Al’s Cafe @ The Red Shed is launched

We are so excited to add a carers café to the services at The Red Shed.

We have teamed up with Al’s Café who were originally based in the older peoples department at the local hospital. When older peoples services were relocated to another hospital, Al’s Cafe found a room at the local fire station. Then, when COVID hit, they became homeless.

The Red Shed Project has always planned to open a café on site and this is the perfect opportunity to provide a place for support, information and a little respite to those who care for people with dementia. We are using the church hall adjacent to our garden but look forward to the summer months where carers can enjoy cake and a cuppa in the sunshine on our patio.

We plan to invite other organisations to come along and provide details of their services so in addition to alleviating feelings of isolation we can ensure carers are well informed and have a tool kit to help them cope.

What The Red Shed Means to us…….

We asked Julie and her Dad to give us some feedback on their experience of coming along to The Red Shed Project and this is what they said……

The Red Shed from my perspective and also from my dad, Roger, is that it’s a sanctuary.

The Red Shed is somewhere we both know we can go to have some ‘time out’ in a safe, happy, friendly environment.  It gives dad time to be useful, do something positive and use up some of his negative energy.  Somewhere to feel like you are making a real contribution with the benefit of talking to other like minded people.  If you enjoy being outside, any amount of gardening, being a little bit physical then this safe haven will help nurture and nourish you and make you smile when you feel only tears and frustration.

From my point of view, I can let off steam, talk, find out really useful information, just lose myself and then share my experiences in a safe environment if I want to.  It actually saves my sanity and restores calm to my turmoil.  To say we love it is an understatement. Su and her volunteers are truly angels and the other members are amazing and lovely to be with.  We actually need more places like The Red Shed so all those people who need help can gain so much from all the health and mental health benefits this activity offers.


Diversity is a word we hear a lot about these days and at The Red Shed it’s something we take very seriously. It’s the understanding that each individual is unique, and recognising their individual differences. These differences can be around things like ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.

Of course it’s easy to tick boxes, ✔ yes we have participants from different ethnic backgrounds, ✔ yes we roughly have a 50:50 split between men and women, ✔ yes we have same sex couples attending our groups – and we can add…..those with learning difficulties, physical disabilities and different age groups to the diversity of folk at The Red Shed.

We have an Equality and Diversity Policy in place so all in all we probably look pretty good on paper when it comes to this issue.

However – is that really enough?

While we have been looking into the subject of diversity and dementia we have spoken to lots of different organisations and found that there is a lot of research going on – which is excellent news. The Red Shed Project has offered itself as a resource to the University of Essex, so maybe we will be a part of some more serious stuff.

In the meantime, we have learned a lot about the importance of language and will be using this to try and ensure that our leaflets, social media, web page ….. and blogs….are inclusive and don’t make assumptions about people. For example, we often talk about memory triggers in the garden and in the years we have worked with people living with dementia we have heard

  • how coriander is a reminder of selling herbs on the streets of Recife in Brazil,
  • growing squashes bought back memories of working in fields of squash or ‘kaddu’ as a child in India
  • collecting rose petals to make perfume for mum.

All very different and diverse memories and each one allowing the participant to enjoy a moment of reminiscence.

Our service is based on the principles of Horticultural Therapy and this includes ensuring that any activity is adapted to the individuals in the groups, so that they are able to engage to their full potential. This is basically going back to the beginning of this blog and understanding that each individual is unique, and recognising their individual differences.

As long as we keep that in the forefront of everything we do, diversity at The Red Shed Project will simply be everyday life……..

Extending the garden

As The Red Shed Project grows in numbers we have needed to extend our garden space to accommodate the accommodate the increase in participants and be ready for more. We have increased the number of regular workshops, so it’s great to have more garden for the groups to maintain. With thanks do our regular donors through Local Giving, Stevenage Borough Council’s HPB Community Development funding and the National Lottery Community Fund

We have extended our patio and added new flower beds. Our participants have lots of ideas about what we can plant and create in this area especially ways to encourage the wildlife to enjoy the space with us.

Happy Birthday!

Today is The Red Shed Projects 3rd Birthday! We have benefited over 100 people who’s lives are affected by dementia, run nearly 300 workshops, grown load’s of veggies and flowers and enjoyed immeasurable amounts of team and biscuits together!! We are so proud that our little garden makes such a big difference and we look forward to continuing the work….

Impact Measurement….

…..What’s the benefit??

With all the time, hard work and funds that go into the daily operation of The Red Shed Project, it is really important to be sure that the what we do is effective and achieves our mission to ‘alleviate isolation and promote wellbeing in people touched by dementia’

We can measure the impact our service by recording various numbers – a quantitative measurement that currently shows a steady increase in participants. We also need to take a qualitative measurement which is normally done through interview, observation and questionnaires. Both measurements are necessary to: – highlight the benefits our participants experience from their time with us. – show funders exactly how their grants and donations are making a difference. – to helps us review what we are doing, to ensure that our work is making a difference.

