Northampton's men's shed is 'bursting at the seams' - but you might be able to help

Northampton Community Shed has 40 members who work on a variety of projects - but it has now outgrown its workshop in Spencer.
Northampton Community Shed has 40 members who work on a variety of projects - but it has now outgrown its workshop in Spencer.

A burgeoning 'men's shed' that brings people together to build furniture and friendships has become so popular that it needs to move into bigger premises.

Northampton Community Shed, which operates from the Spencer Contact Centre, formed in 2016 with the aim of helping largely retired men to get out of the house and learn new skills.

Members work on a variety of commissions from other organisations.

Members work on a variety of commissions from other organisations.

But now the Gladstone Close-based group is 'bursting at the seams' and it's small workspace is packed on meeting days, without a breakout area for teas and coffees.

Co-founder Martin Price said the 40 members are now hoping a landlord can offer them a 400-square metre hard floor workshop on a long lease so they can expand.

He said: "That can be because someone wants to loan it to us, to give it to us - or even if someone has that amount of land we can build on.

"Some of us think there could be at least six or seven men's sheds in Northampton."

A member at work on a scroll saw.

A member at work on a scroll saw.

The 'shed' has had to turn away new members for the past six months, due to its popularity.

Twice a week, its workshop - complete with a lathe, scroll saw and all manner of other equipment - is used to build and repair useful items.

Often the team are tasked with commissions from other organisations, such as a mobile phone charging unit for the night shelter in St Andrew's road and a potting bench for the students of Kingsthorpe's Beehive College.

Sometimes members help restore broken furniture that has been donated to Spencer Contact Centre and sometimes they can simply work on their own craft items to sell at fairs.

Theresa Leadbetter enjoys a cup of tea at the shed, which is now open to men and women.

Theresa Leadbetter enjoys a cup of tea at the shed, which is now open to men and women.

Though extra space is the main priority for the shed currently, skilled new members will also be needed to help with the expansion.

"We are looking for people who might have been shopkeepers, headmasters," said Martin. "Individuals who are good at organising groups of people.

"We need more people like that to serve on the committee."

Martin says the expansion of the enterprise relies on the 'goodwill of Northampton people' who recognise the value a bigger community shed could have to the town.

Northampton man Dave McLachlan, used to make a living restoring classic cars and building contraptions for BBC's Robot Wars but his woodwork skills left a lot to be desired.

After retiring five years ago he found himself missing his workshop and joined the shed to get out of the house.

"What I wanted was something to help me get away from daytime television," he said.

"It's the most boring thing in the world.

"Whatever wood I used to touch I destroyed - but I'm much better now. I can do wood turning and scroll saw work."

But the shed is not exclusively for men and recently welcomed women into the fold.

Retired employment programme manager Theresa Leadbetter, 60, lives in Wilton near Daventry and joined because she wanted to pursue her upholstery hobby.

"I really enjoy the company to be honest," she said.

"I think, like most of the members here, I spend half of the time just talking. I'm also enjoying learning new skills. This morning I learned to use two types of saw."

Northampton Community Shed meets on Tuesdays and Fridays between 9am and 1pm at the Spencer Contact centre workshop and is open to anyone aged 18 and over.

Anyone who believes they can help with providing extra space - or land - can contact Martin at: mprice@engagementworks.com