Theory into Practice of Compassion (Part 4 and final!)

We start with some theory. In theory, the Velux roof windows in the storage extension at Staithes Shed that we have waited quite a while to install should have gone in easily. In practice we ended up having to reposition roof trusses! Not such an easy job.

However, Brian, Martin and Graham managed to install them finally with social distancing preserved. The windows are more than a metre wide so holding a thing that size kept us apart! 

All that remains to do is flash the sides  to seal them further against Staithes driving rain! They provide wonderful natural light.

It was a very satisfactory job to do and removed two large items from the clean area anticipating opening when we are able.

The two Velux windows were obtained for the princely sum of £80 from Wilf Nobles Building Supplies as damaged stock. A real bargain. 

Youth Justice Pop-Up Shed – a theory put into practice

This was mentioned in the previous blog, but here is a video to view. 

Mine is bigger than yours

When it comes to Covid lockdown woodcraft at home, Shedder Lance certainly beats Shedder Graham hands down.












Novice Graham was most pleased with his bowl with Queen Victoria inset, but just look at Lance’s creation. The dovecot is a copy by Lance of one he made for the Queen and sited at Sandrigham. 

Next week Tuesday 7th – Thursday 9th is SHEDFEST 2020



10:00 – Official Welcome

10:10 – 11:00 | Tales from Wales with Rob Visintainer
Men’s Sheds CYMRU

An entertaining and insightful journey to some of the Men’s Sheds in Wales and how
they are supporting a healthy and happy community of men followed by the opportunity
for Shedders to ask questions.

11:00 – 12:00 | Keep on Turning! with the Blind Wood Turner aka Chris Fisher RPT

The Blind Woodturner Youtube Channel

An inspirational demonstration and conversation with ‘the blind woodturner’ on how being a maker can turn lives around.

12:00- 13:30 | Break for Lunch 13:30 – Welcome Back

13:30 – 14:35 Unlocking the Shed with Charlie Bethel, Rob Visintainer, David Helmers

With Men’s Sheds reopening in Australia, about to open in Ireland and nearing an opening in parts of the United Kingdom, our panel will discuss what is working, what to consider and look at what the short term and long term ‘normal’ might look like for Sheds.  This will be followed by the opportunity for questions from Shedders.

EVENING ZOOM SESSION – limited spaces, pre-booking required

19:00 – Metalworking – Register on Eventbrite

A discussion on Cold and Sheet metal working providing an opportunity for discussion for Shedders, hosted by Mike Jenn and Geoff Allison


10:00 – 10:50 Meet Peter Sefton

Peter is an accomplished craftsman, how did he get where he is, challenges, any funny anecdotes, top tips for Shedders.

10:50 – 11:50 Shed Leadership with Phil Wheatley, Mike Jenn, Ivor Anderson

Phil talks about what he sees as the evolving stages of leadership in Men’s Sheds with a panel discussion and an opportunity to ask questions.

12:00 – 13:30 | Break for Lunch

13:30 – 14:30 Re-engaging with your community

A panel discussion about re-connecting with your communities, looking for income, sustainable revenue, available support followed by the opportunity for Shedders to ask the panel questions.

14:30 – Axminster’s Machine Maintenance with Craig Steele

Axminster YouTube Channel

With workshops potentially opening in the next few months, Craig Steele opens the workshop to talk about machine maintenance as you dust off the sheets!  A perfect opportunity to ask Craig about all those funny noises your machines are making!

EVENING ZOOM SESSION – limited spaces, pre-booking required

19:00 – Carving / Sculpture

Guests talk about their work followed by an open discussion with participants.


10:00 – 11:00 What is a Men’s Shed? with Charlie Bethel, Rob Visintainer,

Kate Gordon, Geoff Alison, Alan Clarke

How do you support and engage men in your communities?  

A presentation and panel discussion on why you should engage with Men’s Sheds

and if you do not have one, how to get one!

11:00 – 12:00 Ronseal Supporting Sheds with Julie Chadwick

Ronseal Website

Julie will talk about Ronseal’s involvement with Men’s Sheds as the partnership enters the second year and particularly looks at a DIY workshop programme as a means to generate income for Sheds.

12:00 – 13:00 Generate income without effort by Roisin Lyons

Easy Fundraising Website

Presentation followed by a Q&A.

13:00 – Plenary Session  

EVENING ZOOM SESSION – limited spaces, pre-booking required

19:00 – Making Musical Instruments

Guests talk about their work followed by an open discussion with participants 

Frome Community and Health Connectors

One of the main drivers of the reduction in emergency ambulance admissions to hospitals was the involvement of individuals in the community. They were community connectors – connecting people into peer support groups to resolve “problems” at grass roots level before they escalate – sometimes into hospital admission or attendance at A& meet local needs and signpost people to relevant.

