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The Big Lunch - an Eden Project

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  • Streetclub


House Party!

July 22, 2014
Author: Charlotte

So far this summer we’ve been out and about at events, networking with those who have similar interests in building community.

Recently we attended HACT’s ‘HouseParty’ – a two-day event which was designed to break the boundaries of convention and bring a more ‘disruptive’ element of networking to the table. If you haven’t heard of HACT before, it stands for the Housing Association’s Charitable Trust and is a body that works with the housing sector, government and local communities to find a way of meeting everybody’s needs together.

It was for ‘anyone who cares about where and how we live in the UK’.

HACT HouseParty banner_webready

Gwion, our Welsh rep, snuggled in with a few others for a fireside chat with HouseParty’s resident smart urbanist, Julian Dobson, which followed with discussions on maverick community-led housing initiatives.  The conversations were wide ranging but the one thing that linked them all together was the importance of relationships and that no amount of policy, strategy or design can create a neighbourhood – it’s the people that make the place. We were able to show the impact The Big Lunch has had in fostering happy communities across the UK. Gwion met some inspiring people and projects, including One Ark, Origin Housing, Shared Lives Plus and the UK Cohousing Network who we hope we can collaborate with in the future.

Myself and Fay from the London team got to stitch with craftivitists (and say “Yes to Homes!”), dress up as Comms Hero to promote #HousingDay and pose questions to the Housing Question Time panel. In the afternoon we attended a session that was not just about the art of conversation, but the art of decorating cakes. So we put on our aprons and broke bread with people from a range of organisations such as Social Change Agency, Public Health England and Bolton at Home who all wanted to discuss the ever-prominent topic of health and well-being. The wide range of professional backgrounds meant it was a genuine platform for how we felt about our own experiences, personal and professional. Perhaps decorating cakes is the right medium for the nitty-gritty?

With many shared aims of connectivity, engagement and innovation within the industry, it was a great space for sharing ideas.

cakes at the health and wellbeing workshopWe’re very much looking forward to working with housing associations over the next year as we work towards achieving shared goals of creating stronger communities.  We’ll be out and about at various conferences and events over the next few months so look out for us on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re at any of the events do pop along and say hi!

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Community, Events, Friends, Sharing
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Bring a chair and something to share

July 21, 2014
Author: Grainne McCloskey

belfast neighbours enjoy tug o war at their street party in martinez avenueRuth Gray lives in a quiet street in east Belfast, yes there really are quiet streets in east Belfast despite what you see on the news!

The Giro D’italia came to Northern Ireland in early May, and when the competitors whizzed up the Ballyhackamore Road, Ruth and her family were in the crowd embracing the community spirit and sense of unified enjoyment. So when a few weeks later she opened the local paper and read an article about The Big Lunch Ruth thought it could be the perfect way to bring the inclusive community vibe from the Giro right on to her street.

Ordering her Big Lunch pack Ruth spoke to the neighbours she was already friends with. Having their buy in, she knew that even if no one else came Martinez Avenue Big Lunch would go ahead.

Ruth printed invites with details of what was happening and when: “to keep it simple I just invited everyone to come bringing a chair and something to share” she said.

neighbours skipping at belfast street party martinez ave

Several folk Ruth hadn’t met before sent texts offering to help and so they held a pre-event planning meeting. One lady was a teacher so she was able to borrow a rope for tug of war and some hula hoops and other items.  “It became obvious very quickly that we wouldn’t need funding to do this if we all shared and kept it simple.”

Ruth said “because we really didn’t know how many would come and because we wanted everyone to feel it was their event, we didn’t PLAN too heavily, we organised a few activities and as an ice breaker we set everyone 10 challenges, things like…

  • Find three people with S in their surname
  • Find a person who has two dogs
  • Find someone who has been to a street party before

It was very surprising to find that out of 150 people no one had been to a street party before!

“Fairhaven residential home is at the end of the street and until our Big Lunch it has always been very separate, I thought it was a retirement care home but it in fact supports people with mental health and learning needs. On the day about 30 residents and caring staff joined us and brought a big box of sandwiches and food to share, my son is only one and he was showered with kisses and made to feel very special. Since our event we have received flyers about fundraising activity and events planned by Fairhaven and we never did before so I feel our Big Lunch helped bridge a gap that perhaps went unnoticed before.

