A Carrickfergus man has told of how he discovered a new creative and social outlet thanks to the Men’s Shed movement.
Fred Berry, 73, has been attending one of the schemes in north Belfast for the past year.
According to the UK Men’s Shed Association, the initiative essentially provides “a larger version of the typical man’s shed in the garden – a place where he feels at home and pursues practical interests with a high degree of autonomy”.
The association’s website adds: “A Men’s Shed offers this to a group of such men where members share the tools and resources they need to work on projects of their own choosing at their own pace and in a safe, friendly and inclusive venue.
“They are places of skill-sharing and informal learning, of individual pursuits and community projects, of purpose, achievement and social interaction.”
Although popular with older men and retirees, Men’s Sheds are open to all ages and, despite the name, some are also attended by women.
Fred’s involvement with the movement came after he experienced a period of ill health 18 months ago.
“I had a stint put in and I was suffering from depression and stress,” said the Victoria area resident.
“The hospital referred me to a psychologist who then recommended Men’s Shed.”
He was initially put in touch with a Men’s Shed initiative based in Antrim, before discovering the scheme in Duncairn Gardens, north Belfast, which he still attends on a weekly basis.
The initiative is co-ordinated by the North Belfast Partnership and funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s ‘Reaching Out Connecting Older People’ programme.
As is typical of many Men’s Sheds across the UK, a number of creative pursuits are catered for.
“They have sections for painting, copperwork and woodwork; there are computers there to use if you want to research your ancestry, for example,” Fred added.
“There’s a garden section as well.”
One of the most popular activities at the North Belfast Men’s Shed is woodturning, with a number of lathes provided.
“You can make bowls, pens, things like that,” added Fred. “It’s very relaxing.
“Sometimes you’ll come in and none of the lathes will be free. But they have tea and coffee and you can have a chat while you wait.”
And with Men’s Sheds popping up all over the province, there appears to be strong support for bringing the initiative to Carrickfergus.
Responding to a Facebook post by East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs, social media users praised the “brilliant work” of the organisation, with many noting a Carrickfergus Men’s Shed would be a “great idea”.