Following discussions on the Marple Community Hub Facebook page in September 2019, the Marple Website teamed up with Friends of Marple Memorial Park to create the first Marple "Happy to Chat Bench" on Derby Way. This bench, refurbished by Friends of the Park, has been chosen as the first location in Marple because the idea is supported by Wayne Eric Wood, owner of Mr. Chips on Derby Way, and he has said he'll be happy to chat to anyone who sits there and would like to talk.
Creating a "Happy to Chat Bench" is not difficult, it simply involves adding a laminated sign to an existing bench. The real challenge is to shop owners like Wayne and to local people passing by to make the effort to speak to someone sitting on the bench.
So Marple People, it's over to you!
PS - Thank you to HB Printing in the Goyt Mill for donating Correx off-cuts for the signs.
The Marple Website and Friends of the Park will be happy to create a couple more "Happy to Chat Benches" in the town, and of course people can do it themselves too.
We will certainly set one up in Memorial Park.
Where else do you think this idea would work well?
Would you support one outside your shop like Wayne?
The idea of ‘Happy to Chat’ benches seems to have been started by Avon and Somerset Police, who added chat benches in Vivary Park in Taunton and Burnham-On-Sea’s seafront to help tackle loneliness and isolation in the community. They did this by adding signs to benches that read ‘Sit here if you don’t mind someone stopping to say hello’.
Police highlight 17 per cent of older people are in contact with family, friends and neighbours less than once a week. With some people struggling with their mental health, loneliness, abuse or any other issues, the police say people may not always have someone to listen when they need it.
Community Support Officer Tracey Grobbeler said the sign is “used to encourage those using the bench to have a chat with each other– it’s as simple as that! The sign simply helps to break down the invisible, social barriers that exists between strangers who find themselves sharing a common place."
“Simply stopping to say ‘hello’ to someone at the Chat Bench could make a huge difference to the vulnerable people in our communities and help to make life a little better for them.”
Public benches can help improve people’s mental health and social wellbeing as they serve as resting places for those with limited mobility and also combat loneliness and isolation, according to research.
A study by the University of Sheffield found that sitting on benches allows people to spend longer outside, which is beneficial for mental health and connects them with others in their community. This is particularly important for people who find popular social venues like cafes too expensive.
Avon and Somerset Police Commissioner Sue Mountstevens, said "The Chat Bench is a fantastic new initiative that I hope encourages those of all ages to start many more conversations in the future. If you think an elderly friend, neighbour or relative is vulnerable or at risk of loneliness, I encourage you to stop by and say 'hello.' It really could make a huge difference to that person."
The Avon and Somerset Police have come up with five top tips to combat loneliness in society.
1. Smile and chat to your neighbour
2. Help with an event at your child’s school
3. Don’t just pack your food shopping in silence, chat to the cashier
4. Join an event in your community
5. Look up from your phone