“Our street was never an unfriendly place but The Big Lunch certainly helped strengthen our sense of neighbourhood. Watching everyone meet and enjoy the liberation of being able to relax and have their kids all play together safely on the street, I felt we had broken barriers that hadn’t needed to exist.

“Being part of The Big Lunch gave the permission I felt I needed, it sanctioned knocking on unknown neighbours doors and had I not had the pack and official materials, folk might have thought I was planning something unwelcome. We will certainly be doing it again and lots of people have said they love the idea and who knows they might give it a go too!

welcome to our street party chalk on road

Getting  your road closed for something is not straight forward here in Northern Ireland I suppose because our regulations are set to handle conflict but our community policing team helped me in the end by providing cones to close off the road and collecting them afterwards.

“We had a super day and a few folk have dropped cards in the door, one card read…

We have lived here 48 years and never had a street party I hope we don’t have to wait another 48 years for another!”






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Community, Games, Northern Ireland, Spreading the word, Top tips
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Serving up a zero waste Big Lunch

July 18, 2014
Author: Emma

“We hosted a Big Lunch on 13th June at Kibble Campus in Paisley, Scotland. Kibble is Scotland’s specialist provider of services for at risk children and young people. We got some of the young people involved, creating a zero waste buffet, feeding 31 people – and some goats too!


The intention was to teach the pupils about reducing, reusing, recycling and to be able to plan and prepare a zero waste buffet Big Lunch. The end result was: happy, well-fed attendees 31, waste 0!

Lots of research was undertaken by the young people beforehand and they wanted to pass on what they have learned in the process – hopefully inspiring other Big Lunchers to aim for zero waste at their next event too!


We decided our venue should be the Home Economics classroom, to enable those invited to walk to the event and reduce need for further transport. Staff members were asked to the buffet in person by the young people, so physical invitations weren’t necessary.


Flowers were picked from volunteers’ gardens and jam jars were covered in paper and used as vases. Newspaper was used as a table cover. Real crockery and cutlery was utilised rather than plastic or paper.

Cropped 1Food:

The Education department at Kibble were due to finish for the summer holidays, therefore all Home Economics fridges were emptied to use up all the produce.

With reference to air miles, any additional food was purchased locally. We visited the local supermarket and reduced produce was purchased as the ‘sell buy’ date was approaching.

Vegetables were provided by Kibble’s own garden, leading us to contemplate that we were now measuring ‘food steps’ rather than food miles! Herbs were provided from a volunteer’s home garden.


When the lunch was over, guests were encouraged to take leftovers away with them in reusable tubs. One guest asked if he could take the remainder of the lettuce for his goats!”

Karen, Kibble Scotland.


More tips on low cost, low waste lunching can be found in The Big Lunch & Love Food Hate Waste’s planning guide here.

Big thanks to Karen at Kibble, also Volunteer Coordinator at Zero Waste Renfrewshire, for sharing the Kibble pupil’s tips. Get in touch with tales of your 2014 Big Lunch at

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Case Study, Scotland, Spreading the word, Top tips
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5 Ways to keep community spirit alive after your Big Lunch

July 15, 2014
Author: Trudi Holden

Over a month has passed now since the big day, but there are plenty of ways to keep the community spirit alive after your Big Lunch. From starting a street association, to simply sharing your story; check out these 5 things to do after your Big Lunch. 


1. Keep the conversation flowing 

Lots of you tell us that the spirit of The Big Lunch continues well after the day has passed and it’s often a conversation starter to reminisce about how the day went. Continuing that Big Lunch spirit  is easy, when you keep those conversations flowing. From popping around for a cup of tea, or simply saying hello as you pass on the street; small talk can really make all the difference!



