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A BA (Hons) Illustration student sitting with a Castlepoint employee on one of the Chatty Benches in front of a Marks & Spencer shop. Both are looking at the camera and smiling.

BA (Hons) Illustration students design "Chatty Benches" for Mental Health Awareness Week


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The team at Castlepoint shopping centre in Bournemouth has teamed up with students from Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) to create a series of specially designed benches to encourage conversations, confront loneliness, and comfort mental health-related conditions.

Launching on Monday 13 May for the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, the three "Chatty Benches" have all been individually designed by BA (Hons) Illustration students. They're part of a wider initiative from Castlepoint to raise awareness of mental health and funds for Dorset Mind.

David Pickett, Centre Manager for Castlepoint comments, “With over nine million people in the UK saying they feel lonely, we hope the ‘Chatty Benches’ encourage people to sit down and chat with their neighbour.

“As well as being artistically designed by the students at AUB, the benches also come with a plaque saying, ‘Sit here if you don’t mind someone stopping to say hello’. And that’s what it’s all about; just making the time to say hello can really make a big difference to those who don’t speak with many people during their regular day-to-day.”

The benches have been designed to be colourful and inviting to encourage the public to take a seat and engage in new conversations.

BA (Hons) Illustration student Erin Cooper, who designed one of the three ‘Chatty Benches’, says, “I used bright colours in line with Castlepoint’s own branding; they're also the colours used in colour therapy to relax and stimulate people.

“As for the actual design, I like drawing happy people. It makes me happy and I hope it makes others happy too. This project really spoke to me – I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder last year and I’ve found that talking about it has really helped. It’s my coping mechanism. So, I hope that these ‘Chatty Benches’ can help others open up too.”

The three "Chatty Benches" will be situated around Castlepoint from Monday 13 May onwards.

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