Brighton is on track to be the UK’s first ‘talking city’. That’s thanks to Sue Epps, the force behind Table Talk – a project spreading the restorative powers of a good conversation.She has recruited 40 cafes and counting 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. 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.
Epps is a retired teacher who likes coffee and mountain biking. A long-time Big Issue reader, it was after chatting to vendor Graham Churchill, who worked his way out of rough sleeping and bought his dream camper van, in 2016 that she started thinking about what a difference it made to be able to talk to the people in your community.
It requires a change of attitude
“Around the same time there was research released showing that people were going for days and weeks without talking to anybody,” Epps recalls. “I was horrified by that.
“After I left Graham I thought, gosh, he can speak to these people, but if I stood here people wouldn’t come up and talk to me. It would be considered strange.”
With the council’s backing she set up a ‘talking post’ in a Brighton park, but the large sign she had forked out for was stolen after 24 hours.
At the same time she was volunteering with an initiative that trained young people to be coffee baristas. This – along with her love of people-watching, coffee in hand – inspired her to give the talking project another go, this time in a cafe.