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Park Yourself and Have a Chat

Brightly coloured blue ‘Buddy Benches’ will be located across four of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s parks.

The benches will be a beacon for conversation as strangers strike up a chat while they take in the beauty of Antrim and Newtownabbey’s finest parks.

The benches are located at Lilian Bland, Hazelbank Park, Crumlin Glen and Sixmilewater Park. This further rollout of the benches stems from the success of the other Buddy Benches within the Borough, located at Antrim Castle Gardens and Castle Mall.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Loneliness Network was launched in 2019 and brings together the Council and the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, alongside others in the statutory, voluntary, community, education and business sectors. 

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Alderman Stephen Ross said;

“Buddy Benches have been installed in another four locations across the Borough, three of these benches were upcycled with fresh and vibrant blue paint. They’re installed to encourage people to pause their busy lives and take five minutes to take in the scenery and have a chat with someone.

“Loneliness is a big issue and through initiatives such as this and our ‘Warm Welcome’ events, we hope to make good community connections this winter, supporting each other, reaching out to other people and building communities.”

Valerie Adams, Chairperson of the Antrim and Newtownabbey Loneliness Network added;

“I am delighted the four Buddy Benches have expanded provision to more areas of the Borough. I thank all involved in this initiative, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, the young people from FOCUS and the Northern Trust for providing a contribution that assisted with the renovation of the benches.  Finally, all members of the Network’s Keeping Connected Group have played an integral part in the process, well done all.”

Leah Glass, Health and Wellbeing Locality Lead at the Northern Trust explained;

“Loneliness is becoming an increasing problem and, as well as affecting quality of life, it can also lead to health difficulties. Although this is a small gesture we’ve found that even small actions like this can make all the difference for people and give them the opportunity to make important connections.  Working in partnership with the community means we can work together to address the health and social care needs of our local population and make a real impact on the ground.”

Tom Irvine, Vice Chairperson, FOCUS (Focusing on Community Understanding Suicide), comments;

“We joined forces with Loneliness Networks across the Northern Trust area to raise awareness of and reduce the stigma around loneliness.  The benches encourage people to sit and have a chat with others, with the aim of helping those feeling lonely meet new people. We believe that a wee chat goes a long way.

“Talking to someone, even if it is on a bench, can help improve your overall mental health. Let's continue the conversation and keep your eyes peeled for more blue benches popping up across other areas of the Borough Council area.”

For further information on the Buddy Benches initiative, please visit antrimandnewtownabbey.gov.uk/buddy-benches

For the Warm Welcome events, please visit antrimandnewtownabbey.gov.uk/warm-welcome