Camden shed offer pensioners a manly refuge from loneliness

The garden shed has been man’s traditional hiding place from the outside world - but one Camden hut is providing a different kind of refuge for older men in need of companionship.

Perched above Maiden Lane Community Centre’s graffiti-emblazoned banner, the Camden Town Shed will be officially opened by Camden Council’s mayor today (Thursday, November 17).

The visit marks the social project’s success in tackling loneliness among elderly men.

Based on the Australian Men’s Shed Association, award-winning social entrepreneur Mike Jenn has sought to address the issue by appealing to his generation’s work ethic and need for a sense of purpose.

Mr Jenn, 65, said: “Almost 90 per cent of community centre users are women because they like a good natter and feel comfortable just chatting, whereas blokes need to be doing something – it’s a pride thing.

“Guys of our generation have an expectation of self-reliance, that kind of ‘We can look after ourselves, fend for ourselves and we don’t need to get together with other people just to chat’.

“But if you are doing something together then it might happen naturally.

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“Once people get to the end of working life they lose several things at the same time.

“The obvious one is you lose your money, but you also lose your purpose and we identify ourselves by what we do for a living.

“When you meet people you don’t just say I’m a parent, so you lose your main rational.”

Started in June, the over 55s club in St Paul’s Crescent, Camden Town is one of just a handful in the country.

It has grown from a fledgling group of three to 12 regulars working on everything from an intricate archery targets to repairing garden rakes.

Businesses across Camden have donated unwanted tools and machinery and Mr Jenn and others comb the borough for stray wood and materials which can be recycled.

The workshop itself is built from scrap roof timber and an old work bench donated by a widower.

Unlike its Australian counterpart, the Camden Shed has also opened its doors to women.

Carole Nolan, from Chalk Farm, has been involved in the voluntary sector over five decades and is using the workshop to repair an old rake.

The 72-year-old said: “I think the difference between men and women is that we can chat easily and I think that goes back several generations.

“The men provided the money and that was it, whereas women would fill their lives with a number of things.

“Men and women had very distinct roles, which is not the case anymore and it’s a problem that hopefully younger generations won’t face.”

Camden Town Shed is open between 10am and 4pm on Tuesday for men-only sessions and also holds a mixed workshop on Wednesdays at the same time.

For more information call Mr Jenn on 07757 024 749.