A new initiative has been launches in Linlithgow this week, aimed at tackling social isolation in the town.
There are now eight chatty benches in a variety of locations, featuring a simple sign which reads ‘Sit here if you don’t mind someone stopping to say hello’
The ‘happy to chat’ idea was inspired by Allison Owen Jones, who started off the campaign in Cardiff. On a visit to her local park, she noticed a man who looked sad and lonely, but had no idea how to approach him without feeling awkward. Alison realized how difficult it is nowadays to initiate a conversation with a stranger and decided to take matters into her own hands.
She created signs that promote and facilitate human interaction and installed them on multiple park benches, and the ‘Happy to Chat’ concept began.
The idea is not new in the town, as a local charity The New Well has already partnered with cafes to set aside a chatty table every week. It was this that inspired One Linlithgow BID, Burgh Beautiful, Linlithgow Community Development Trust and the town’s community council to bid jointly for West Lothian Council funding to install the plaques.
The plaques have been installed in eight locations around the town including the Cross, Learmonth Gardens, the West Port, Peel, Vennel, near the community orchard at the Loch, St. Ninian’s Road and Beecraigs Country Park.
Evelyn Noble, chair of One Linlithgow BID and local gift shop owner said “As retailers, we speak to people a lot, yet some folk may go days, or even weeks, without the simplest of human contact.
With The New Well chatty tables being introduced, it inspired us to submit a joint application to the council for our Happy to Chat benches. The plaques have been installed this week and we hope they encourage people to take the time to stop and have a wee chat. They say the simplest ideas are the best.”
One Linlithgow also received £4566 from the town fund to revamp the town’ two community noticeboards. This project will get underway shortly.