AN AUSTRALIAN import is helping men reconnect – over a shared love of woodwork and crafts.

Now a global phenomenon, Men’s Shed started Down Under in 1998 and made the jump to the UK in 2009. Swindon’s “shed” is now one of almost 500 across the country.

Kevin Prosser runs the Swindon “shed”, called Renew, which is based in Cheney Manor.

In the 18-months since the group launched in the town, Kevin says it’s helped dozens of isolated men.

He said: “Men don’t want to sit and chat about a problem. They want to be doing something. We provide a space for them to be themselves.

“If you give them back a purpose, you give them back their life.”

The Swindon shed welcomes men of any age and also runs classes aimed at women.

However, many of those who regularly attend sessions at the facility, which moved from Old Town to Cheney Manor, are older men.

And the project helps tackle loneliness - a growing problem in Swindon, as it is across the country.

Last year, a survey of people who accessed council or NHS social care services suggested that more than half felt lonely and had not had as much contact with the people they liked.

Of 410 social care users surveyed, 240 said they felt lonely, according to Public Health England estimates.

“Renew gives men the opportunity, particularly if they’re retired, to learn new skills or share their skills they’ve developed over the years,” said Kevin.

“If they’re retired, they can lose their identity. If you’ve been a machine operator or carpenter all your life it’s who you are. Your identity is wrapped up in those things.

“Once those things are taken away you can lose your identity. This gives you the opportunity to share those skills against and meet with other guys so you’re not isolated.”

Participants can do everything from repairing wooden furniture to making dog tags and 3D printing.

Kevin says a focus for the project is also ensuring old skills like woodworking are kept alive for a new generation.

“Years ago, people used to turn their hands to anything,” he said. My father would be able to do anything that was needed.

“Along the way we’ve lost contact with that. We’re helping people reconnect with it. So, a younger person might join the Shed and benefit.”

He added that Renew was looking for volunteers, as well as new storage space.

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