Imagine- It is almost midnight and it has been raining all evening. Tonight, Sheffield is especially dark, and you are beginning to wish you had brought a warmer jacket with a bigger hood. In the distance you see a man on a soaking wet bench, he smiles at you and proceeds to ask, “what inspires you?” Would you answer?
CK Goldiing, the creator of a new seven-part series ‘The Bench’ admits himself that he would avoid answering the man on the bench and continue to walk on, branding the very concept ‘weird’ and ‘creepy’. Yet he was still determined to challenge people’s willingness to engage with a stranger and defy the social norms- leading him to create the unscripted docu-series which was released on the 3rd of November 2019.
CK explains that the series was filmed across 7 late evenings in Sheffield where each night he sat on an anonymous bench. It was 11 pm or later. In each episode, he asked passing strangers one question – inviting them to join him on the bench to discuss it. Questions ranged from matters of love, life, hopes & dreams. He disclosed that some people ignored him, and some people did not. Some people told him trivial things; some people told him deeply personal things.
In episode 7, as I have previously alluded to, we see a slightly defeatist cold and wet CK sat on the bench where he asks two men what inspires them. To much of his surprise, their answers spiral into beautiful speeches and suddenly CK’s pessimism is replaced by joy as his belief that people do, in fact, want to speak to strangers is reinforced. And this is what ‘The Bench’ is all about.
Throughout the series, viewers are introduced to different people with different stories to tell. It is quite unbelievable just how powerful strangers opening up to each other can be. If those two men had proceeded to walk past CK, we wouldn’t have ever been told the uplifting story of how much one of them, Jacob, values his brother-in-law so much so that he regards him as a ‘father figure.’ Similarly, as seen in episode 4, if Jason had continued walking, we wouldn’t have ever known how proud he was that he had accomplished caring for his ill mother that past week. The moral of the story being, no matter how big or small, ordinary people have stories to tell which can be just as watchable as celebrity drama. CK acknowledges that the way the series has been embraced suggests that with the right circumstances (and a badly lit street), regular people can be just as compelling.
Would I have stopped at that bench before? Probably not. However, after watching CK’s heartwarming series I would like to think I would- even if it was freezing cold and chucking it down outside.
You can watch all the episodes at: https://www.youtube.com/user/CKGoldiing/videos.