Leeds natter bench installed in Horsforth's Hall Park to tackle loneliness
A 'natter bench' has been installed in a Horsforth park in a bid to tackle social isolation.
Natter benches - sometimes called 'happy to talk' benches - are designed to get people talking in an age where many people say they feel cut off from human interaction.
The pandemic has only increased that feeling with the whole country ordered to cut contact with each other.
Thankfully, the new bench in Hall Park takes has been specially designed to take into account social distancing - as it is 2.4 metres long.
Natter benches are starting to spring up across the country, but the idea for the Hall Park bench came after someone posted in a Facebook community group about an elderly lady sitting alone in the park who hadn’t spoken to anyone for a while.
A bench was suggested and Horsforth councillors Jonathon Taylor, Dawn Collins and Jackie Shemilt secured the funding.
There is already a natter bench in Guiseley's Nunroyd Park, which was installed in October after a campaign by Lisa Bourne, from Yeadon.
People are being asked to be mindful of the current guidance about only meeting one other person outdoors, but a sign has been put next to the Hall Park bench to inform people for when restrictions are eased.
It reads: "If you need someone to talk to, or just rest your feet - take a seat and have a chat, that's how friends meet".
The wording for the sign also came through the community, with Horsforth’s asset based community development co-ordinator Claire Evans, Rev Nigel Sinclair from St Margaret’s
Church, Sally Metcalfe from MHA Communities, and Kezia Roberts from Horsforth’s Walk of Art coming together to create the write message.
Councillor Jonathon Taylor (Con, Horsforth) said: “Some of the best ideas come from our community, and this is another example.
"We know more people are suffering with loneliness following the restrictions this year and installing this bench in our park specifically to meet friends, make new friends, or to
encourage someone to join for a few minutes will hopefully help overcome this.
"The natter bench has been designed with social distancing in mind.
"Once the rules and guidelines say it is safe to do so, I’d encourage residents to take a moment and make time for a chat and brighten someone’s day – I think this will be so important to isolated residents, and will make a big difference in people’s lives."
Coun Taylor thanked Leeds City Council’s parks officers for supporting them in the sourcing and speedy installation of the bench.
He added: "My ward colleagues and I are grateful to Leeds City Council’s parks officers for supporting us with sourcing the appropriate sized bench and for installing it for us so quickly.
"If this proves a success, which we hope it will, I would like to see more natter benches in public spaces across the whole city to bring people together.
"As we have done throughout this difficult year, we continue to work on behalf of our residents in Horsforth and Rawdon.”
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