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Gloucestershire Business News

'Chatty benches' aim to get people talking

Visitors to Eastgate and King's Square in Gloucester are being invited to take a seat and have a chat as part of a new project aimed as combating loneliness and reducing social isolation.

The 'chatty benches' scheme is a joint initiative between King's Walk, Eastgate and Swindon & Gloucestershire Mind.

Each bench features a sign which identifies it as a 'chatty bench' and says: "A small connection can have a huge impact on someone's day. Take a seat and have a chat."

Jason Robinson, senior destination manager for Eastgate and King's Walk shopping centres, said: "It's a really simple idea but it's proven to be an incredibly effective way to get people talking.

"By sitting on the benches people are saying they're happy to chat with whoever comes and sits next to them. It is a fantastic opportunity to increase face-to-face interaction, spark up new conversations and make lasting friendships.

"It's still relatively early days but we are already seeing them used quite a bit. Looking after our mental health and wellbeing is so important and it only takes one short conversation to make a huge positive difference to somebody's day.

"Often people may feel reluctant to just strike up a conversation cold, that's why the 'chatty benches' are so useful because they provide a place where people can have some social interaction."

Created in 2018, Swindon and Gloucestershire Mind is an independent registered charity affiliated to the national mental health charity.

Ieuan Edwards, director of Swindon and Gloucestershire Mind, said: "At Swindon and Gloucestershire Mind, people believe in the power of social connecting as it is shown to give positive influence on our health, including a positive impact on our mental health, life expectancy and wellbeing.

"We're pleased that we can have a 'chatty bench' in the heart of Gloucester to encourage social connections and a sense of belonging in our local neighbourhood.

"Being able to connect with others can help us feel closer to other people and feel valued for who we are, so give it a go and speak to someone new on our 'chatty bench."

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