Every man needs a shed!

Written by Annisa Shirzada

A North Belfast project is using lottery funding to help local men come together and talk – shoulder to shoulder in a shed.

The North Belfast Partnership’s Rejuvenate programme is using a grant of £480,303 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Connecting Older People’s programme to support isolated older men living in north Belfast to come together through a community SHED programme.

Shed members Bill Johnston and Martin Courtney working in the Shed
Shed members Bill Johnston and Martin Courtney working in the Shed

This project was launched on the 21st of October 2013 in the North City Business Centre on Duncairn Gardens, despite the lashing rain it was joined and celebrated by a great crowd armed with their umbrellas and hosted by local comedian Tim McGarry.

The shed includes a workshop for the men’s woodwork and the fantastic hand-made pieces were displayed at the launch. The Shed also includes an area for further activities such as arts and crafts.

Geraldine Nelson, Development worker said the men have gained various skills from the project including wood work, arts and crafts, ICT, digital photography, copperwork, picture mounting and much more.

And the men all agreed the most valued place was the tea table which highlights the most important aspect of the shed for men – companionship.

Geraldine, added: “I love standing back watching the men drinking their tea and eating their biscuits, sharing experiences and stories, and chatting about everyday life.”

This sums up the essence of the men’s shed project. The appreciation from the men was apparent in their speeches at the launch; the crowd laughed as hard as the rain fell outside as the men themselves almost outshined Tim McGarry. Many of the men spoke of the hardships they faced such as illness or losing a partner and as described by one of the ‘shedders’ Bill: “the shed for many filled a void in their life.”

Others felt as if: “the shed has given me purpose, I now have somewhere to go and to look forward to.”

Left to Right, John McCorry CEO North Belfast Partnership,  John Johnston Shed member, Tim McGarry, Michelle Cherry Big Lottery Fund, Tom Robinson shed member.
Left to Right, John McCorry CEO North Belfast Partnership, John Johnston Shed member, Tim McGarry, Michelle Cherry Big Lottery Fund, Tom Robinson shed member.

The oldest member of the shedders but not at heart, Tom Robinson, 83, told how the project has impacted his life. Tom has led a fantastic life – he was a carpenter but his true passion is dancing.

When Tom received the newsletter about the project he decided to go along and has never looked back. He now can leave the house and use his skills to teach woodwork to other members. He also feels as if he has finally got his ‘dancing feet’ back!

The North Belfast’s Men’s Shed has been a huge success and is already making remarkable progress. But this is only the first year out of the three which will be funded.

Geraldine described the aspirations of the project for the future; they wish to encourage more members to join and to continue to produce and distribute their newsletter three times a year to 22,000 households over North Belfast. However, the most rewarding result from this project would have to be if after the funding has came to its end, that the North Belfast Men’s Shed could be a self-sustained programme.

The men would be able to provide for themselves and their shed. This project is truly admirable; it demonstrates the vitality of men working shoulder to shoulder on projects of their choosing.

This project also highlights the difference that a Big Lottery Fund grant can make. The project would not have been possible without the funding. The men would probably still be in isolation as they would not have been enabled to come so far and never even had met each other or built such life changing companionships. The Big Lottery Fund gives worth-while causes the chance to come alive and helps change the community for the better.

North Belfast Men’s Shed is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays from 10am – 3pm. The Shed is for men aged 55 or over living in North Belfast. For more information about the North Belfast Shed contact Alexey Janes or Geraldine Nelson on 028 9075 2990 or alexey@nthbp.com or geraldine@nthbp.com

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