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The National Lottery joins forces with Gethin Jones and Jay Blades to reveal benches dedicated to local community heroes

14th July 2021

The National Lottery has revealed six further locations across the UK which will play host to bespoke benches, designed and created by Jay Blades, to honour individuals who went above and beyond for their local communities during the pandemic.

Rhian Mannings with the bench dedicated to her at Royal Glamorgan Hospital, Wales

The People’s Benches project first launched in 2020, selecting exceptional community heroes to honour from over 13,000 community projects funded by The National Lottery Community Fund since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the country celebrates the easing / end of restrictions imposed during the pandemic, The National Lottery has unveiled the final six benches; working with Gethin Jones to bring to life some of the inspirational individuals behind them, including fellow Welsh national Rhian Manning.

In a moving video, released today, Rhian and Gethin discuss her heart-breaking experience back in 2012, when her one-year-old son George died suddenly, followed by her distraught husband Paul taking his own life just a few days later.

The incredibly moving piece sees Rhian speaking to Gethin about how she and her family came to terms with their loss. Gethin and Rhian go on to discuss Rhian’s creation of '2 Wish Upon A Star' charity which aims to help families coping with bereavement.

The video features the touching moment when Rhian sees the bench that has been dedicated to her for the first time, in place outside the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Wales, which is the hospital which treated George over 8 years ago.

I was really shocked when I received the phone call, especially at the moment as there are so many incredible people out there; it means the world to me. This is for the amazing team and my parents and family, who've done so much to encourage and support me. The National Lottery believed in us and they believed in our project and because of National Lottery players, we’ve been able to make a difference to so many more parents and families.”

Talking about receiving the bespoke bench Rhian Mannings said:

“Being part of the reveal of Rhian’s bench was an unforgettable moment for me; her story was so moving, and her charitable community work is incredibly inspiring. I am so proud and honoured to be part of this meaningful campaign by The National Lottery Community Fund, which celebrates those local heroes vital for the community, but who are sometimes overlooked. “It’s an incredible opportunity to shine a light on inspiring individuals, and to celebrate the £36 million which is raised by Nationl Lottery players each week in the UK for good causes like this.”

Gethin Jones says:

Rhian’s bench is one of six new benches installed across the UK, in locations including London, Leeds, Manchester, Brighton and South Wales.

The new benches celebrate inspiring individuals, such as Brighton resident Emily Kenward, the founder of Time to Talk Befriending charity, South Wales resident Mal Emerson who formed charity Marauders Men’s Health helping men with mental health issues and Oldham resident Oyovwe Kigho who is the founder and chief executive of the Widows Empowerment Trust, a scheme set up in 2017 to end and combat loneliness.

Mal Emerson with the bench dedicated to him

“Like most of us, I have witnessed inspirational acts of selflessness and kindness this year as people have adapted their lives to help others. It has been an honour to hear about the 13 people whose work is being honoured with a bespoke bench being placed in their local area. Each bench represents the person’s personality, passions and the impact they have had on others in their community. It is hopefully a fitting tribute to their efforts this year – efforts that too often go unheralded but never unappreciated by those they help – that these benches can be places where others can find out more about their work.”

Jay Blades said:

“Throughout these challenging times, the power of individuals and organisations in supporting communities and people’s wellbeing has been has been so inspiring. As we reflect on the past year, I am proud to spotlight incredible individuals like Rhian, from 2 Wish Upon A Star – they represent the best of human and community spirit. These community benches in local areas will help to showcase the impact they have had on others and to provide valuable space for reflection. Alongside Rhian, the 6 local heroes featured from across the UK, have played an integral role in their communities. I am glad that The People’s Benches initiative provides a platform to recognise their outstanding efforts. Thanks to National Lottery players, we have funded over 13,000 community projects, across the UK, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

David Knott, Interim CEO of The National Lottery Community Fund said: