Benches for everyone: Solitude in public, sociability for free

Published: November 2015 Publication Type: Publication

Author: Radhika Bynon

The new report entitled The Bench Project finds that benches in our towns and cities, though easily overlooked, play a crucial role in social life. The publication argues that benches are currently being removed from public spaces; damaging community life and social integration.

Benches provide a free place for different individuals or large groups to meet, a space for people to pause and feel a sense of belonging, and also serve as a necessary resting place for older people.

However, increasingly associated with attracting ‘antisocial behaviour’, benches have begun to be removed from towns and cities, or made deliberately uncomfortable to dissuade people from using them as meeting places.

The report (The Bench Project) argues that a lack of benches will disproportionately impact groups for whom other social spaces, such as coffee shops, are not available due to their cost or social codes. Instead of removing benches, people should be encouraged to use them through good planning, design and management of spaces.

Authors Radhika Bynon and Clare Rishbeth will share key findings of the report at the MY100 Conference on Wednesday 11 November.

The Bench Project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The Arts and Humanities Research funds research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The Bench Project was part of ‘Connected Communities programme’, an AHRC led programme designed to understand the changing nature of communities in their historical and cultural contexts and the role of communities in sustaining and enhancing quality of life. For further information on the AHRC, please go to:

To find out more about The Benches project, read the press release here.