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Birmingham spearheads new drive for a friendlier society

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

Posted in The launch | Posted by Martin Graham

‘Permission To Smile’ campaign achieves high-impact launch in city centre.

In a bid to ‘help melt the ice’, a Birmingham campaign is leading the way towards turning a growing ‘keep yourself to yourself’ culture into a warmer, friendlier and more supportive one.  The message is: Permission to Smile – greet someone today!

Dozens of organizations have come together to promote the simple message that it’s time for shyness, separateness and even suspicion to give way to smiles and sociability.   The campaign has launched with a giant ice sculpture in the centre of Birmingham, with the logo frozen inside and a team of 50 encouraging shoppers to add their smile, through the ‘smile-hole’ in the ice, having their picture taken and then sending it out on social media.

Says campaign coordinator Martin Graham, “Here’s the problem: walking down my own street, it no longer feels ‘appropriate’ to smile at, or greet, someone I don’t know.  Will my attempt at contact be welcome?  Will it be ‘invading their private space’?  Will they wonder: ‘What does he want?  What is his agenda?’  It’s all too difficult, and so I draw back.  

“But walk with a dog or a baby, and people readily stop to chat – showing that many actually like to smile and greet, but feel they need an excuse.  So we’re saying: wherever, whenever, we have permission to smile.  Let’s really do it!”

The campaign hopes that smiling and greeting will unlock more getting together, to put on a street party, form a young mum’s group, organise something for the elderly, or look after vulnerable neighbours.  And, crucially, it will give isolated people the chance to break out of their isolation.

The campaign’s website includes ‘How-to’ downloads on starting a stay and play group, or a gathering for older residents, a street association or a youth club and more.  It also includes an innovative on-line ‘Meeting Point’, based on Google Maps, allowing community-minded people can find each other.  Register, and the map will focus on your post code, putting a pin in the map, with a quarter-mile radius view.  Click on any other pins visible and start a chat group.


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