Michael honoured but it’s not all about him

A MAN honoured for helping make sure men are not left isolated during the Covid-19 pandemic insists it is not just down to him.

Michael Barlow received a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the New Year’s Honours list after working with The Shed for eight years.

The 76-year-old helps deliver sessions that see people take part in activities like woodwork, with making benches for a local walking group currently on the list.

Michael Barlow BEM with some of the honey produced by some of The Shed’s bees

After setting it up with Age UK in 2013, The Shed established itself as an independent venture in 2017 and now has about 60 people, men and women, who regularly use its base at the Together Centre at Loxley House on Birch Lane, Dukinfield.

But after hearing about the honour in early December – and accepting it – Michael is adamant that while he will receive it, it is the result of plenty of hard work and support from others.

He said: “An honour like this, you don’t earn by yourself.

“I’m supported by five volunteers and another member of staff and you do it together. You can’t earn anything like this on your own.

“The Shed got the honour really, not me.

“I was contacted early in December and asked if I was offered it, would I accept it? I was surprised to be honest.

“It’s very pleasing and a real honour but it was a surprise, you’re doing what you feel you should e doing.

“It’s not a case of doing this to get an honour, that just comes along because I was doing what I thought I should be doing to help people.

“We closed on March 23 until early October because of the pandemic but we made sure we kept in touch with people.

“You never really know why you receive an honour but I’m making the assumption its because of what we did.

“We kept in touch with people. We’d ring round or give them a weekly update with advice on things like health issues, as well as things like recipes, quizzes and jokes.

“In the main, our users are men over 55-years-old and about a third live on their own, in a household of one.

“Normally, we do woodwork mainly, as well as other things like sporting memories, men’s cooking, we have bees, we do a whole range of things.

“The idea being to keep these men socially engaged, physically active and hopefully with a positive outlook.”

Michael admits he is not likely to head down to Buckingham Palace to receive his BEM, with a ceremony in Manchester more likely.

But that is not the end of his work with The Shed which has members from across Tameside.

He still has plans for 2021 and will help more people, who come from a variety of sources.

He added: “We have two types of men essentially, ones who are referred to us from the Hague Ward at Tameside Hospital, from the memory clinic or from the Stroke Association.

“The other type we get is those who just walk through the door. They may have just retired and don’t know what to do with their free time.

“We’re currently working with a walking group which is in the process of drawing up routes and we’re making benches so older members can sit down. We’re working with other community groups too.

“We’ve still been open even though we’re in tier four – we just want to keep our members safe.

“We have a range of protocols in place. We take people’s temperature when they arrive, we have masks, sanitisation stations all over the place and people sanitise their hands when they come in and when they leave.

“Then when we close, someone sanitises all the tools we’ve used and all the light switches.”

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