‘Happy to talk’ plaques have been placed on benches in four of Cheshire East’s parks following a suggestion by a local resident of how we can ‘all reach out to those in need’.
Plaques have been placed on existing benches in Macclesfield’s West Park and South Park, Queens Park, in Crewe, and Sandbach Park, and read:
HAPPY TO TALK BENCH
Sit here and chat,
Make new friends,
Make today a good day
The idea was brought to Cheshire East Council’s parks team by Sutton resident Debbie Coppack, who is a regular visitor of both West Park and South Park.
Debbie said: “I was in the park one day and bumped into a lady. She told me that the only reason she came to the park was to talk to people and that if she didn’t, she wouldn’t get to speak to anyone.
“It really struck me just how lonely some people can be, and how powerful a quick chat can be to someone.
“It really can make all the difference to their day, and I wanted to be able to do something positive to help people and encourage more conversations.”
It is hoped the plaques will act as a conversation starter and give people sitting on one of the benches a prompt ‘to reach out’.
Debbie, who is a carer, added: “Human interaction is really important, and loneliness can lead to serious mental and physical health issues.
“But sometimes people don’t know how to reach out to ask for help, or likewise to reach out to offer support.
“I really hope these benches will act as the little ‘nudge’ that some people might need.”
Debbie said she is pleased to have already heard stories of the benches being used as ‘conversation starters’ – as early as a few days after the plaques were installed.
Councillor Mick Warren, chair of Cheshire East Council’s environment and communities committee, said: “Social interaction is so important, and the benefits should not be underestimated.
“I think the plaques are a fantastic way of encouraging conversations and helping to reduce social isolation, and I would like to thank Debbie for bringing this idea to us.
“I hope that people will see the plaques and be encouraged to reach out – small acts can have such a big impact.”
The council’s Live Well website Live Well Cheshire East provides more information and signposting to services to help reduce social isolation.