Sue Epps, a Big Issue Changemaker and founder of community building initiative Table Talk Brighton has had “an amazing few weeks” since being featured in The Big Issue and is carrying forward that momentum to make a success of her upcoming Table Talk Week.
Epps, a retired teacher, wants to make Brighton the UK’s first ‘talking city’. She had already recruited more than 40 cafes across the city to host their own Table Talks – where tables are marked as the place to sit if you’re happy to talk to other customers – aimed at reducing loneliness and bringing communities closer together. It’s a scheme so simple it took off through word of mouth and with no resources, and it all started after a chat with a Big Issue vendor.
But since appearing in the magazine as one of our Changemakers, another four cafes have joined the scheme – one business even got involved after the manager’s girlfriend’s mother in Buckingham read Epps’ story in The Big Issue.
“It’s been an amazing few weeks but I’m still drowning in things to do and need more volunteers,” the Table Talk founder said.
Epps has also been contacted by people in Exeter, Plymouth and London who want to start Table Talk initiatives in their area. “We have limited resources, so need to work out how to enable other towns to run their own schemes,” she said
Even local transport companies have got involved. Brighton Buses is going to introduce Table Talk tables on all 35 new vehicles joining the fleet.
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.
And along with The Big Lemon, a local bus company that runs on electricity and biofuel, they have offered to display posters for Table Talk Week on all their buses.
The companies will also display information on their websites to show which buses go to which participating cafes – and are donating 100 free bus journeys to those who need financial support.
Epps has also successfully linked the scheme up with its first GP practice: Stanford Medical Centre shows a presentation about Table Talk on the television in their waiting room and is socially prescribing visits to the Rotunda Cafe in nearby Preston Park.
“We’re receiving wonderful support,” said Epps. “With only one day of help plus two good volunteers, some developments have to wait for now. We’re currently working really hard to promote Table Talk Week.”
The week-long celebration of what Table Talk does will take place from Monday October 7 until Friday October 11. The first event will be held from 1-3pm in One Church on Gloucester Place – members of the public are encouraged to drop-in to hear more about the project, share a table and have a drink.
From October 8-11, volunteers will man tables at some participating cafes where anyone interested can learn more about the scheme and experience first-hand what Table Talk is like in a guided environment.