A PIONEERING Llanrwst community scheme which has given a new lease of life to a man left severely disabled by a stroke has had its official opening.
Bryan Jones, who lives in the town, was working as a mobile phone network engineer when he was hit by a stroke and brain haemorrhage six years ago.
Bryan, now 68, was left paralysed down the left hand side of his body and confined to a wheelchair which he says affected his self-confidence and severely restricted his ability to leave the house.
But things took a massive turn for the better when he helped found the Llanrwst Men’s Shed, a regular meeting place offering a range of new interests and companionship started with strong support from the Cartrefi Conwy housing association.
And the shed’s new workshop, which was built by its own members behind the Golygfa Gwydyr community centre, has now had its fanfare official opening.
The basic idea for the sheds was born in Australia in the late 1990s to help some men overcome a traditional reluctance to socialise and discuss their feelings and well-being.
The idea has gradually been spreading across the UK and there are now six men’s sheds in North Wales.
Cartrefi Conwy community engagement officer Megan Taylor Rose explained that the housing association had been a strong supporter of the Llanrwst Men’s Shed since it was started back in January.
She said: “A number of men from the area, including Bryan, came up with the idea of starting their own shed in the area.
“Basically, it provides companionship and somewhere to meet for men who wouldn’t normally go out much due to one reason or another and can prove very beneficial to them.
“Having already supported a similar and highly successful project in Colwyn Bay, Cartrefi Conwy agreed to help at Llanrwst.
“Through the Conwy Big Community Voice scheme, which is funded by the National Lottery, we are paying for the hire of Golygfa Gwydyr on behalf of the shed.
“Shed members, who range in age from their seventies to their twenties, now meet there a couple of times a week and use a large communal room for activities like arts and craft and IT.
“But the most exciting part of the scheme is that the members themselves have designed and built a wooden shed, where they can do things like carpentry, in the back yard of the community centre.
“One of our partner organisations, Jewson, who has a branch in Mochdre, , kindly agreed to supply all the wood and paving for the project and hundreds of pounds worth of tools were donated by a lady from Llanrwst.
“They had belonged to her late husband and she was about to throw them all into a skip when she heard about the new shed.”
The Llanrwst shed now has nine members. They have their regular meeting each Thursday from 10.30am to 12.30pm but also come in at other times of the week for activities such as the art class which is held on a Monday.
Bryan Jones said: “It’s been a real lifeline for me because after I had my stroke everything changed for me.
“From having a job which meant I was out and about all the time, my mobility was very much restricted by being in a wheelchair.
“I’d go out on shopping trips with my wife Hazel but that was pretty much it.
“I then heard about the men’s shed idea and myself and a few friends decided to try to start one in Llanwrst.
“Finding the right premise was the main problem but thanks to the great support we’ve had from Cartrefi Conwy we now have a base at Golygfa Gwydyr.
“Coming to the shed has really helped build up my self-confidence and during the construction phase my role was electrical consultant.
“I’ve still got the use of my right hand so I’ve also had a go at the artistic side of things by doing a water colour painting of a parrot.
“We’re now doing our own fundraising for more equipment and are aiming to build up the membership.”
The shed’s youngest member is 29-year-old David Jones of Llanrwst who also said the scheme had helped turn around his life.
“I had been working as a forestry manager in the area until I started suffering from depression and anxiety and had to give up the job,” he said.
“I’d also recently moved to the area and hardly knew anyone, so the two things together meant I was lacking in confidence and didn’t go out much.
“I was one of the first to join the shed early this year and I’m glad I did because it’s been a real godsend to me.
“Building the shed itself from scratch was also fantastic because, from the other guys, I learned a lot of skills – like how to saw properly – that men of my age wouldn’t normally know these days.”
After cutting the blue ribbon to officially open the shed, Rosie Evans, chairman of the Golygfa Gwydyr community group, said: “It’s absolutely fantastic to see what has been done here and it’s the perfect demonstration of what can be achieved by working together.
“The shed is a very worthwhile community project which has also brought back into use part of the site which wasn’t really being used.
“I’m very grateful to Cartrefi Conwy and Jewson for all the support they have given to the project.”
Gwynne Jones, Director of Operations for Cartrefi Conwy, said: “I’m very pleased that Cartrefi Conwy has been able to support this great community venture.
“The shed has literally been built on to what was already a successful community centre and brought a whole new dimension to it.
“It is helping a group of men who wouldn’t normally consider taking part in other activities.
“I am also pleased that Jewson provided the materials for building the shed.
“We work closely with our contractors to ensure we can both contribute towards the local community, and in this case Jewson were ideally placed to help.”
Amanda Williams, Contracts Manager for Jewson at the dedicated Cartrefi Conwy branch of Jewson in Mochdre, , who was at the official opening, said: “We were happy to help this very worthwhile project by supplying all the wood and paving slabs needed to build the shed
“Supporting the communities we work in has always been very important to us as a business.”
“Working alongside local people in projects such as this can really help a community thrive, and it’s something we’re proud to be doing.”
“The shed members have done a fantastic job and I’m sure it will go from strength to strength.”
Brian Hall, chairman of the Colwyn Bay Shed which was officially opened with the help of Cartrefi Conwy last June, was on hand to see the ribbon cut at Llanrwst.
He said: “The men’s shed movement is now creating its own momentum and our own now has over 70 members.
“I’m very impressed with what the men here in Llanrwst have managed to achieve in such a relatively short time.”