Today we are proud to launch our report published with the Young Foundation, ‘Benches for Everyone: solitude in public, sociability for free’, include the Manifesto for The Good Bench. It was important to the research team that the project did not end with careful listening and the sharing of stories, but worked out what this means in practice. This report outlines the context, presents the evidence, and defines clear points for action.
Report view here
Report for download
Manifesto and points for action
A project focused on benches runs the risk of sounding whimsical, peripheral to the main concerns of life. Sutton and Woolwich, though very different, typify some of the social and political pressures on London: austerity politics, corporate-led regeneration, the housing crisis, precarious employment and various processes of displacement and inequality.
This report makes a strong case for the potential to enjoy public space as one means available that supports resilience and human connections at the local level. Benches do not exist in isolation; their presence is related to broader issues of public space for sociability and accessibility. Our research highlights the role of benches in giving the choice to stay longer, with links to wellbeing and inclusion, and the importance of good landscape design for supporting this. We found broad appreciation across different sectors of the community for interest-rich places with a range of recreational facilities and the restorative qualities of contact with natural elements. Our conclusion is resoundingly pro-bench. In the vast majority of outdoor public places, we recommend comfortable benches, longer benches, and simply more of them.