Fabrica Men in Sheds: Creatively Minded Men report

Our very own UOK Brighton & Hove partner Fabrica’s mental health programme “Men in Sheds” has been featured in Baring Foundation’s new national report.

Below is an extract highlighting the Men in Sheds programme. The full report can be found here-

BF_Creatively-Minded-and-Men_final-low-res.pdf (baringfoundation.org.uk)


Initially developed in Australia, Men’s Sheds were established as a bespoke, focused solution to resolving many social issues that they were seeing with isolated men, mental health and suicide rates amongst men. Whilst the spread of Men’s Sheds has predominantly been seen across English speaking countries such as New Zealand, Canada, Ireland and the UK, many more Sheds are now being seen in Japan, Spain, Latvia and many other places.

The concept is simple and is basically about providing a safe space for men to make stuff. This works on many levels and we often use this analogy:

“If you put twelve men in a room and ask them to talk about their feelings, six will leave and the other six will try to find the corners of the room. If, however, you put a broken lawnmower in the room and ask the same twelve men to fix it; after two hours they will know each other very well indeed, what ails them, how they take their tea, the names of their children and you might even get a fixed lawnmower.”

The concept is that men will talk shoulder to shoulder, where they might shrink away from talking face to face about what is worrying them.

This non-invasive approach has some remarkable results and research has shown huge declines in loneliness, anxiety and depression after people have joined a Shed and 39% of Sheds believe they may have saved a Shedder from dying by suicide.

Many join a Shed to work on their own projects in isolation; 97% will say that they have made new friends since joining a Shed.

Many Shedders say that just talking is the form of support they appreciate most about attending; however, many Sheds consider how they support members’ wellbeing and have taken action. For example, some make mental health first aid courses or suicide awareness training available; some have a member appointed as a welfare officer (or pastoral worker, health & wellbeing lead, ‘health buddy’, etc), or host talks on health-related issues.

Members of our shed say that they find talking and company the best support. 2023 UKMSA Health & Wellbeing Survey We have a welfare officer as part of the committee whose job is to contact any Shedders who we have not seen recently and to offer any support needed.

“It is not just the community that is making an impact, however; the act of turning a piece of wood, making a bird box, or carving a frieze for a church not only provides a distraction from their challenges in life but also provides great self-esteem and satisfaction in creating. Those who engage in community projects also find it rewarding to help others.”

2023 UKMSA Health & Wellbeing Survey

The range of activities vary from fixing furniture and wood turning to 3D printing and painting. Sheds provide a space for people to flourish and allow their creativity to express itself in many different forms. Sheds are also led by their members’ interests, whether that is ceramics, painting or making musical instruments; they are creating flourishing communities. Whilst Sheds have common characteristics, they all differ and have a level of autonomy that allows them to decide their direction and future.

Many Sheds in the UK include women; we, however, keep the Men in our title to champion men’s health and we believe this is important in marketing to men to recruit them.

The need for gender specific shed sessions are so important as it encourages a safe environment for both men and women; it is about the availability of opportunity and choice.

Domestic abuse is often raised as a reason why some men choose to only attend a men-only session, and the same has been said by some women; others say that it is so they can be themselves. We are acutely aware of the power of these sessions and that equally others thrive in sessions that are mixed.

There is a need to support men’s health and to be part of the solution of improving wellbeing and saving lives cannot have a price put upon it.The lessons from our work in supporting men are:

  • To actively promote activities for men; z create safe environments for them;
  • Provide a meaningful purpose, and a space for them to grow and gain confidence.

Many attendees of Sheds will go on to engage and volunteer in other groups. With over 1,100 Men’s Sheds across the United Kingdom, we believe that the Men’s Shed movement is transforming lives. Sheds are not the only solution to increasing male engagement in creativity for mental health, but it is certainly a model worth looking at.

Home | Men’s Sheds Association | UKMSA (menssheds.org.uk)