Sheds Without Borders, Belfast 2016, Conference Summary, Barry Golding

  • Belfast,  Irish Men’s Sheds Association (IMSA) Celebration, 22 Oct 2016

Sheds Without Borders, Adjunct Professor Barry Golding, Federation University Australia and AMSA Patron

Notes made as a Critical Friend of the Conference
* external links to resources, presenters and presentation topics in bold

The notes below summarise, from Barry Golding’s perspective, most of the key points and quotes coming out of the one day Belfast Conference. It was attended by around 400 participants, mostly shedders from across the island of Ireland but including representatives from elsewhere in the UK including Scotland and Wales, Australia, Sweden, Canada and Kenya.

The atmosphere was exceptionally positive. The program was, appropriately, centred on the participants as shedders. The iconic and beautiful venue, the Belfast City Hall provided a grand backdrop. As someone said early on this was ‘a grand Shed’.

The atmosphere, enthusiasm and grand setting reminded me very much of the 2007 Manly, Australia Australia Conference, at a similar relatively early stage of development of the Movement and the national Association. While perhaps 95 per cent of the participants were men, women were made overtly welcome, and were recognised for their critical support for and encouragement of the Movement globally

Mairead Lavery, Event MC provided a really important role through her skilled and understanding MCing of the event. Mairead not only carefully welcome and introduced everybody but pulled out key points after each person presented.

The professionalism of the organisation was evident. It all ran to time, there were no hitches and the choice of presenters and sequencing worked very well. The work of Barry Sheridan and his small IMSA  team and Board , particularly buttressed by the unflappable Eva Beire  made the event an enjoyable and inspirational celebratory event.

The participants showed particular appreciation by applause, in the case of Shane Martin’s exceptional and inspirational talk by a standing ovation. The Flowerdale Men’s Shed Choir and the MC were also afforded this great sign of appreciation.

All in all, a fine day and event that will greatly consolidate and extend the already remarkable achievement of IMSA working across borders, across the whole Island of Ireland and internationally. All shedders as well as international guests, including myself, experienced an incredible welcome and huge support for getting there and actively participating. Well done to IMSA!


Helen McEntee, Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Northern Ireland

Men face many challenges, particularly the stigma associated with mental health and ageing.

We now know we all have ‘mental health’ but we have no firm idea about how it impacts on us. And we are reluctant to talk about mental health as well as ageing.

We know the population is ageing, and we know people are living longer.

We know men don’t open up as readily and this impacts on their mental health.

I applaud the work you are doing. You, the shedders are the people who are doing this work. You have something quite different here.

Men’s sheds are about making sure social isolation does not go too far. We will work with Barry Sheridan and IMSA, since the work is valuable. This is SO important.

Barry Sheridan IMSA CEO

What we are doing is worthwhile and of benefit to the community.

This is historic day, largest Men’s Shed gathering in the world this year.

Thank you to all IMSA founders and sponsors.

Where did it all begin? Only five years ago in Ireland, today 350 sheds. 89 sheds opened in the past 12 months, now largest men’s network in Ireland. No other organisation like it.

Huge organic growth. Places for men to go and gather. Places we can all find friendship and belonging.

Same welcome and evidence of same ethos anywhere in the world.

Working towards sustainability of Mens Sheds across Ireland, to support sheds and their communities.

We have three staff for 350. We need more resources to support your sheds.

50 sheds in Northern Ireland which huge, down to the work of Groundworks and Public Health agency (HSC).

The support for Sheds is critically important. These are documented in *Barry Sheridan’s PowerPoint.

The first national health and wellbeing program for IMSA is being rolled out.

*See IMSA future, strategic plan 2017-2020.

*IMSA Video
Barry Golding, Keynote Address, see * *Belfast Conference blog
Shane Martin, Your precious life: how to live it well.

The things that matter most are the things we do least about.

You only live this life once. Everyone in this world is entitled to the best possible life

Many people are just a passenger on the train of life.

What four things matter:


People only worry about both when they lose them.

I’m more interested (as a psychologist) in the people who don’t come to me than the people who do. There have been very few studies of such people.

