Burnley's first 'happy to chat' bench unveiled in town centre

Burnley's first 'happy to chat' bench, where people can seek refuge if they need a friendly face, was unveiled last week.

By Susan Plunkett
Monday, 17th May 2021, 3:45 pm

Situated in the heart of the town centre, by the side of Clinton's Cards, the bench is the brainchild of Tracey Smith who founded the Natter Shack scheme in 2019 to bring together people who may be feeling isolated and lonely.

The idea for the bench grew organically from the Nattershack project which, until the pandemic hit, held regular coffee mornings tea dances and get togethers at a variety of venues across Burnley, Pendle and the Ribble Valley.

The announcement that Charter Walk was to unveil the first 'happy to chat' bench was described as a 'dream come true' by Tracey.

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Tracey Smith at the official unveiling of the 'Happy to Chat' bench in Burnley town centre

She said: "I can't thank staff at Charter Walk enough because without them this wouldn't have been possible.

"This is all about getting people talking to each other, meeting new people and also accessing all the information signposting people to our local mental health organisations which is contained on a poster behind the bench."

Tracey hopes the town centre bench will be the first of many 'happy to chat' benches installed at a variety of venues across the borough.

Tracey was named as one of Charter Walk's Community Heroes for her tireless work in connecting people and keeping everyone talking during Covid-19.

Let's chat... Tracey chats with Sabden's Paul Wray on the 'Happy to Chat' bench

Charter Walk manager Debbie Hernon said the response to the 'Happy to Chat' bench had been fantastic as shoppers and visitors to the town centre make a welcome return.

Debbie said: "We have a lot of very loyal people who come to the town centre, not just to shop, but to meet and chat with people and it has been so lovely to see them returning.

"The 'Happy to Chat' bench and other benches are an integral part of the town centre for so many people as they can stop for a break or a chat with fellow shoppers."

Charter Walk manager Debbie Hernon (left) with Tracey Smith on the' Happy to Chat' bench in Burnley town centre