Space to Breathe

Sunday, April 22, 2018

It started with a chat among friends about their struggles with modern life & a purchase of six chickens; now a space of unused countryside in County Antrim has been transformed into a community retreat space that is helping to change lives.

Origin Space, near Ballymoney, is a place where labels melt away. It’s a farm, a co-operative, a garden, a coffee shop hang out… It’s all these things but when you take the drive there and get out of your car it feels so much more. It’s a place to breathe.

Vicky and Kenny Baird from Coleraine, alongside a team of friends, run it.

“It started with us sitting over there on that wall as we were looking at this run down bit of land,” Kenny says as he points across the field where we’re sitting.

“We were struggling with life, feeling burnt out and we thought – how do we fix ourselves or do things differently. We wanted to create something that would help people that felt like us. And so we bought 6 chickens…”

The Origin team haven’t taken any grants. They’ve opted to find creative ways to create the space they dream of.

And today the space is full of life. There are families, road trippers up from Belfast, and local volunteers digging the soil and planting potatoes. They cluster around bowls of soup and cups of coffee and put the world to rights too.

“It’s a space for each of us to come with our different passions and dreams and work that out together,” says Kenny.

Among their team is Lydia, one of their “superstars”, as Kenny puts it.

“She lives in Coleraine and for years struggled with isolation. The first time she came she dug with a wee fork for 10 minutes. The last couples of days she’s been working 9-6, laughing, joking and telling stories she’s never told anyone.

“This place isn’t about mental health, but people come here wanting community and find it.”

Another team member Megan, who seems to divide her time there between passionately digging and hugging chickens, says simply: “Origin is home.

“I was in a place of desperation when I found it. It’s home for all of us.”

Aside from that sense of community the team are also reaching out. They’re connected in with an initiative called Farmbox, where they provide fresh vegetables for people who need that.

The Origin team believe more rural community spaces like this are needed.

They dream of setting up a retreat centre, of creating pods for people to come and stay and be off grid for a while.

“It’s for people who need a refresh, it’s neutral,” says Kenny. “It’s a place of retreat.”

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