The Bench Poets have had a successful first season promoting ‘Happy to Natter’ benches across Kirklees.
Benches are used every day by thousands of people to have lunch, read, or just pass the time. Often, people sit in silence or by themselves, but a bench is more than just a place to sit. It is a powerful tool to bring people together, even if it is just for a moment. This is the principle behind the ‘Happy to Natter’ benches initiative from Kirklees Community Plus.
By placing signs on a small number of public benches around Kirklees, people are ‘given permission’ to chat and encouraged to start a conversation.
The idea of the Bench Poets was put together by the Batley Poets in partnership with Kirklees Community Plus, and has been pivotal in using poetry as a catalyst for conversation to promote and highlight the so-called ‘Happy to Natter’ benches.
Four events have taken place at public benches in Batley Town Centre, Savile Town, Marsden and at Bagshaw Museum. Each two-hour-long poetry session brought together a diverse audience as well as local poets, writers and passers-by.
More than seventy people attended the sessions in total and while many chose to listen and appreciate the performances, around thirty people performed poetry they had written or enjoyed reading. An atmosphere of conversations was cultivated with stories being heard during and after each stop on the tour around Kirklees.
Next year will see season two of the Bench Poets as they return to travel more of Kirklees, bringing poetry and conversation together at public benches.
The Bench Poets events were a collaboration with Kirklees Council’s Community Plus service. Jill Greenfield, Head of Integrated Local Partnerships, said:
“At Community Plus we want to build a supportive community. It’s been great to work with Batley Smile and Batley Poets, two very well respected local groups, to create some innovative arts events that promote local writers and make the most of our parks and public spaces over the summer. The Bench Poets of Batley, Dewsbury and Marsden remind us all that words matter and a few words to pass the time of day with each other can brighten up the day and help people to feel part of a shared community.”
Mohamed Saloo, a member of the Batley Poets, spoke about the sessions of poetry:
“It was really interesting to see how each Bench Poets session had its own distinctive style yet maintained the joy and laughter. We wanted not only to give people an opportunity to share poetry in the open, but also have conversations and make friendships. In each session we saw this and I think that’s what made the project special.”
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