Irish Men’s Sheds Association, funded by Healthy Ireland, teamed up with us on a national project themed ‘House of Memory’ for six months this year. The aim was to explore how Sheds could support their communities in grief. Whether this was by creating a physical place to take grief and loss within their community, or to have a location for help with processing grief, or to remember someone.
Sheds occupy unique places in Irish communities, where Men in Sheds support each other ‘shoulder to shoulder’, including exploring grief and loss. This is why our two organisations joined forces to invite Sheds to use their skills and experience as ‘makers’ to explore and express grief and loss. However, prior to the pandemic, circa 10,000 Men were visiting a Shed in Ireland every week. The impact of the two-year lockdown on the Shed network were significant, particularly in relation to health and wellbeing, along with returning attendance.
Our hope was this project would encourage Sheds back into their workshops, connecting and creating throughout the autumn and winter months. Our ambition from a health and well-being perspective was to support Shedders as they returned to ‘Shed Life’ step by step, to foster recovery and re-engagement, and to ensure the most vulnerable and isolated in the Shed communities were not left behind.
As a model and inspiration for this project we used ‘House of Memory’ that was created as part of the Galway Arts Festival in 2021. Thousands of people came to see it and left messages and momentos. We invited and supported Sheds to design their own individual ‘House of Memory’ as a place to take grief and loss. We encouraged them to be as unique as their Shed and members, big or small, depending on what each Shed could develop and manage.
It might be displayed at the Shed itself or somewhere in the local community, it might be shrine-like, or a very practical invitation to share personal memories and messages. Somewhere where it’s okay to be sad. Somewhere where we might speak, or sing, or write, or draw, what we have never said before. Somewhere where we might leave a message that no-one else understands. A place for addressing the dying that gets in the way of living. Perhaps a place for letting things go? Perhaps a place where life can grow back around grief?
You can discover more about two extraordinary resulting projects made by ordinary people below. While these projects are about ‘loss’, they are also about celebrating life, lives and the simplicity and complexity of connecting with others as human beings, and in the words of mathematician Alan Turing:
The Lismore Post Box was born from a desire to pay tribute to Joe Tobin, former Chair of The Men’s Shed in Lismore and well-known postman, who had died recently.
The Men’s Shed in Raphoe created a Memory Tree as a fixed point within their workshop to share personal memories and messages as tributes to loved ones who have died.
About Irish Men’s Sheds Association
The Irish Men’s Sheds Association was formed in 2011. Having first started in 2009, the men’s sheds movement had its birth in Tipperary where the first men’s shed was formed. The shed movement has grown rapidly, there are now 400 Sheds in 26 counties, 36 emerging Sheds and 56 Sheds registered in Northern Ireland. Latest figures estimate at least 11,000 men visit a Men’s Shed every week. Sheds are places of belonging, mutual respect, companionship and company. Despite a wide range of activities and focus the one thing all Sheds have in common is ‘connection’ (and perhaps a kettle!). Currently Ireland has the highest number of Sheds per capita of any country in the world. More: www.menssheds.ie