Aylesbury launches 'Happy to Chat' benches to combat loneliness

To mark Time to Talk Day on 6 February, Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC) is launching ‘Happy to Chat’ benches to help combat the social isolation affecting over nine million people in the UK.

Inspired by the original ‘Happy to Chat’ campaign in Cardiff, AVDC recognises that loneliness has an impact on mental wellbeing, and so with the support of Aylesbury Garden Town is bringing the scheme to locations in and around Aylesbury Town.

AVDC Councillor Julie Ward talking on the Happy to Chat bench

AVDC Councillor Julie Ward talking on the Happy to Chat bench

Three existing benches have been selected, with two located in Aylesbury town centre on The Mount and in Vale Park, and one sited on the Waddesdon Greenway in Fleet Marston.

To signpost those looking for a chat, signs have been displayed on the benches, reading ‘Sit here if you don’t mind someone stopping to say hello’.

The idea is a simple one that encourages park-goers and passersby to strike up a conversation and make a connection with someone new, promoting happy and friendly communities in the Vale.

Lead by worldwide organisation Time to Change, Time to Talk Day forms part of a larger social movement working to end mental health stigma and discrimination.

By offering a relaxed space in which to talk, ‘Happy to Chat’ benches can break the vicious cycle linking loneliness and mental health, help communities take care of each other and encourage people to get out into the fresh air – all of which has been proven to boost self-esteem as well as mood.

Councillor Julie Ward, Cabinet Member for Civic Amenities, said: “This is a compassionate, community-led scheme that has quickly spread around the globe, and although it’s not AVDC born, I’m really proud to be welcoming ‘Happy to Chat’ to three trial benches in Aylesbury Vale. If it takes off we may roll the scheme out to other locations, making the most of the beautiful scenery right on our doorstep, as well as the close-knit communities in our villages and towns.”

Aylesbury Garden Town have supported the scheme as one of its key aims is to realise a place that is known for its inclusivity and high quality of life for everyone. The simple idea of just giving people permission to stop and chat is a great way to help defeat loneliness and develop a keener sense of community.

For more information on Time to Change and Time to Talk, visit their website: www.time-to-change.org.uk