Tales from a Park Bench


Image from Tales from a Park Bench

Park benches are a place to chat, rest and watch the world go by. We wrote about Stephen Emms' project and magazine column, Bench Marks, where he explains the story behind the plaques on park benches around London.

Now he has taken it a step further and gone live with his "Tales from a Park Bench" project. He has set up a bench in an empty art gallery in London, and invited passers-by to sit down and have a say. It's a take on the Fourth Plinth at Trafalgar Square but this one doesn't require booking or winning a lottery to get a place. Ordinary people can just come along and do whatever: tell a story, tell a joke, sing a song, tell it like it is. So how is it working? We stopped by to have a look and a chat.

yoga bench photo

The first person on the bench was Archie, a two month old baby. He gurgled. Since then there has been a stream of guitarists, photographers, story-book readers, singers and locals coming to perform or take a look. The garbage can next to the bench is filled to the brim with hundreds of crumpled photocopies of the columns from Time Out magazine. So you can just sit and read about as many as you like or throw them on the floor. Follow the characters who come by on his blog.

steve emms.photo

We spoke to Stephen Emms, the creator of the column and the installation. He said that after 65 columns about the benches he had ended the project because it was enough now. When asked how he found all the empty benches, he said that he was a dog walker and found them whilst doing just that. He would photograph them with his mobile phone and then search out the history. After awhile people began to send in suggestions of benches which made it easier to find more.

Here's what he wants for his own bench inscription (from The Great Gatsby):

Tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther...And one fine morning-

: Tales from a Park Bench

More on Public Art and Park Benches
Every Empty Bench Tells a Story
The Fourth Plinth Goes Live in London

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