Shed men – building community spirit on Horfield Common
BAB Voices

Building on 6 years of voluntary activity, Horfield Common C.I.C. was set up in December 2015 by the Friends of Horfield Common, Ardagh Toddler Group and Ardagh Bowling and Sports Club as a way in which the groups could formally work together to continue to make improvements to the facilities at The Ardagh for the benefit of the local and wider community.

When the group started refurbishing and setting up a community café on the common a year ago, many people in the community came forward to offer their skills to help set up the facilities. This renovation project provided a space forproved popular with local volunteers from all age groups, but it was noticeable that it had specifically interested and motivated older men in the community to engage with the project, who wouldn’t be interested in becoming regular volunteers, to become and to share their skills - building things that were needed for the renovation of the café, and advising other volunteers about how things could be made, fixed and maintained. Following this activity, Horfield Common C.I.C. identified the potential for a project using the men’s sheds model.   

Men working on a container

Men’s sheds projects provide a space for men (and women) to have the tools and resources needed to work on projects and share skills in a safe, friendly and inclusive venue. The group researched other men’s sheds projects across the world, and identified that having a permanent space for working was key to the success of the project. Having purchased an old shipping container from Gumtree and put in the hard work to transform it into a permanent workshop, the group applied to Bristol Ageing Better’s Community Kick-Start Fund for the tools and facilitation needed to begin running regular sessions.

Sam Thomson joined us at our September BAB Partnership Meeting to talk about the project and the Community Kick-Start Fund:  

“The Kick-Start Fund has been fantastic for us; it has allowed us to test something that we thought there was a need and a demand for. But funding can be difficult, so this has allowed us to actually get the shed and the tools together, and get this group up and going.”

Sam added: “The Shed Men project has supported the development of this derelict space, and has brought different people together to work on different things; it’s been a lovely merging and sharing of skills.” 

Chris, a long-standing volunteer and facilitator for the group joined Sam at the meeting to talk about his experience with project and how it has developed:

 “The people who have come along are people who live locally, people who we see wandering about all the time. Suddenly, they have realised that this is an activity that they are interested in and they have decided to come along. The majority of them have had engineering experience or building trade experience, but have found themselves just at home, usually watching television on their own, and the project has given them a chance to get involved in something where they’re meeting with, and doing things with others. And actually it has built up a small – almost like a local – community of about 25 people, mostly men, but not exclusively.”

The group initially decided to hold the activity every other Tuesday, but it has now been extended to other days, and Chris said that the community nature of the activity has quickly created rapport among people, making it easy for them to facilitate the participation of others in the activity on different days.

At the end of September, the group had scheduled their last Shed Men session, although the group is happy to carry on with the activity beyond the set dates of the project. “People want to continue. There is obviously a need for it – when you are on your own, it can be easy to become quite isolated; there are people who come along and they do a bit of sawing, or a bit of planting, or they are just happy having a cup of tea. They have really built a little community, and the work that they do is excellent”, said Chris.

Sam finished her presentation at the Partnership Meeting saying: “The project has done all the things we were hoping for, it has linked people to a wider group, it means people know each other. We have younger people – volunteers from the edible garden project - popping round to theirs to help do things, changing light bulbs... it has created those links between different communities, which is what being a community organisation is all about.” 

For more information about the project, call Chris on 0117 9426580 or email


Shed Men project Poster

Images kindly provided by Friends of Horfield Common

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