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What does 'repair' mean to you?

Repair Cafe East Linton talks to Joan Bell of The Shed (@ The Mart, East Linton) about community, the changing of values between generations and the importance of 'repair, reuse, recycle'.

Can you tell us a bit about the history of The Shed? When and why did it begin and how did you become involved?

The Men's Shed movement all started in Australia around 1978 when a group of men got together to improve their social lives and share their experiences. This became very successful and the idea built up around the world as local organisations provided venues for craftwork, recycling and social interaction.

I became involved through our Ground Force team when a meeting was set up by Strive in 2018/19 to see what interest there may be in East Linton. At first we got support from a Strive representative and a member of the management team at The Mart who had a cabin we could use. At the first meeting there were three men and three women and it soon became clear that the men wanted to do things and not be involved with the organisation of The Men's Shed, hence we changed the name to just The Shed so anybody could join! I seemed to be the regular there every week hence took on the role of organising it. Through a community event at the Hall in East Linton we managed to recruit a further two men who have worked tirelessly since.

Where is The Shed based? Can you describe the location?

The Shed's cabin is based within the grounds of The Mart next to the large polytunnel. The Mart has an expanding community of producers of food, 3-D imaging, fitness, guitar-making, leather work and more recently glass blowing. Every week a new cabin seems to arrive so apologies if I have missed anyone out. We all communicate via WhatsApp so there is a lot of camaraderie between us. The folk at the shop and post office are also very helpful and I have got to know the staff there quite well.

Who volunteers and what kinds of things do they do?

Anyone can volunteer to be part of the group although because we tend to meet on a Thursday between 2-4 pm it's usually older people or those who are flexible in their working hours. Of course it also depends on the weather as we have no heating in The Shed yet! The volunteers will tackle almost anything from bird tables, bird boxes, repairing benches, planters, up-cycling old bar stools, assembling and painting other sheds on site, repairing lawn mowers.

We have approached the Primary School Parent's Association to see if children would like to be involved with planting seeds in our raised beds and were it not for Covid-19 we would have started last April.

Why do you think The Shed is important for the community?

I believe The Shed is a vital community organisation for people to meet, socialise and feel rewarded by making and up-cycling things. You do not have to be expert at all; just come along and feel welcome. Some men prefer to work in their own sheds or garages as they have their own tools there, which is fine so long as you keep in touch with us and show us what you have been doing.

Why do you think it's important for people to repair, reuse, recycle?

I remember rationing back in the early 1950's and how food was still quite scarce and that mothers taught their daughters how to knit, sew, garden and not waste anything. Clothes were handed down to younger siblings (unless you were a twin like me when we would take turn-about to have a new item). All this has stuck with me and saving money was also important - "If you cannot afford it, you cannot have it" was a mantra drilled into us. So with this background and the accelerating onset of climate change I am so thankful I have maintained this philosophy. Today's society has all been about consumerism and not considering the costs to the environment or the air miles that are travelled. We all have smartphones, TVs, go out for meals, take quite a few short break holidays abroad but hopefully with Covid-19 and all the emphasis now on climate change, attitudes will begin to change - like Repair Cafes, up-cycling and re-using, 'staycations' and much more.

And what do you have to say to anyone thinking of getting involved and volunteering at The Shed?

Come and see us and try it for yourself. We work closely with the Ground Force team so if you like gardening (and weeding!) there is always plenty to do as this team also work around the village on various borders. We had a very successful produce of tomatoes, beans, beetroot, sweetcorn, lettuces, radishes last year in the polytunnel and the men helped us in creating benches, setting up a watering system and redoing the flooring.

We don't set out to make a profit but do have a stall at The Mart now and then to sell some of our wares. Partly to get better known and partly to buy items we may need for The Shed and Ground Force as we have no other income at present. People have been generous in gifting us tools, items to be repaired or up-cycled, plants and compost for which we are most grateful.

To get involved with The Shed, you can email Joan:

Joan Bell - "At The Shed you can mend, destroy, create. Plus, you can socialise with your favourite like-minded people!"

Frank and Barry

Wendy house

Up-cycled stools

Up-cycled chest

Lavender bags for sale

Table made by Shedder

Frank's bench

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1 Comment

Jul 04, 2023

I bought some beautiful, healthy plants from Joan Bell at the Papple Open day on Saturday. It was the first time I had heard of The Men’s Shed. What a great idea! I’ll certainly go down to visit them at East Linton Mart.

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