4 October, 2019
An innovative project helping men to develop new interests while also making friends will soon be signing up new members in Blaenavon.
The Coal Shed, which is part of the international Men’s Shed movement, is currently taking shape in an outbuilding at Big Pit and expected to open soon.
The group has been given a £250 donation from Blaenavon Town Council towards the purchase of a set of power tools, including sanders, saws and drills – in readiness for the handymen who will hopefully be passing on some tips to others.
“The men don't necessarily require a skill - just some enthusiasm and perhaps willingness to make the tea or coffee!” said Secretary Andy Hines.
“Our main aim is to tackle social isolation by reaching out to men in the community who have time on their hands because of retirement, illness, unemployment or bereavement - or perhaps just need to get out of the house for an hour or two.”
Along with projects such as woodwork, metalwork, repair and renovation, the Coal Shed is planning spin off activities like metal detecting and amateur radio.
It was set up in partnership with Men’s Sheds Cymru, which provides advice and support to people interested in establishing groups.
Men’s Sheds Cymru South East Wales Development Officer Chris Southern said the choice of Big Pit as a venue was a particularly appropriate. “The mining industry was a male-dominated occupation, as were many of our industrial workforces.
“Many men, particularly those who may have worked most or all of their lives in such industries, find themselves unexcited by the range of social activities commonly offered to older people today,” he added.
“In a Men’s Shed group, men feel more able to curse a little more colourfully and banter with each other a bit more informally. Most importantly, they have the opportunity to get involved in physical, practical projects - they like to ‘do things’, and stand around discussing the best way to solve this or that problem.”
As well as the Town Council funding, the group has also received support from Western Power Distribution (WPD), which provided hand tools, and a new ceiling for and redecoration of the building.
Mayor of Blaenavon Cllr Jac Denley-Jones said she was proud the town was hosting the very first Men’s Shed in Torfaen, and that it was fitting that it was based at the site of one of Blaenavon’s former major employers.
"Men’s Sheds are a great way of combatting loneliness and social isolation,” she added. “There are still men in Blaenavon who would have worked down the pit or had family who worked there. This will give them the opportunity to come and experience the kind of camaraderie and banter that existed, and hopefully also result in them enjoying both a practical and sociable new hobby.”
If you’re interested in joining the Coal Shed, please email firstname.lastname@example.org