Burgess Hill Shed’s plans for another workshop to increase membership and activities
Burgess Hill Shed (BHS) has been helping men and women share interests and skills – and be creative through craft activities – while helping combat social isolation and loneliness for four years.
The charity’s well-equipped workshop is based at The Burnside Centre in Victoria Road, Burgess Hill
Members can undertake a wide range of craft projects including woodwork and metal work at the centre from 9.30am to 3pm every Tuesday and Wednesday.
And due to increased demand, it intends to extend open times to five days a week.
While modelled on the worldwide Men’s Shed movement – aimed primarily at helping retired men – BHS has always been an inclusive organisation for anyone and it currently has men and women of different age groups and backgrounds.
Eric Palmer, charity trustee, said: “The values that our members have adopted over the past four years in working together are openness and transparency, a ‘can do’ attitude, inclusiveness and camaraderie a sustainable way of working connected to community needs, working towards a cleaner and greener place to live and reconnecting to our town’s heritage and history through arts, crafts and innovation.”
BHS has a growing membership of more than 60 people from an area ten miles around Burgess Hill.
Members are all volunteers who directly benefit from the charity and at the same time give up their time to create the spaces and resources needed to provide the service.
“So far our members have contributed a volunteer equivalent value of over £300k,” said Eric, adding: “This being the investment that would otherwise have been required from councils and the local community to provide similar benefits.”
But while the project has achieved much success, it is not yet entirely self-sufficient, Eric said.
“The target for this is a membership of more than 100 people and at least ten sessions each week.
“Unfortunately, the potential for BHS to increase membership further and enhance the mission is currently limited by the premises.
“This is because the current workshop has limited space and is mostly used for wood and metalwork, and under its current lease arrangements, open times are limited to just six hours per day, three days each week.
“Overall, these limitations prevent many employed people and others interested in different craft activities, from using BHS facilities.”
To reach this target, BHS is working on creating another craft workshop in The Kiln to provide facilities and resources for a wider range of crafts and allow evenings and weekend sessions depending on demand.
“While BHS is kick-starting this project, we want The Kiln to be led and owned by the community and all stakeholders to be engaged throughout delivery,” said Eric.
“The Kiln will enable us to develop long-term relationships with the public, local groups and organisations, and we want them to collaborate, provide sponsorship and investment, and participate in delivering benefits.
“Together with participation and high levels of voluntary contributions by the community we can make this project work for the benefit of all.
“Simply, the more we put into our community the stronger and better it will become.”
The Kiln is a development of the BHS project involving the use of additional, larger and more flexible premises that would enable growth in membership and activities, and thereby further the charity’s mission.
The project will create a new community centre with a strong focus on arts, crafts and the maker movement, and will provide greater opportunities and inspiration for people to enjoy and learn from practical and meaningful activity.
It will provide activities for all ages including those in education, beginning their careers, in work and retired.
And it will also provide community groups with access to open space and resources to promote health and well-being, and enable collaboration on other community projects.
Initially, the project is primarily being funded from BHS reserves, Eric said, supported by a small grant for some building works provided by Burgess Hill Town Council.
The project is also being supported by developer NewRiver through a favourable lease.
Eric said: “While The Kiln project is challenging, it resonates with the latest government thinking on community involvement and is similar in principle to many developments in other places.
“Communities that take the lead and contribute to local projects in this way are often helped through significant grants and other forms of support.
“Therefore, once the viability of The Kiln concept is established, we can expect funding organisations to be forthcoming in providing substantial grants and support to provide a sustainable future.”