A possible new location has finally been found for Orkney Mens Shed after a previous decision by Orkney Islands Council meant that this important organisation had to move out of its premises in Finstown.
The building, once the Herring Factory in Stromness, has been lying empty for many years (since 2012) and costing the OIC annual property costs of £36,000. It is looking quite poorly.
It is proposed that three community organisations will be able to lease the building : Orkney Mens Shed, Stromness Drama Club and the Orkney Historical Boat Society. The OIC will be undertaking £35,000 worth of work to bring the building up to the standard necessary for the groups.
Commenting on acquiring the use of the building , Morgan Harcus, from the Orkney Men’s Shed, said:
“At last, we have some good news. There is quite a lot to be done by the Council but we are hopeful to be in before the end of the year. We would like to have our new workshop up and running at the turn of the year.
“So guys time to look out the flat caps, bib and brace/boilersuits and get the chisels and plane irons sharpened ready to go.
“We must thank the Council’s interim Chief Executive John Mundell, Mrs Karen Greaves, Elected Members of the Council, in particular, Councillor James Stockan, and others who helped in any way to get us back in a Shed so that our charity can get back to promoting men’s health and wellbeing.
“The peppercorn rent will also allow us to pass on any surplus funds we do raise to other charities.”
Orkney Men’s Shed was first located in Finstown where they did up premises in Maitland Place and extensively improved that building.
But OIC objected, arguing successfully that vehicle access was dangerous. Although there are other users of that same access point, it was impossible for Orkney Mens Shed to continue there putting at risk the incredibly valuable work they do supporting men’s health and well being – as well as all they do for the community.
The shedders kept going during the pandemic, firstly through virtual meetings, and then at Finstown Community Centre. But, of course, having their own premises makes all the difference.
Two other community groups will be using the building at Garson, Stromness under this proposal. Mike Partridge, from the Stromness Drama Club, said:
“This is very exciting for us as it not only gives us better storage space for our props and materials, a larger area for preparing and making larger scenery items, but also provides a dedicated area for our rehearsals.
“We are hopeful this will make it feasible to start up a youth drama group. We are also looking forward to sharing with the other users and complementing each other within a premises at the heart of the community.”
And The Orkney Historical Boat Society commented:
“OHBS are extremely happy that this community hub is being established in the West Mainland which will enable us to secure much needed storage space and establish facilities to carry out restoration work on some of the significant Orkney heritage boats that have been donated to us since our formation in 2014. We are extremely grateful to a number of people who have allowed us to store our collection in their sheds over the years.
“We will now have premises where we can store significant elements of Orkney’s maritime heritage and establish a dedicated space for restoration work and sharing traditional wooden boat maintenance and restoration techniques.”
The Council’s Head of Executive Support, Karen Greaves, said an earlier attempt to sell the property on the open market had been unsuccessful. She added:
“This is quite a new proposal; a pilot development if you like for a community hub in the West Mainland housing three charitable organisations, all of which provide a wide range of community benefits to the wider community.”
The proposal won the backing of councillors at the Asset Management Sub-committee on Tuesday 5th October.
Councillor Leslie Manson said:
“I am delighted that not only are we divesting ourselves of a building that has been standing empty, but much more importantly we are breathing new life into three very meritorious organisations whose charitable activities undoubtedly contribute to, and have been evidenced to promote, the improvement of health and social wellbeing, cultural heritage and involvement of our young people – this is what Orkney is all about.
“Moving forward, we will consider each case on its merits – there is no doubt in my mind that this request deserves a positive outcome.”