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Calum Best issues open invite to anyone who needs a chat to come to George's Belfast ‘listening bench’

Television personality will be back in Northern Ireland in January


Calum Best

Calum Best

Calum Best

Calum Best has invited people to come to his ‘listening bench’ in Belfast where he will welcome anyone who wants to have a chat.

The bench, which features an image of his late father, the Manchester United and Northern Ireland legend George Best, is situated in East Belfast.

It is located beside the EastSide Visitor Centre on the Newtownards Road.

Earlier this month the celebrity revealed he had designed the bench to encourage more people to talk about their mental health as part of an ITV project called 1 million minutes.

Appearing on Good Morning Britain, Calum told presenters Richard Bacon and Kate Garraway that he will be back here for the second week of January.

Six special ‘listening benches’ have been designed by six celebrities, and can be found in six cities across the UK - they are in place to encourage people to strike up a conversation.

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The other five benches are located in Nottingham, Windsor, Edinburgh, Exeter and Leeds, and have been designed by Line of Duty star Vicky McClure, Maisie Smith, Kadeena Cox, Matt Whitlock and David James.

Explaining the concept, Calum, who has previously spoken about his own mental health battles, said: “I thought the bench aspect was really a good idea because it invites people to a welcome and safe space.

“From experience, once you start to open up and speak out, things can get better for people.

“A lot of people might not be comfortable just opening up and speaking out. I think a place like this gives them a bit of a safe space where they know what that bench is for. They know they are going down there to speak and open up and talk about life and what they are going through.”

Calum said the Covid lockdowns have deepened the mental health crisis, adding that he was aware that some people were in “a really dark place”.

The Belfast bench includes the words ‘Best seat to chat’ and ‘Belfast boy’, in reference to George Best.

Calum said he was delighted to help secure a bench for the city.

“For me, going to Belfast really hit home because that is where my dad is from,” he said.

“I wanted to put a picture of my dad’s face because for so many people in Belfast it is just such a friendly, welcoming place.

“For the older generation, they might not speak up as much as what I have seen and experienced, so they can go down there and they can use a picture of my dad to strike up a conversation and chat about good memories.”

He said he hoped the bench would “start the process of getting out what is on the inside and might be worrying you”.

Calum said a lot of people had periods of lonliness, including his father, and it was not always obvious.

“Sometimes when people come on a show like this and they talk about how they should speak up and speak out, a lot of people might struggle to think that that person is dealing with it,” he added.

“My own father would be a perfect example of that - so many great things going on in his life, achieved so much, everybody loved him, but I can almost feel that, whatever he was going through, he didn’t know how to express it. It might have been different if he had expressed it.

“So to a generation from my dad’s age, I would like to say to head down to this bench in Belfast, or any across the UK.

“It is just about opening up and getting it out and if you don’t do it normally, this could be your time to do it, because now more than ever it is needed.”

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