There are lots of different Impact Measuring tools available, from forms and templates of questions to choosing from a range of faces – 🙂smiley to 🙁glum! However, none of these are very dementia friendly. We needed a way of recording responses that was easy for everyone to engage with, even if your dementia affects your ability to read or your ability to express your feelings or even your capacity for facial recognition.

We have devised a way of using the 5 Ways to Wellbeing as part of the design of our workshops. The 5 Ways have been researched by The New Economics Foundation and is used by lots of organisations including the NHS. The 5 steps are Being Active, Connecting with others, Noticing your surroundings, Giving your time or small acts of kindness and learning. Now, after each session we can record if a participant has experienced any of the 5 Ways and we can do this by observing them if they are unable to articulate themselves.

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A coloured disc can be chosen for each of the 5 Ways and we can then record the results in a pie chart to see how effective the workshops are. The chart below shows that our ‘Lets Get Going’ workshops were particularly effective in getting people connected and learning something new.

So far this has been really useful and a great way to underpin our work. If any other organisations working with people who have dementia would like to give it a go – they are very welcome!

Families, Friends and Fun!

This month we were finally able to open The Red Shed garden gates to our friends and families. It was a great opportunity to show off all our hard work and enjoy the space we’ve created together.

We have wanted to work with younger generations for some time and this was a great introduction to them and us of what can be achieved together.

We are over the moon to be approached by Stevenage Borough Council to look at the possibility of working with them on an intergenerational project next year. The chance to bust some myths about the effects of dementia and to get folk working together on something exciting is….well….very exciting!!

Partnerships, colaborations and Friends.

We have just completed some dementia friendly, croquet sessions at The Red Shed. Our participants were given the opportunity to get together, get active and learn something new. It was great fun and such a boost to everyone’s wellbeing.

The initiative was made possible through our partnership with Active Local – part of Herts Sports Partnership and the generous time of John Noble from the Letchworth Croquet Club. Croquet is a garden sport and we found it to be inclusive and adaptable to peoples abilities – it’s now firmly on the list of activities we can provide at The Red Shed accessible garden.

Part of the success of The Red Shed has been the partnerships and collaborations. We work with Stevenage Borough Council, the Irish Network, AgeUK, Stevenage Rotary, Carers in Herts, local community organisations, Open Art Box, Herts Dementia Network, the local Social Prescribing Team, the Universities of Hertfordshire and Essex…….the list goes on….and the list is varied and diverse.

The last 18 months or so have been challenging for a small organisation like ours and we have come to value our network of contacts and the amazing results that working together can achieve. Not just collaborators and partners but many have become friends of The Red Shed and we truly believe that we can build a more sustainable future with these relationships as a foundation…..oh and a highly trained, keen and competitive croquet team!!

Let’s do Lunch!

Our first event in 2021 – a perfect afternoon of lunch, sunshine and friends.

The most recent lockdown has been lifted and we were finally able to get together. With sunshine, sandwiches and plenty of anti-bac – we were able to enjoy a lovely opportunity for all our Garden Club participants to meet. New friends were made and old friends well met. It was a real antidote to the difficult times everyone has been through in the last year or so.

Everyone’s wellbeing has been affected during the pandemic and many of those who are living with dementia have experienced a decline in both mental and physical health. A fun social event is a great mood lifter – we had lots of requests for more of the same, so fingers crossed for a summer of sunshine….we’re going to be busy!

Caring for carers….

Who carers for Carers – well The Red Shed does. At least for a couple of hours, once a month. Which is a drop in the ocean when you consider the amount of time and support they give to those they care for….but it’s a good start.

From the outset The Red Shed Project has recognised the needs of carers and while they are included in all our Garden Clubs it’s great to be able to offer something just for them.

Following on from our Craft for Carers in August 2019 (check out our blog on 24 July 2019) we have received further funding from Stevenage Community Trust and have now launched our Grow and Care group for Tuesday mornings. It’s a place for carers to meet, chat and share, as well as get involved with some gardening and garden crafts. It’s a safe space where having a moan and getting things off your chest is just as accepted as having a good laugh. Already, participants are sharing ideas and contacts – the value of peer support in incalculable.

We have already nearly reached capacity and it’s not surprising as most carers are really in need of some ‘me time’. Working together is a really good way to get people to talk. It’s also good for your mental wellbeing to be engaged with activities that are meaningful and fun. The whole experience of being in our garden is therapeutic and it’s wonderful to see people leaving a session with a bigger smile and a lighter step.

First week we made up some Kokadoma or Japanese hanging gardens. We have lots more activity plans up our sleeves, including being involved in the design of our garden extension – that will keep everyone busy and eventually an extra space to be still, re-group and feel refreshed.