Carrickfergus Men's Shed a hub for creative pursuits

A community group offering a social and creative outlet for men is going from strength to strength in its new base.

Carrickfergus Men’s Shed runs five days a week at the Carrick and District Pigeon Club premises on Shaftesbury Drive.

The not-for-profit organisation offers a place to meet as well as the opportunity to take part in practical activities and regular outings.

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The local branch was founded in 2016 by Carrick man Fred Berry, who had previously attended a Shed group in north Belfast.

The Shed was initially based at the premises of Carrickfergus Community Forum in the town centre.

However, the committee remained on the lookout for premises that could accommodate members’ interests.

“We were able to have our meetings at the Community Forum, but it wasn’t suitable for anything like woodworking or even our art classes,” said Fred, who chairs the group.

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“We have about 37 members in total, mostly of retirement age. Some days there might be 20 here, other days it might only be half a dozen, but we are open to all men over the age of 18.”

In 2018, the Shed secured a five-year lease at Carrickfergus & District Pigeon Club, moving into the building the following year following an extensive refurbishment.

The new base provides an abundance of workshop space, accommodating activities such as woodturning and pyrography (woodburning).

On-site kitchen facilities allow the group to provide a weekly meal for members, while art classes are on offer every Tuesday.

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The Men’s Shed also holds an allotment at Eden to cater for those interested in honing their gardening skills.

Past outings have ranged from a boat trip at The Gobbins cliff path to Armagh Planetarium, while the Shed also hosts talks on topics such as first aid and fire safety.

The group’s activities are possible mainly due to funding from various sources, including the Big Lottery Fund, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, and Peace IV.

It has also benefited from donations of equipment, such as lathes and other woodworking tools.

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Speaking at the Men’s Shed base recently, a number of members shared their positive experiences of getting involved with the organisation.

“I started coming here six weeks ago and I’ve found it very beneficial,” said Eddie McClean, who was referred to the organisation by a healthcare worker.

“It gets me out of the house and meeting people.

“I like that you can come down and work on something, or you can just come down for a cup of tea and a chat.”

Mark Hall, who has attended the Shed since its foundation, discovered a talent for pyrography and woodworking through the group’s regular activities. “I make bird tables, bird feeders and things like that. It’s really good for my concentration. It’s very therapeutic,” he said.

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The men’s woodworking skills were also put to good use in creating a ‘buddy bench’ for Sunnylands Primary School as part of an initiative to tackle bullying and loneliness.

The group is currently welcoming further orders for similar benches, or indeed any other woodworking projects.

Other creative pursuits involving the community included building go-karts with young people from the YMCA, while in a separate project, Shed members created an intricate model of the town for Carrickfergus Museum.

Carrickfergus Men’s Shed is open from Monday to Friday, 10am to 1pm, with tea, coffee and biscuits available for visitors.

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Anyone interested in joining the group is welcome to come along or get in touch via the group’s Facebook page.

The Shed will also be holding a sale of various items, such as bird feeders and planters at the De Courcy Centre from Monday, March 30.

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