Say Hello benches launch for loneliness awareness week
People can drop by and ‘say hello’ at seven spots around the borough this loneliness awareness week (13 – 17 June).
The idea is that people can simply drop by for a chat at one of seven benches decorated and staffed by a local community group. The ‘say hello’ benches were inspired by the work of comedian John Bishop whose own “Say Hello” campaign launches in June as part of The Month of Community.
The seven locations include the Friendly Bench on Hagley Street in Halesowen town centre co-ordinated by Halesowen BID. Different community groups will be running activities from 10 am on Monday 13 to Friday 17 June with performances from 10am – midday by a local choir. It will include talking, wellbeing activities and singing.
In Coseley, the bench will be at Silver Jubilee Park, near the Healthy Hub from Monday to Wednesday from 10am – 1pm. The Just Start Talking Project, run by Just Straight Talk, will be running craft sessions for people to make pom poms.
In Sedgley the bench will be in Vicar Street Gardens, Ladies Walk. The Sedgley Townswomen Guild will be running a fun book-themed session from Monday to Friday from 10am – midday.
Dudley’s bench will be in front of Gather café in the Churchill Shopping Centre. Staff at Gather will be hosting this bench during their opening hours from Tuesday 14 to Saturday 18 from June 9am – 4pm.
In Stourbridge the bench will be in front of the Crown Centre on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 - 2pm – hosted by Mary Stevens Hospice.
Over in Brierley Hill, outside the Moor Centre, learners from Dudley Adult Community Learning (ACL) and Harry’s Cade will be running a range of activities all week including on Monday 13 ACL tutors will be looking for support to decorate the bench, on Tuesday 14 tutors will be making friendship bracelets from 9.30-11.30am, Wednesday will be another craft activity and finally on Thursday and Friday from 10-3 there will be the opportunity to try sketching.
Finally Huntingtree Park’s bench will be close to the healthy hub on Thursday 16 June. The all day session is run by Mindful Moms who support new mums.
John launched his “Say Hello” campaign during a recent 'Right Here Right Now' UK tour, to encourage audience members to wear badges with the words, “Say Hello” written on them. The idea was to help people start conversations and make new connections by simply saying “hello” to one another.
John Bishop said:
It feels to me like the days of saying hello to strangers in the street, on a bus, or at the park have sadly pretty much become a thing of the past. Most of us have spent too much time on our own over the past two years or so and now is the moment to get back out there; make connections with people young and old, near or far. The ‘Say Hello’ campaign is all about making it that little bit easier to just, well… ‘Say Hello’.
Councillor Ian Bevan, cabinet member for public health and wellbeing, said:
The ‘Say Hello’ benches are a chance for people to drop by, take five minutes and just have a chat with someone they might not normally speak to.
We know we all need to take steps to help people combat loneliness and make sure we engage with our neighbours and those around us. The work of volunteer groups like these shows just how important the little things are and hopefully will encourage more people to put themselves out there and make those small connections which can be so important.
The Month of Community is supported by Volunteers’ Week, The Big Lunch, Neighbourhood Watch Week, Careers Week, The Great Get Together and Loneliness Awareness Week among others all of which focus on creating connected and supportive community networks.
It grew out of the UK’s annual Big Lunch initiative and is a collaborative approach that brings together a whole coalition of community groups and some of the UK’s best-known charities who all focus on building supportive, better connected communities where people know one another better.
Dudley is getting involved by supporting big lunch street parties for the Queen’s Jubilee, running activities for Carer’s Week and working with community groups to set up the ‘Hello bench’ initiative.
Just Straight Talk, funded by Dudley Council, is running drop-in Digi Dudley sessions to help older people and carers improve their digital connection skills. Drop-in sessions run on14, 15, 16 and 17 June. The sessions are aimed at over 65s and carers to provide them with support with their technology and will take place at Dudley Council’s healthy hubs, located in parks across the borough. No need to book, just turn up. For further information, call Just Straight Talk on 01902 256744.