000 of goods in the last year.  If you are selling at a local fair/market take a float and remember that you are also there to make contacts, get donations, and find new members. These may be the husbands/neighbours of those passing by so take some 'business cards' and a pen and paper and ensure people can see who your project is for without them having to stop.

Members contributions: The general pattern across Australian Sheds is that members pay both membership dues and weekly attendance subs. Amounts in each case vary but there is always a means devised to support those for whom that would be difficult. Fixing a figure on weekly subs that suits everyone (a lowest common denominator) will dissuadie those who can to pay more. Offering a standing order form (where the member instructs his bank to pay a regular amount to the Shed) could produce more income and if gift-aided might enable you to recover tax paid adding 28% to the total for not much paperwork. In one Shed daily contributions were set by a member's meeting at £1 per person per day but when offered a standing order form the amount donated was over three times the total of daily cash contributions.

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.

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.

Premises Loaned or for nominal Rent

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.

Quite often owners esp. 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. This can result in extensive leases.

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.

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.

Building from new 

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.


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.

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.


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

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. 

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

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!

Following a newspaper article, Brixham MS (Men’s Shed) 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.