Ireland boasts one of top ‘shedder’ movements worldwide, AGM hears

Men in their 50s feel most comfortable in their sheds, with 2,000 “shedders” taking regular solace in their back gardens.

Ireland now boasts one of the strongest shed movements in the northern hemisphere and can lead by example, the AGM of the Irish Men’s Sheds Association heard at the weekend.

Fittingly, the 260 representatives (70% of whom are aged over 50) of sheds, north and south, held their conference in sheds in Killarney, Co Kerry.

The problem now, members were told, was controlling the explosion of interest in the community-based organisation. “The number of sheds is staggering and the most challenging thing now is managing the growth,” said CEO John Evoy. One new shed was seeking to register each week, but “the shed ethos” had to be maintained he stressed: “It’s quite simple. It’s about a place where a few fellas can come together in their own time. We need to keep it simple.”

Sheds were open to all men, regardless of background and there was “no assessment of participants”.

Draft research carried out by the Netwell Centre in Dundalk found the shed concept has engaged men in a way other services had not.

“Men have not traditionally gathered together to meet in groups,” said Dr Lucia Carragher.

Men, aged 50 and over, experienced many changes from retirement to ageing to isolation to unemployment and community-based sheds provide an important space for men going through those changes, said Dr Carragher.

The study found men who met in sheds did so regularly, half were qualified tradesmen, but a high number were also from professional and managerial background. Nearly 70% were in good health and about one third had experienced isolation at some point in the past five years.

The shed was the place where they felt at home. They enjoyed the social aspect and made good friends. A minority saw the shed as a place where they might find paid work. Importantly, sheds were where men got access to health information.

Tea and coffee making facilities were essential and the shed was the perfect learning environment for men with technical trades top of the list of subjects along with computer skills, horticulture and leadership. About 86% of men said they were eager to learn more “in their shed”.

“They prefer hands-on learning in the shed,” said Dr Carragher.

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