The Friendly Bench could be coming to a town near you

The social inclusion project has been tackling loneliness in Leicestershire for 15 months. But £240k in National Lottery funding has paved the way for 10 more benches across England

Writing for The Big Issue, you don’t often get a chance to wrote a positive story about a bench.

All too often benches are the subject of hostile designs using unusual shapes and bars to prevent rough sleepers from lying on them.

The Friendly Bench bucked the trend last year when the first one was placed in Bottesford, Leicestershire.

The Friendly Bench
The-Friendly-Bench
Sir Alan Duncan MP (bottom right) helped to launch The Friendly Bench in March 2018

The social inclusion project offers more than a place to sit, with a kerbside community garden that offers a spot where people can meet across age groups, tackling elderly loneliness as well as boosting social opportunities and links to nature for those with limited mobility.

As Bottesford resident Joyce, 75, put it: “The Friendly Bench is really lovely. My neighbour, who recently lost her husband, and I come here often. It’s a lovely place, you always get into a conversation. It’s good for us to mix with other people, especially the kiddies.”

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There have been 530 attendees at the monthly volunteer-led activities/events held at the Bottesford bench in the last 15 months.

But, now, 10 more benches are on the way across England after the National Lottery awarded £242,713 to the CIC. The Friendly Bench had previously received £9,915 in Lottery funding in 2017 to set up in Leicestershire.

This means that the number of people engaged through events and other opportunities to participate across The Friendly Bench network will increase to over 5,000 while offering a meeting point for more than 10,000 casual users, says founder Lyndsey Young.

“We are thrilled that The National Lottery Community fund has recognised our work in this way,” she said. “Now, thanks to National Lottery players we will be able to bring more people together and help them build stronger, more connected, healthier communities.

“This is important because it helps people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds develop positive relationships and trust with each other, have a sense of belonging, identity and acceptance and create their own supportive circles of friends and peers.”

Images: The Friendly Bench