3. MONEY? Can take your health away if you don’t have enough, but once you have enough happiness is unrelated to wealth.


Happier people live longer

Three realities:
1. We are all vulnerable
2. We will all face challenges or crises
3. We underestimate our potential to cope with crisis.

Several tips:

The way we think colours our mood.

The clinical benefits of kind acts
Putting our own problems in a better context.
Don’t self blame or over analyse

Helplessness is when you give reasons for not succeeding
Failures are temporary setbacks

There is an epidemic of loneliness
As you grow older you need more people in your lives
Be social, stay social, keep friends

Count your blessings

Learn from the past but move on

Do more of the things you enjoy doing




* Moodwatchers web site has the PowerPoint slides see

Click to access SLIDES.pdf

Very simple things lie at the heart of the things we crave.

Shane received a standing ovation. This presentation was for most shedders, a highlight of the Conference .

Brian Kingston, Lord Mayor Belfast


We are now making up for lost time for what happened here until recently in Belfast.

Tourism levels in Belfast are at record levels.

We want Belfast to be a caring and compassionate city.

Men’s Sheds have grown in Belfast, we work with them in partnerships and with community outreach teams.

This Movement is still in the early stages and commend you on your part.


Involving group exercises.

Launch of the IMSA partnership with the Irish Farmers Journal, Mairead Lavery.


Operates as a legal trust, to promote the wellbeing of farmers across Ireland.

Providing one page a week to the Men’s Sheds. Available both in print and online.

247,000 weekly readers.

Providing an opportunity for Men’s Sheds to contribute a page.

Darren Ryan, CEO Social Entrepreneurs Ireland

Great to see how far the Men’s Shed Movement has come.

Social entrepreneur is someone who sees the problems and challenges, but who sets about changing that, transforming the way we solve problems.

People closest to the problems are the best people to do things and bring about change.

Examples, eg SEIL Bleu, working with food waste to ensure it goes to social charities, men’s sheds.

What excites me is how we can use this Men’s Shed network to spread great ideas and spread rapidly. Lots of potential for social antrepreneurs.
Official launch of ‘Sheds for Life’, IMSAs new health and wellbeing initiative. Dr Noel Richardson, Carlow IT and Edel Byrne, Program Coordinator IMSA.

Noel Richardson:

National Men’s Health Policy (NMHP) Context

2009 Dept of Health, 2009, p.61, ‘through positive and therapeutic informal activities Men’s sheds, achieve outcomes of positive health, happiness and wellbeing’

This is not about making men’s sheds health centres.

A lot of this is about addressing disconnection and isolation.

No surprise there has been an upshoot of Mens Sheds across Ireland

Some research was done by Lefkowich and Richardson 2016.

Sheds involve solidarity, camararaderie, confidentiality and compassion

Edel Byrne:

Referred to Lucia Carragher’s research from 2013, see:

Fitness, gardens, cooking, health checks, upskilling in life skills all part of the value of Men’s Sheds.

‘Sheds for life’ gives choice to Sheds and shedders to seek support for their physical and mental wellbeing

Emphasis on staying well.
See* on AMSA website.

‘Spanner in the Works’ to be adapted for IMSA website, Men’s Health resource in every shed, calendar of events, support, advice.

Not about what to do but what CAN be done.

David Helmers AMSA and Barry Sheridan IMSA

Spoke about an insurance plan option, group scheme, via AMSA, pro rata per shedders.

Insurer has approved it as a global policy, including product, public liability, personal injury, directors insurance.

An alternative insurance policy for sheds.

Panel discussion

Involving John Evoy, Barry Golding, David Helmers, Lucia Carragher, Bill Lockhart with questions via Mairaid

No notes taken by Barry Golding.

Photography Competion Results announced

Presentation to George Kelly for valued Chairmanship of IMSA, by Barry Golding

Flowerdale Men’s Shed choir, from Australia

Received a standing ovation.


Author: barrygoanna

Honorary Professor, Federation University Australia: researcher in men's learning through community contexts, author of 'Men learning through life' 2014) book (NIACE, UK), 'The Men's Shed Movement: The Company of Men' (2015) & 'Shoulder to Shoulder: Broadening the Men's Shed Movement' (2021) books, both published Common Ground Publishing, US.

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