How the Share Shed in the UK is Building Community

The Network of Wellbeing with support from the Big Lottery Fund helped launch the Share Shed Totnes in Devon, U.K., this year. It acts as a "library of things," a place where people can borrow tools and other equipment that they need. These are all things that people might not be able to afford or want to buy. Three months on, our organization's director Roger Higman interviewed Share Shed's manager Mark Jeffreys, to find out how things are going. Higman found that people are using the Share Shed Totnes to borrow a wealth of items, including uni-cycles, guitars, and weed trimmers or strimmers. He also discovered that one of the most important things shared is often lovely conversations.

Higman: So Mark, what's the Share Shed about?

Jefferys: For me, the Share Shed is about thinking before you buy. I want people to think, "Could I borrow that instead of buying it? Oh yes. I think the Share Shed might have a long-handled lopper. I'll just look online ... Wow. They've got two and I can even reserve it for next week. What a great project."

Great. And what are your aims?

Our aims are to encourage more sharing in every way possible, so we become a more resourceful and connected community — increasing our membership weekly, and having a constant flow of items coming in and out.

I understand that over 150 items have been donated by the local community for people to borrow at the Share Shed. What's the most popular item for far?

So far it's the strimmer.

And what's the strangest thing that you can borrow?

That's probably the uni-cycle, although the lawn aerators that you strap onto your boots come a close second.

Wow! I might try them myself. You've told me that the Share Shed now has over 70 members. What is the nicest feedback given about the project so far?  

My favorite story is about a guitar, as I'm a guitarist myself. We have a lovely guitar that was borrowed for a week. At the end of the week, the person asked if he could have it a second week, and of course, we said yes. And he borrowed it for a third week. Finally, he returned it and got on so well that he's now going to buy his own. I recommended a few local places he could try, and I also asked if he'd come back and give us a song one day.

That's marvellous. It's great to see the Share Shed making a difference to people's lives. Can you give us any more examples of how it's helped people?

A big part of the Share Shed is about rebuilding community. We have had many wonderful conversations already, with volunteers and passers-by, and I see this as a key element of what the Share Shed provides.

And finally, what are your plans and hopes for the future?

I'm really looking forward to getting a wooden bench, being made by Landworks on the Dartington Estate in Totnes, which will say "Share a Conversation." This will sit outside the Share Shed when we're open, and cups of tea will of course also be available. Further ahead, I'm really keen to move into a bigger space, where we can perhaps offer skill shares, a repair cafe, and a place to collect, sort, and clean the many items we are receiving. And I'm hoping we can inspire others to start their own projects. I think the Share Shed really is "an idea whose time has come."

Watch this video to learn more about the Share Shed:

Header image of the Share Shed courtesy of Network of Wellbeing

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