The Island Town Creative Shop is a space open to all. Located in a dormant building on Paget Square in Enniskillen, as you walk through the door you are greeted with a smile and the offer of a beverage by the Creative Shop co-ordinator Paddy McEneaney. An initiative set up by Big Telly Theatre Company in conjunction with Experience Enniskillen/Enniskillen BID and the Fermanagh Live Arts Festival (FLive), the Creative Shop is a creative social space which has welcomed many different people since opening at the beginning of September.

“It’s very much experimental, you don’t know who’s going to come in the door, you have no idea,” said Paddy, who owns Exit Does Theatre Company and was employed by Big Telly Theatre Company to co-ordinate the Creative Shop.

He continued: “The Creative Shop is for everybody, it is a creative space and I was left to my own devices to go for it so I set up a framework for the first two weeks of events and workshops.”

“We have had a lot of different types of things, we’ve had community arts to your professional artists. It is a space where people can come in and use for creative activities, we’re trying to cater for all age groups. We have a parent and child morning, we work with adults with learning difficulties, it’s constantly evolving,” Paddy added.

Over the last few weeks Paddy has been developing ideas inspired by the people he has met at the Creative Shop and their experiences to create a theatre piece that will be performed during FLive. Gary Crossan from Big Telly is going to be coming down to take over the last week but I’m trying to develop concepts and ideas from the Creative Shop that will create a theatre piece, that’s constantly ongoing,” said Paddy.

Talking about the people who have visited the space, Paddy said: “Generally they enjoy themselves, some come back and some don’t, there’s no huge commitment required, it’s a free space to come in to have a coffee, use the internet, look at the art, read the books and engage.”

During the interview with Paddy, local artist Mark Healy stopped by for a chat, showing the casual, drop-in nature of the space.

As the interview opened up into a conversation with Paddy and Mark, the topic of mental health arose.

“A lot of conversations that have come up here over the last two weeks have been about mental health. That’s something that’s really great about this place, people feel that they can come in and they feel comfortable enough to talk about that here. Four times, at least, different people have spoken about their mental health just in company and quite easily,” shared Paddy.

He continued: “If the arts do nothing else but help people manage their emotional wellbeing, then it serves a purpose. I think amateur drama offers a lot and ticks a lot of them boxes, it has a social aspect and shared goals. Actually a lot of the time the end result isn’t necessarily the most important thing.”

Mark added: “It’s the same in art, you create your recovery. It’s that old saying, you create new events to get away from a bad one. There’s a lot of artists doing art as a form of therapy for themselves as well. I think there’s that element in art always anyway. When you’re coming to this place, a space where you know you can do that kind of talking, I think it’s just wonderful.”

Mark noted that he hadn’t realised how important a creative social space was until Paddy invited him to the Creative Shop: “When I left here the other day I thought, ‘well that’s something that was missing’.”

“I just hope that it could be locked in as a permanent feature, it’s very cool,” he added.