You are here
Home > Culture > Happy to Chat Bench

Happy to Chat Bench

A tweet sent out by the York Museum Gardens introduced a new feature in their scenic gardens, the ‘Happy to Chat bench’.

The aim is to tackle loneliness and improve the wellbeing of those who visit the gardens. The bench is designed to encourage people to stop for a chat and spend some time with the garden team. This is a particularly good idea in order to promote some positivity and encourage people who may be without company to have a chat.

The post on twitter gained positive feedback which sets the idea off to a good start and gives potential to be a successful project.

Steve Williams, Garden Manager at York Museums Trust answered a few questions to give an insight behind this idea.

What was the idea behind the bench?

“My manager Richard Saward spotted an article on the BBC new website originating from BBC Wales about a lady in Cardiff who was inspired to encourage strangers to chat having watched an elderly man sitting on a bench in a busy city centre park and wondering whether he wanted company. I’ve dropped the link below so you can see the full story.

I thought this was such a great idea and I was really keen to give it a go. Within York Museums Trust there has been a lot of internal focus on wellbeing for staff, and this seemed like a simple way of potentially increasing wellbeing within Museum Gardens for our residents and visitors. Museum Gardens is a beautiful historic botanical garden in the heart of our city and it plays an important part in many people’s lives. This seemed like a way to encourage people to connection.”

Do you think it will be a successful project?

“The Twitter feedback has been overwhelmingly positive so far which is heartening. We are fortunate enough to have a team of Garden Guides working in Museum Gardens, their role is to ensure the Garden is a safe space for all and also to engage with visitors and share their wealth of knowledge about the history of the Gardens and the important historical buildings contained within the boundary walls. Our Guides will be sitting on the bench at times and will also be keeping their eyes out for people sat on the bench who may fancy a chat. I think raising awareness of these sort of projects is key to their success, so I am pleased that York Mix have taken an interest!”

Who is the bench aimed for?

“I think it has a broad appeal. We have so many visitors to our city that it offers a positive way for residents to find out what visitors think of York and share thoughts. It offers an opportunity for people who have recently moved here to make new connections. It provides an opportunity to combat social isolation and loneliness, and an interesting one I read in the original article is that it can also an opportunity to connect for mum’s with babies who haven’t had the chance to speak to an adult all day. I’m sure there may be others I’ve missed. There is an appeal that in some small way it helps strength the sense of community within York which is an essential part of society.”

What would be the best way to describe the bench in order to promote the cause?

“It provides everyone with an opportunity to take a little time out, meet someone new and gain some insight into others experiences of life. People have interesting stories to share and you will meet people you otherwise wouldn’t get the chance to.  It can make a positive difference to people’s lives. Taking 10 minutes to speak to someone might just be the highlight of their day.”

“One of my favourite quotes is by Aldous Huxley, an English writer and philosopher who when asked his thoughts on what would most benefit society said

It’s a little embarrassing that after 45 years of research & study, the best advice I can give people is to be a little kinder to each other.

I feel the ‘happy to chat bench’ movement is aligned with his thoughts.”

Have you had any positive or negative feedback yet, please could you state?

“We only put the sign-up last Friday so it is early days.  As I mentioned earlier the feedback from social media has been positive so I think the idea seems to resonate with people.“

If you are enjoying a walk around the museum gardens, don’t forget to stop by the bench for a chat! This is a great opportunity to help those struggling with loneliness in the community.