In May this year, I said goodbye to Lavender Shed. Since then, we haven’t made much progress in erecting its replacement, Ryan’s new workshop. Now that the weather is cooling down we will pick up that project again, but it means that it will almost certainly be next year before we can remove Seagrass Shed and erect my greenhouse/shed hybrid.

So it is with a certain amount of envy that I have been looking at the pictures of the winning entries in the Cuprinol Shed of the Year Competition. As ever, some of the entries are phenomenal, and I am in awe of our nation’s creative talents. The overall winner this year is Bux End, a hobbit-inspired masterpiece that is designed to blend in with its environment and will be used as a hobby workshop for the making of armour and chainmail. 

“We are massive The Lord of the Rings fans so when we decided to build our own shed we knew it had to be a hobbit hole. It had to fit in with the wildlife and nature that we have cultivated in the rest of our garden, so the grass roof was a big feature. Whenever we got any seeds for wildflowers, we have just thrown them over the top of the shed, and they have thrived.”

Shed owner Chris Hield, via New Atlas
UNSA’s Space Shed, ready for liftoff

But wonderous as Bux End is, I am more excited by the winner of the ‘Unique’ category – the Space Shed. In 2010, writer and theatre director Jon Spooner accidentally set up his own space agency in his garden shed. He started the Unlimited Space Agency (UNSA) as a fun way to tell stories about science to children. UNSA’s early projects won some awards, people began to take UNSA seriously, and Jon discovered that he really enjoyed wearing his spacesuit.

In 2017, Jon and his team of artists and designers decided that the best way to inspire the next generation of scientists and space explorers would be to build a mobile replica of UNSA Headquarters and take it on tour.

At first glance, the Space Shed doesn’t look that special. But when it “powers on”, it comes to life – unfolding to become a self-contained stage with fully integrated sound and lighting. 

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved sheds. When I was growing up, I had a little workbench where I would write stories or make and paint models. So to be recognised as Shed of the Year in the Unique category is, honestly, a dream come true.

I’m very lucky to work with such a wonderful team of artists, technicians, producers and designers without whom this would all still just be a dream. Who knows, maybe our next mission can be to get the Space Shed actually into space!”

UNSA Director of Human Spaceflight, Jon Spooner
The Space Shed in orbit

As UNSA’s Director of Human Spaceflight, Jon now takes the Space Shed on missions to major festivals such as Latitude and Bluedot. Some of the UK’s leading space scientists – including space doctor and television presenter Dr Kevin Fong, lead engineer on the European Space Agency’s next mission to Mars Abbie Hutty, and the UK Space Agency’s International Director Dr Alice Bunn – have stopped by to talk about space. Tim Peake is UNSA’s patron, and took Jon with him to the ISS! UNSA is now releasing some of these interviews as a family-friendly podcast series: Live From The Space Shed.  

Inspired by the Apollo Moon Landings and the iconic Earthrise image, UNSA’s mission this year has been to help young people work out what they can do to help save the planet. The Space Shed’s next launches will take place at New Scientist Live from 10-13 October 2019. TV legend Konnie Huq and Apollo 15 astronaut Alfred Worden will be among the guests stopping by to chat.

Space experts visit the Space Shed

The Space Shed is an Unlimited Theatre project.