The Action Mental Health (AMH) Men’s Shed Art project has involved men aged 60-plus from all walks of life who have come together in a series of workshops to create work which draws on their memories and represents their lives.
Each shed worked with an artist or facilitator and AMH staff to develop their own art project.
In Antrim the men explored themes using screen printing and the creation of memory boxes and the formation of the Men’s Shed music group!
The project was funded as part of the wider Arts and Older People programme, an initiative by The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, supported by their partners DCAL, The Baring Foundation and Public Health Agency which aims to engage older people in the arts giving them region-wide platform and a voice.
Men’s Shed Arts has provided a new opportunity for interaction and creative expression for participants, helping to alleviate feelings of isolation and improving their sense of well-being. The wider Arts and Older People programme also aims to challenge perceptions of what it means to be an older person in today’s society.
To date, over 9,000 older people have participated in almost 100 creative arts projects funded through the Arts & Older People programme. Through activities ranging from singing to circus skills taking place across Northern Ireland, the programme has delivered a wide range of creative outcomes.
Promoting positive health and wellbeing as well as addressing the issue of social exclusion amongst older men, Men’s Shed is a place for men to meet and discuss issues, share skills and explore new interests. The bond that unites them is the time they have on their hands and their desire to do something meaningful to do with that time.
Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “Engagement in the arts is one way to reduce the very real issue of isolation of older people in our communities.
“Not only does participation provide a platform to express identity and explore new talents, it also offers a way to meet people and have new experiences. It offers a voice for older people.”
The Men’s Shed Arts project culminates with a public exhibition of artwork and performances of music played by the men at Duncairn Cultural Arts Centre, Belfast on Friday, April 29, one of many events that are part of the Arts & Age Festival, a month long series of events which celebrate the participation of older people in the arts and showcase the wider achievements of the three-year Arts and Older People’s programme.
Eoin McAnuff, Project Co-ordinator at AMH Men’s Shed, said: “The men have seen great benefit from taking part in the project and the artwork they have produced is testament to that.
“From the creation of spectacular artworks to the performing of songs from their youth, each man has approached the project with remarkable energy and commitment. We have witnessed first hand the social and well being benefits of them engaging in this arts project.”