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Withstanding the Push

Jason Campbell. Credit: Ana Novais

The Liberties is well known for its community spirit and banter, from the markets to the pubs and streets. Gentrification in the area in recent years, the process of renovating a community to facilitate a wealthier people, has resulted in many local people leaving and new residents coming into the area. With ongoing problems involving drugs and crime,  some people say there is a decline in the area’s sense of community.

 

This is where the Men’s Sheds come in. Created in 1990s in the Australian outback, the concept quickly spread worldwide. The organisation helps isolated people trying to reintegrate into society. 

 

In 2014, president Michael D. Higgins told the Irish Times that the “return to significant levels of unemployment in Ireland in recent years has brought with it, deep wells of despair and frustration, often leading to a damaging sense of futility and disengagement from society.” The association intervenes directly against this. There are now 475 official Men’s Sheds across the 32 counties of Ireland.

 

One such shed is to be found at the Bridgefoot community garden. Richard Taplin from Bridgefoot Street Men’s Shed told The Liberty that their shed “assisted in opening, maintaining the tools and giving access to the community for the community garden”. Richard told of how the garden allows locals to mix and interact with the new residents and students in the area.  The garden will close imminently as reconstruction of the park has already began. This means the Men’s Shed will need to relocate to a smaller space on School Street. 

 

Andy Wielens, a Liberties local, is a sculpture student in his final year at NCAD who has been working with local community groups on various projects. His final year project entitled “Local Art and Park” sees him collaborate with local community groups and organisations.

“I started working with the probation services in the area, and we’re building a sculpture, so the guys are learning to weld and put things together,” he told The Liberty.

The Bridgefoot Project located on Meath street helps ex-prisoners to adapt back into everyday life with guidance towards re-establishing themselves into society, with a hope that they will turn their backs on crime. Jason Campbell is one such person. Working with Andy, he has reignited his love for welding and is currently doing an advanced course in the trade under the guidance of Brian Arkins from BA Steel in Stoneybatter.

Arkins visits NCAD once a week to pass his skills onto the clients of the Bridgefoot Project. Together they have been working on a horse sculpture made of scrap metal that will feature temporally at the new park once opened. Campbell told reporters from The Liberty, “We been working on the horse sculpture for the last two or three months now, the actual making of it. Andy did all the drawings for the horse.”

With the help of the clients from the Bridgefoot project and members of the Men’s Shed, which Weilens and Campbell are now also members of, they will build a new shed at the back of the Pimlico Community Centre from materials sourced freely from scraps. The new building will act as a shed for Richard and co, and a workshop for local’s DIY needs.

Andy and his team made the four posts from the NCAD workshop that will support the building of the shed, an old corrugated refrigerator roof will be the new roof of the shed. It is expected to be completed by the end of the summer.

The Men’s Shed in the Liberties, led by an enthusiastic Taplin, is part of a rejuvenated sense of community in the area around Bridgefoot Street. Activities range from the Robert Emmet resident’s association to the Men’s Shed to the Oliver Bond Community Art Group and the local family resource centre that have come together to form the management of the new Bridgefoot Park, which will again feature a community garden following completion.

The Men’s Shed, by the way, is open to man, woman and child. Their door is open to all, even though it hasn’t been attached yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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