My adventure with this project started one rainy London day in Springtime. I was taking a walk down Kingsland High Street when I noticed some people giving ‘free hugs’. I very rarely say no to a hug so I went over, arms open. The huggers then invited me to a free community meal at a local live music venue (Passing Clouds). I had plans so couldn’t go… but I was curious. So I asked the strangers who hugged me: Where does the food come from? Who cooks it? Is this regular? They told me it was on every Sunday and that people just like me cook and donate the food. Then they told me about the project: I talk to Strangers – and that they collaborate with The People’s Kitchen. So I joined the facebook group and since then I have been a huge fan of this fast growing movement: Talk to Me, I’ll Talk to You
What is it?
A not-for-profit social movement which tries to get people in London talking by creating open social spaces with welcoming atmospheres to remind people howgood a conversation with a total stranger can be; on an every day to day basis.
What do they do?
They find and collaborate with certain cafés which are open spaces that help culture grow; with people that care about you and treat you like a person not just a customer. Through events in the cafés they encourage strangers to talk authentically to one another about anything! They also provide tools such as badges with simple statements that you are open to conversation. The badges can be a great way to connect with strangers on the streets, underground, bus stops…anywhere. The big ‘Talk to Me Day’ in August had a variety of events all over London: picnics in parks, interactive theatre, panel debates on talking to strangers, ‘talk street’ and socials in cafés. Being a big fan, I helped out on ‘talk street’ in Neal’s Yard. I had a truly amazing day.
Why do they do it?
Because they believe that having a conversation with a stranger should be ‘a simple choice, not a huge cultural challenge’. Often people in London don’t speak to each other simply because they think it is not the ‘norm’ and they don’t know how the other person would respond: it can seem scary. But spontaneously meeting a stranger can lead to a great friendship or simply put a smile on your face. Another aim is to overcome hesitation around interacting with different kinds of people, regardless of age, gender, culture, or ‘types’ of people. Conversations with people we don’t know can be very interesting. Unlike friends, families and partners there is no attachment to a stranger. You can tell them anything and they can give you their unique and impartial perspective. You can share moments of connection without expecting to ever see them again. Often you do see them again; after all, every friend you have was once a stranger.
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