Check on Ya Mate with chess and chat to end social isolation

One of the biggest issues or our time, across all ages, across much of the world, is the silent epidemic of loneliness. In our click + connect age, real life disconnection dominates.

We’re living longer but too many of us are living in social isolation, cut off from family and friends, struggling to find a sense of worth, purpose, community. Our social needs aren’t being met.

My guest this week is Ryan Child, a young guy in the UK who’s not just recognised the problem – he’s doing something about it. He calls himself a playmaker at 5asidechess, which is – I am delighted to say — the new sponsor of The Big Middle.


  • Benefits of playing chess to foster connection to help end loneliness and social isolation?
  • Intergenerational aspect of mission to reconnect people
  • Ryan’s CV features football, journalism and, you’ll hear later, wagons in a peace convoy
  • Idea for 5asidechess as a tool to help end loneliness and get people talking came from his partner, entrepreneur Ross Smith
  • How to access and use 5asidechess boards
  • Students at the colleges and universities they visit eagerly embrace the game and the goal

“In a way that they were teaching each other in the end…suddenly you’re seeing what we want.. to grow a network of people that care about other people. What is more compassionate than teaching something to someone else? Not much.”

  • Proliferation of digital devices and social media “dulling down” life’s “richness”, stopping social engagement and validation in the real world
  • Prevention is goal of The Battling Suicide Bus Tour, connecting with strangers, listening to their stories of emotional distress and raw pain of the loss of loved ones to suicide
  • The bus has become “an art memorial”- messages and signatures of those who’ve lost someone to suicide, alongside positive mental health messages

    “People want to tell their story…All we want is to have someone sit down and listen to what we’ve got to say. It’s very powerful.”

  • Tales from the tour – have a tissue to hand
  • Why sponsor The Big Middle? Shared values and mission with 5asidechess and UK parent company Bright Hygiene


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