The first ‘Happy to Chat’ bench was officially unveiled in The Dell park near Chepstow castle today, Tuesday 12th July. The benches are being introduced by Monmouthshire County Council as part of its campaign to end loneliness, and are a simple way of signalling to others that you’re happy to connect with a conversation or even just a smile.
Each bench will have a ‘Happy to Chat’ plaque designed by a pupil from Chepstow School. This follows a competition launched by the council in February 2020. A month later, Rohan’s design was chosen from hundreds of fantastic designs submitted by the pupils. However, before the plaque could be installed, the pandemic arrived and with it, social distancing. Now, the ‘Happy to Chat’ project can finally be launched to help bring people together again.
Chair of Monmouthshire County Council, Cllr. Laura Wright presented Rohan, 13, with a gift voucher and a framed copy of the winning design at the ceremony. Year 6 pupils from the Dell Primary School watched the unveiling and read poems they had found that celebrate the importance of a simple park bench.
Cllr. Laura Wright, said: “These benches are now more important than ever before, with loneliness that so many experienced during the pandemic still a real factor in people’s lives. We know that loneliness and social isolation can have a huge effect on people’s physical and mental health, and can be experienced by us all, at any age and stage of life.
“It is important that we take all the steps we can to help people come together and connect with one another in big and small ways. So often the foundation of social connection begins with a simple chat.”
Cllr. Catherine Fookes, Monmouthshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Equalities and Engagement added: “The benches are a fantastic idea. Twelve more will be installed at locations across the county initially, but this is something that we hope to expand upon. In the period September to November 2021, when lockdown restrictions had ended, as many as 3.3million people across the UK still said that they would describe themselves as ‘chronically lonely’. This is deeply concerning and something that we must continue to seek to address. Getting people to talk, to break down barriers is an important first step.”Tags: chair, Chepstow, loneliness, mayor, Monmouthshire, The Dell