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Sheffield’s first talking bench to help social connection

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A public seating provision, with a difference, is being introduced to Sheffield’s Winter Gardens this week.

The city centre facility is to host the first ever ‘talking bench’.

The bench will be a place where people are encouraged to chat, with the aim of improving social connections and wellbeing.

The idea has been spearheaded by Sheffield resident Sharon Tabberer, who has seen her father struggling to strike up conversations in the hustle and bustle of the city.

“He tries this sometimes in Meadowhall and on the Moor and people often talk back, have a laugh, then say their goodbyes and go on their way,” Sharon said.

“But there is sometimes a look that says go away, don’t talk to me, I am a busy person, you are an old man and your friendliness makes me nervous.”

Sharon won a prize for her idea as part of a competition run by charity Sheffield Flourish.

Earlier this year the mental health charity asked for the best ideas for ‘building a more mental health friendly Sheffield’, and gave a £100 prize and four £50 prizes to winners.

The ‘talking bench’ was officially launched on Monday with a ribbon cutting, cake, speeches and singing from Sharon’s dad’s singing group: High Spirits.

A spokesman said: “Although Sheffield City Council are very supportive of the project this is only a trial run, so Sharon is hoping to get feedback on the Facebook page ‘Talking benches’.

“Sharon hopes that if this bench is a success she can introduce it in other parts of the city.”

There has been support for the idea via social media, Amy Rollitt on Facebook said: “Love this idea!

“Will be like on the soaps where they just sit on a bench and talk about their problems. It’s a fab idea.”

Sheffield Flourish is rooted in the city and owned by the community, with the aim of involving people who live with mental health conditions in everything they do. They organise fun and interesting monthly community events based on different themes.