Working behind scenes at the TT races

Michael Dunlop  with the freshly-engraved Isle of Man Superbike TT trophy at the Villa Marina prize presentation on Monday evening (iomtt.com)

Michael Dunlop with the freshly-engraved Isle of Man Superbike TT trophy at the Villa Marina prize presentation on Monday evening (iomtt.com)

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The sun has been shining, there’s been an almost unprecedented lack of mist on the mountain and lap records have been tumbling.

For visitors and spectators it’s been an extraordinary TT so far, but behind-the-scenes it’s been very much business as usual for the Manx Disabled Workshop.

The Manx Disabled workshop

The Manx Disabled workshop

Because while the competitors are out on the course, and the fans are enjoying the spectacle from the shadow of a road-side hedge, staff at the workshop work late into the night engraving all the trophies ready for the award winners to take home.

And it’s a process that has gone on behind the scenes for the past 20-odd years.

Workshop manager Peter Hindley said: ‘We have four people involved in engraving the TT awards, including Dave Kershaw who does the engraving itself, and we work all TT week up to 9pm to keep pace.

‘In reality it’s not possible to engrave them all in time. For example, if a race on Wednesday finishes at 6pm, then it’s clearly not possible to engrave everything by 8pm the same night ready for the presentations - so some have to be done retrospectively.’

The Manx Disabled workshop

The Manx Disabled workshop

Though the workshop will be pulling out all the stops this week to get everything done in time, that’s not its only commitment. Other work does not stop.

Summer is a particularly busy time because it’s the height of the sporting season and in addition to the TT trophies it also completes the engraving for other sports awards, not to mention social club awards, awards handed out at the island’s various agricultural shows as well as awards for the Isle of Man College and the Guild.

The workshop has also been broadening its remit in the past year. People may well have noticed a number of their hand made garden benches, on the old railway line trail at Union Mills and helpfully displayed outside the island branch of B&Q. Staff recently branched out into candle-making, and the next project on the agenda is a picture framing service about to be launched.

In the past year the total number of staff employed at the workshop has grown from four to 26 and there are more who could be taken on if space and resources permitted.

The Manx Disabled workshop

The Manx Disabled workshop

Barry Whittle, who is 61, joined the workshop recently. He is diabetic and lost toes as a result. For various reasons he was unable to return to normal employment.

‘It’s a really fantastic place to work,’ he said. Previously I was working as a health care assistant at the hospital, so this is a complete change. My age and disability mean I would not easily get a job otherwise. I look forward to coming into work.’

Matt Callin, who is 19 and lives in Onchan, joined the workshop three months ago and has helped out in a variety of roles.

‘I’ve learned new practical skills and worked in different roles and it has made me a lot more confident than I used to be,’ he said.

The Manx Disabled workshop

The Manx Disabled workshop

Steve Marsh, who is 45, was medically discharged from the army. He was directed to the Disabled Workshop via the Jobcentre and is now an apprentice carpenter. He said: ‘I’m hoping to expand into a research and development role, to produce new products.’

Peter said: ‘There are people sitting at home who, through no fault of their own, have limited chance of getting a job.

‘The workshop should be providing them with training in a supported environment. Instead, they could be paid for working in here. We have 26 people here at the moment, but we could realistically have 80 to 100 and we could get a lot of people each year back into mainstream employment.’

The Manx Disabled workshop

The Manx Disabled workshop

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