THE first bespoke shed in the UK created as an activity base for people living with dementia and their carers has been opened at Whitaker Park in Rawtenstall.

Registered charity Beacon Dementia and Wellbeing invited the then Mayor of Rossendale Councillor Anne Cheetham to perform the opening ceremony.

The shed is the culmination of five years of work by the charity, but trustees said it was only the start of the project and they had even more plans for the space behind The Whitaker Museum and Art Gallery.

Chair of trustees Rachel Yates Hoyle said: “Five years ago we asked people living with dementia what they would like, and the vision and dream for a dementia friendly shed was born.”

Community consultation and creating a space to deliver projects people want is at the heart of Beacon Dementia.

At first the ‘shed’ was an indoor space at Haslingden Community Link, but it had to be cleared away after every session.

Beacon Carers Group relocated to The Whitaker last year and was awarded a National Lottery Community Fund grant of £8,564 to develop the land at the rear of the museum. A further £4,500 grant from the B&Q Foundation, together with money the charity has raised, covered costs of the project.

Now the work is complete, a Head Sheddie has been appointed, veteran Phil Speddy, and he will run sessions on a Tuesday and Friday.

The project is unique because it not only looks to provide what people living with dementia want, it also offers a space to meet the needs of their carers.

Phil said: “I will be looking at people’s individual needs and finding out what their interests are and everything will be tailored.

“Where I find people have similar interests, it is hoped they will want to work together and friendships will be formed.”

Phil cares for his mum who is living with dementia and she lives with his family.

Beacon Dementia is also looking for volunteers to help run the programme and former care home owner Kath Petrie has already joined the team.

She said: “I also have experience of caring for people with learning disabilities living in the community. I love volunteering.”

The new Rossendale Mayor Councillor Andrew Walmsley has selected Beacon Dementia as one of his three main charities to benefit from fundraising activities; outgoing Mayor Councillor Cheetham also presented a donation.

Rachel said: “We will be responding to the needs of those using the shed, on a Tuesday we will have organised groups and on the Friday we will have drop in sessions.

“Outside we have gardening areas and in the shed we have a range of tools for making and repairing items and the space can also be used for arts and crafts activities or the chance to share skills with others.

“We want people living with dementia to mingle with everyone else. It is not a traditional men’s shed, as we already have lots of those in Rossendale, this is something very special and unique.”

For more information about using the shed and volunteering opportunities visit www.beaconrossendale.org.uk or email hello@beaconrossendale.org.uk – Cathrine Smyth Media.