Jenny Hartnoll had seen from her Harlesden experience  how people were helped by being connected to peer support groups or appropriate agencies. voluntary Community health champions are recognised functionaries in the NHS. They are formally defined as

 “People who with training and support, bring their ability to relate to people and their own life experience to transform health and wellbeing in their communities. Within their families, communities and workplaces they empower and motivate people to get involved in healthy social activities, create groups to meet local needs and signpost people to relevant support and services. . . . .”

Jenny knew these would be important but the intensive training took 9 hours. Jenny defined a two hour training session to “suit local needs” They were called Community Connectors. They did not have a health role but were “human beings who have become socially efficient at deploying their own good nature whether as a friend, neighbour or casual acquaintance.

The range of people so trained in Frome is extremely wide. They are regarded as “beacons of compassion” in the community. Hairdressers, barmen, cafe proprietors, taxi drivers, shopkeepers, pharmacists, police community support officers, estate agents and even school sixth-formers. Plus people engaged in the voluntary sector (including the Shed). It is a role open to anyone who wishes to train. That is compulsory. 

Such Community Connectors are not full time! It can be a part of their day to day work (the barber) but they come across need and pass it back for attention unless they can fix a problem on the spot! The scheme began small and slowly grew. The number I first learned about approaching 2 years ago was 500+.  It has grown to 1200+ now. People have a conversation that uncovers need once or twice a month. 

Jenny Hartnoll and her team have made it possible for almost everyone in the local community to be reached in time of need by “simple word of mouth”.

WHITBY??? the present Alliance members (and others) already do this connecting and the people helped tell others of course. Covid has magnified their services and, of course, people have simply helped their neighbours (“Can I get you shopping?”). 

We do not expect the organisation structure in Whitby will be identical to Frome. However the essence will be the same. Doing with people, not doing to people – help going on that may not even register anywhere. 

Health Connectors was another role Jenny established to support the health side of care. Health Connectors are not healthcare professionals. They are people trained in the techniques of motivational interviewing that grew out of clinical psychology. “Simply put, it is a way of working with people to get them to formulate their goals as clearly as possible and then to take actions that will lead to the achievement of those goals.”

If that sounds technical (!), it is what Sheds see when an agency like Living Well, the Anchorage, Carers Resource etc. and now the new GP Link Workers do. Discuss with clients/patients and  introduce them to activities that they may enjoy belonging to.  It is not a straightforward task as you will understand. It is collaborative work between them and us to help the person if we can.

New community resources are required (or adaptation/extension of existing) to meet needs that are unmet. Doing this is easier when a place is connected. There are many small projects that were established to meet niche needs of sometimes small groups of people.  In Frome they see a need and make it known throughout their network of contacts in organisations. It goes in the local media and parish magazines.

WHITBY?? My mind goes to C7VCA’s Totally Socially project which facilitated local individuals to join a group to start or further develop an initiative themselves. It was not always easy but it was rewarding. In Whitby it was something we worked alongside and one or two Shedders engaged in both the Shed and a TS project.

There are other grass roots examples and Covid has caused many people to roll up their sleeves and do quite unexpected service.

At this point we are one-third of the way through the book. If any of this stirs you, please do ask for more information. I’m happy to lend a copy of the book. 

I believe that – apart from Shedders – there are many in Whitby who would like to do something positive for people in Whitby district. For our community. There is quite a lot of activity going on and it is pleasing (to me and I hope us) that there is the prospect of connecting with others in a common endeavour – to be do gooders and not ashamed of it.



The term Community Development Service is somewhat oxymoron. What sense does it make to turn a community’s development into a service? Doesn’t that imply a division between the community and those who are shaping its development?

Shouldn’t the process of nourishing and developing the vitality of a community be both the responsibility and ambition of its members? Shouldn’t theirs be the directing energy behind any new development? Shouldn’t they be the agents of desirable change?

Jenny Hartnoll and her team at Health Connections Mendip take such issues seriously. Community development is a component of their work but the aim is to facilitate the process through the autonomous activity of those community members who volunteer as community connectors or serve it as health connectors, along with the inspirational efforts of all the other people who set up many varied group activities and concerns which give the town its surrounding area its characteristic vitality.

That vitality derives from the organic manner in which all these different components fit together.”

There we have it for Whitby, I believe. Organisation is essential (aligning things if you like) but command and control is not needed as a normal part of it. It should be in the hands of people though I fear that there has been for many years (not only in Whitby) a spirit of dependency on “them in charge”. Sadly, we then lose the experience of thinking for ourselves and doing for ourselves – and for others of course.

Covid-19 has drawn people together and resurrected random practical acts of kindness, caring and compassion. This we should not wish to lose. Part of Whitby Community Alliance’s role is to represent the voluntary sector in contributing to its continuation. 

Many other groups have the same role from within their remit – the layers of government and authorities, churches an, and faith institutions, clubs and societies, local businesses, schools and medical services and My Neighbours and me.

We have a breathing space to build community development in a different way brought about by coronavirus strangely.

 This is the final paragraph in the Conclusions of The Compassion Project


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