Tooley’s Boatyard announce Banbury’s first ‘Men’s Shed’ open day

Tooleys Boatyard, Banbury, sharing facilities RVS Man Sheds. From the left, Jo Phillips, RVS Sheds project manager, Barry Richards, Sheds mentor and Steve Kilsby, RVS service manager, in the forge with Matt Armitage, Tooley's director. NNL-160111-145742009

Tooleys Boatyard, Banbury, sharing facilities RVS Man Sheds. From the left, Jo Phillips, RVS Sheds project manager, Barry Richards, Sheds mentor and Steve Kilsby, RVS service manager, in the forge with Matt Armitage, Tooley's director. NNL-160111-145742009

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Many great things have been achieved in the confines of the Great British shed but for those of us without such a space this has remained an itch we cannot scratch.

All that, however, is about to change as Tooley’s Boat Yard in Banbury has signed up to the national Men’s Shed scheme to allow weekend welders and evening engineers the chance to use the yards forge and associated tools under the expert tutelage of proprietor Matt Armitage.

Tooleys Boatyard, Banbury, sharing facilities RVS Man Sheds. Matt Armitage, Tooley's director, welding. NNL-160111-145820009

Tooleys Boatyard, Banbury, sharing facilities RVS Man Sheds. Matt Armitage, Tooley's director, welding. NNL-160111-145820009

The Men’s Shed Association currently has over 330 sheds available across the UK that allow people to share tools, resources and expertise in addition to enabling new skills to be learnt.

Not surprisingly none of these community sheds, however, have a fully functional 18th century forge housed within them so this marks a UK first for the association.

The scheme is supported by the Royal Volunteer Service (RVS) both at a local and national level.

Jo Phillips, national project manager for RVS, said: “We work with local communities to help them set up their own sheds or men sheds to provide a creative space for older people.

“They’re community workshop spaces where you share the tools, share the resources to undertake projects you want to do yourself and or community projects.”

This is also the first Men’s Shed to be set up in Banbury and has been brought to fruition by local RVS organiser Steve Kilsby. He said: “Our aim is to provide support, assistance and services for older people, that’s people over the age of 60.”

With its strong ties to the RVS and the good work they do with the older generation, the Men’s Shed scheme is all encompassing and open to any age group.

The thought of flailing away at hot metal or using esoteric and highly complex machines is both exciting and terrifying so the plan is to always have trained, experienced craftsmen on hand to guide the novice.

Along with Mr Armitage the Men Shed will be aided by other like minded volunteers one of whom is retired mechanical engineer Barry Richards.

He said: “I said I would come down and make sure people aren’t going to chop their fingers off. I’ll be a lead in until people are confident and happy to be using the equipment and to make sure, along with Matt that people are competent in using the machines. “

Tooley’s will be holding a teaser Men’s Shed open day on Saturday November 12 and Saturday December 3 both from 11am.