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 Motivated by lockdown and Southampton's recovery plan, our new programme explored how creativity can rethink place and access across the city. Working with artists and commissioning new public artworks can shift perceptions provide new ways to experience the city. BENCH offered an unusual canvas for artists to explore, infusing an everyday, seemingly unimportant object with new significance, re-establishing the bench as an object that contributes to the rhythm of a city.

BENCH was inspired by the AHRC funded ‘Connecting Communities’ research project and a document written by Radhika Bynon and Clare Rishbeth entitled; Benches for Everyone: Manifesto for the Good Bench. It lays out the importance of the humble bench as a free social resource that enables people to be outside for longer, supporting their physical and mental health and importantly to be part of the flux of city living, by temporarily sitting, pausing, observing others and being seen. Providing the opportunity for individuals to be co-present is a vital role of the bench, welcoming us into a space, encourage us to remain, creating a greater sense of community and belonging. Due to lockdown, the absence of people laid bare the structures of the city in ways we may have never imagined before. In challenging and difficult times, artists can help us process complex emotions and better envisage the future, providing opportunities for expansive imagination.

Discover more about BENCH

Images of 'Butterfly' bench by Sian Storey

Images of 'Port' bench by Charlotte Connelly

Solent Seabed bench designed by Sharon Hannah

Images of 'Tudor Flower Power' bench by Wendy Hall

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