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Special benches to get town chatting again

Special benches to get town chatting again

Tuesday 19 November 2019

Special benches to get town chatting again


A local community worker is pioneering a project to earmark benches dotted around town as special spots where strangers can strike up conversations, in the hopes it will combat loneliness.

Kevin Proctor is leading the ‘talking benches’ project in the hopes that it will fill St. Helier’s streets with chatter once again.

It follows the recent passing of Richard Mears who made it his mission to pay small acts of kindness to those who passed by his favourite spot on a granite bench in Cheapside.

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Pictured: Richard Mears's death has prompted a conversation about bringing 'talking benches' to Jersey.

His death has sparked a conversation about bringing ‘talking benches’ to Jersey, with some islanders suggesting that one of these special spots should be dedicated to Richard’s memory, and now it’s emerged that Kevin has been working with the Parish to make this project a reality.

Express caught up with Kevin about his vision for these ‘happy-to-chat’ benches in Jersey.

Speaking about the benefits of such a scheme, Kevin said: “It’s my opinion that as a community, we’ve lost the ability to sit down and have a little chat.”

Citing a number of reasons for this dearth of spontaneous chat, including increasingly “busy lives” and the rise of social media,” Kevin hopes to stimulate some more face-to-face contact.

“I think social media is exactly what it is, it can be social, but sometimes behind the screen you still lose that human contact and the human interaction.”

He added that, as we get closer to the festive period, now is the “perfect time” to launch Jersey’s ‘talking benches’ in the hopes of combatting peak levels of loneliness around Christmas.

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Pictured: Kevin hopes the scheme will get St. Helier chatting again.

Having brought the Constable of St. Helier and other Parish officials on board with the project, Kevin says there’s still a way to go to get it off the ground, but he’s confident that it will be up and running before Christmas.

Having often met and spoken with Richard whilst walking through town, Kevin remembers him as being “always very chatty and always very approachable.”

It’s these characteristics which Richard embodied, Kevin says, which would have made him “the perfect ambassador for a project like this.”

In light of this, Kevin hopes that one of the benches can be dedicated to Richard. 

Kevin’s project is being welcomed by many, including the newly-opened Listening Lounge. 

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Pictured: Kevin Proctor, who is leading the project.

Lucy Nicolaou, Head of Services for LINC which delivers the Listening Lounge, said: "The initiative of implementing talking benches around town is a fantastic idea and one I believe would be welcomed by islanders. 

“Anything that is going to encourage connection and facilitate conversations can only be a positive step in the right direction, especially for those in our community who may be experiencing loneliness and isolation."

St. Helier Deputy Inna Gardiner similarly praised the scheme for the role it could play in "fostering human interactions, especially face-to-face rather than screen-to-screen."

"Basically, we as a people are always running from place to place - we're always busy. Polite people sometimes don't want to take up the time of busy people... So it's actually really good to know who is open to have a conversation," she commented.

As well as providing a listening ear for the lonely, the Deputy added that politicians could also make use of the benches in addition to constituency surgeries "from time to time to meet the general public and say, 'Hi, I'm open for conversation. Come speak to me!'"

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Posted by Valerie Payne on
Great idea! Keep up the good good work Kevin & thanks for moving the project forward.
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