Town centre seats become a real conversation starter


Wednesday, 28 July, 2021

Epsom gets its first ‘happy to chat’ benches

As we approach World Friendship Day (Friday 30 July), the council has designated four of the new seats in the Market Place ‘Happy to Chat benches’.

Happy to Chat benches encourage people to either simply say hello or have a conversation. The initiative is spreading throughout the country, encouraging people to talk to each other and help to prevent social isolation, which has become more prominent during the pandemic.

Councillor Alex Coley, Chair of the Council’s Community and Wellbeing Committee, said “It’s not just because of Covid, some people feel alone, isolated and anxious on a daily basis. Simply stopping to say hello to someone at the bench could make a real difference in the community and make someone’s life that little bit better.”

Joining Councillor Coley and Councillor Neil Dallen (Chair Environment and Safe Communities Committee) to introduce the Happy to Chat benches were a number of local organisations who were keen to support the initiative.

Sue Bull, Trustee, from the local mental health charity, Love Me Love My Mind said, “'The past 16 months have challenged the mental health and well-being of many people around the world. Loneliness, anxiety and depression have almost become commonplace. At Love Me Love My Mind we are committed to help build a community where all are welcome. And so we are very happy to be supporting the Happy to Chat benches and look forward to continuing the conversations at this year's Epsom Mental Health and Well-Being Festival, where the theme will be 'We are all in this together''.

Dr Jane Williams, Chair of Churches Together in Epsom said, “We live in a world where people cry out ‘help, no-one is listening to me’. When people are listened to, they feel respected, valued, loved, significant, empowered, helped and affirmed. Listening is healing, being hospitable, an opportunity to connect, a form of prayer. Churches Together in Epsom very much supports this community project and looks forward to using the Happy to Chat Benches to actively engage with the community”.

Dorah May Hancock, Chief Officer, Age Concern Epsom & Ewell said, "Friendships are very important to all of us here at Age Concern Epsom & Ewell. We have been helping our older community to form lasting friendships for nearly 75 years, through the many services that we provide, such as our befriending service”.  Befriending client June Page added, "A smile goes a long way, especially on World Friendship Day!"

Nina Kaye from the Epsom Refugee Network said, “Epsom & Ewell Refugee Network support refugees and asylum seekers in the Epsom and Ewell area, helping them to integrate into the community and lead independent lives. It would be wonderful for them to have the opportunity to meet people and feel part of a friendly community”.

Those who choose to sit on the bench will be signalling to others that they are up for a chat or are willing to listen to and engage with others in their community.

For information on the charities (links open in new windows):

Love Me Love My Mind:

Age Concern Epsom & Ewell:

Churches Together in Epsom:

Epsom Refugee Network: