While you are in the planning stages of your Men’s Shed it may be easier to meet in a local community space, such as a village hall bowling club, or community centre. Especially if you are still trying to generate interest, sign up members or form a solid committee. These spaces can often be used for free so are a great starting point for those who have little or no start-up funds.
However, you may likely get to a stage where you need a permanent space to start activities and store your equipment. It is important to think about how many Shedders you are likely to attract, how long you would like to stay in the premises and what is available locally.
Here are a few examples of things to consider:
- Is it easily accessible by public transport? Is there parking?
- Are there kitchen facilities for tea breaks and washing up?
- Does it have accessible toilet facilities?
- Is it wheelchair friendly?
- Is the building structurally safe? Are there any risks?
- Can we store our equipment?
A good starting point is to get out into your community and do some research:
- Contact other community groups for advice, they may know of local spaces available for use. There may be potential to share some space with another group.
- Check your local public authority webpages or contact them via email for lists of empty or ‘surplus’ properties/assets in your area, or properties they are unable to market (e.g. council, police, health service).
- Make connections with private landlords in your area (e.g. owners of factories or industrial units).
- Talk to local housing associations who often have a large portfolio of properties
The important thing is to make good connections and get yourself known in your local area- you might be surprised at how many people want to support your initiative.
There are a number of options to consider for your premises, some useful examples are also shown in Box 2:
Hiring/using a room- this is less permanent but is good for the planning stages of your shed. For example, a community centre or village hall could be hired at an hourly rate or even for free. However, you may not be able to bring in or store any electrical tools or materials.
It is good to keep an open mind about premises. Here are some examples of creative ways to use space:
- Hire a Scout Hut when not in use by the Scouts.
- Set up storage containers in a waste recycling centre and upcycle materials on site.
- Set up a Shed in a community allotment and contribute to building planters and fencing.
- Use a school woodwork department out of hours.
Sheds are also known to rent out their own premises to other community groups to use as an income stream. Visiting other Sheds may give you great inspiration.
Renting a commercial/ private property
Private landlords may be keen to support a community initiative so can often offer reduced rates, or shared use of a space. Sheds have been known to negotiate lower rental rates if they do some renovation of the building for the private landlord. However, costs for private rental from letting agents can sometimes be high, so this might only be a feasible option if you have a steady income stream.
Buying a property
This is probably the most expensive option but there can be grants available to support the purchase of a building by a community group if you do your research.
Build your own shed- if you can find a suitable plot of land to build a Shed, are able to raise the funds and have access to the skills and knowledge required this could be a viable option. However, this can be a very ambitious task and can involve a lot of planning and paperwork.
You might also want to think about your plans for the future of your premises- would you want to have a long or short-term lease, or would you want to have full ownership? Who will be in charge of the maintenance of the building? Might your financial situation change in the future that could affect your ability to make rental payments?
There is help available to support you while you work out the best solution for your Shed, and this is covered in more detail on in the Part 2 premises section of the toolkit. There are also links to various organisations that offer free help to support you in acquiring premises- these can be found in the resources section at the back of this toolkit.