2. Join Big Lunch Extras

Have you got a taste for creating a community buzz and would you  like to get ideas, skills and inspiration to do more? Building on the success of The Big Lunch, Big Lunch Extras is a programme to help individuals across the UK to create positive change within their communities. Providing participants with inspirational events, free web resources and online community chat area; Big Lunch extras kick-starts with a weekend long boot camp at Eden Project in Cornwall!

Big Lunch Extra


3. Go Grassroots  

Starting up your own Street Association is a great way to get together with your neighbours – from once a week to once to a month – to help shape your community and create lasting relationships locally. Street Associations offer free starter packs to get your group off the ground; as well as giving advice and tips for anything from collaborating on local issues, to planning your next knees up!

street associations logo



4. Help inspire others

You don’t have to be involved in a group to help keep community spirit alive. Simply sharing your story with us can help to inspire others to take the plunge and organise their own Big Lunch! You may not think your lunch was particularly quirky or different but for every type of lunch there is someone who will see that lunches happen in places just like where they live. Send a few paragraphs (or a whole essay if you like!) to

Big Lunch case study tree


5. Plan your next Big Lunch!

There’s nothing like planning your next Big Lunch to keep community spirit alive! We are already hearing of summer, and even Christmas, Big Lunches being planned across the UK, so why not get planning for your next community event? We are also working on our packs for next year ready for the New Year; Big Lunch 2015 is just around the corner!



Community, Ideas, News, Planning, Spreading the word, Top tips
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How do your kids travel to school?

July 14, 2014
Author: admin

Did you know that the UK is getting ever closer to half of all primary aged school children now being driven to school, an average journey that is less than two miles or a 15 minute bike ride? The Big Lunch has been talking to Sustrans, the leading UK charity enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys we make every day, about their new campaign for safer streets.

When you invest in creating space that’s fit for children and focus on reconnecting them to places they go every day – like school – a local journey can become a walk, a bike or a scoot! The school journey, usually short and local, is the perfect way to make your child’s weekly routine more active.

Children walking from school

With investment in slowing traffic speeds, and creating more walking and cycling networks to schools and beyond, a huge number of short car journeys could be replaced by trips on foot and by bike. More than ever there is the opportunity to redesign our communities and streets, and make them better places to live, work, shop or play rather than to drive through.  And designing with children in mind benefits us all!

Sustrans are campaigning so children can run, walk, scoot or bike the school run again.  To make this a reality the UK needs safer streets.  Join the debate; take a look at the Safer Streets campaign.

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Environment, Friends, Spreading the word
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Music to our ears: ‘Our Big Gig’ returns this weekend!

July 11, 2014
Author: Charlotte

Our Big Gig is the UK’s biggest community music festival. Similar to The Big Lunch, this fun annual event aims to bring communities together and is a great opportunity to get to know your neighbours – but through music instead! This weekend, 11-13 July, 174 free music events will take place – with more than 7,000 musicians and 2,000 volunteers helping to host gigs.

Our Big Gig_Ernest Cafe Newcastle_webready

Over the course of the weekend there will be an exciting and diverse array of music ranging from local choirs to steel drums, orchestras, open mic, beat boxing and performers singing and playing in talent competitions. All the events are free to attend and anyone can take part either as an active participant or merely a member of the audience.  If you’re an aspiring musician or would like to be involved in any way you can, register here.

Aside from musical entertainment many events have activities such as face painting, dance and song writing workshops and food and drink stalls added into the bargain so there’s something for everyone. Each event is individual and offers something different musically so that all tastes are catered for.

Fancy popping along to your nearest Our Big Gig? Locations and line ups can be found here:


Our Big Gig is an ‘Inspired by 2012’ project and last summer saw over 200,000 people attend free concerts. Superact, who created the initiative, has given grants to 150 Community Organisations and this year also oversaw a crowdfunding campaign, via Spacehive, which allowed a further 14 events to take place. Many of the events are being held in social spaces such as youth centres, cafés and record stores, which in turn could also help boost local businesses. 

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Community, Events, Music, Spreading the word
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Celebrate the Commonwealth in your community

June 30, 2014
Author: Emily Watts

2014_BL_Stow _Scotland_Prof_39The sun is out, the nights are longer and the days are (mostly) warmer. What better season to get out and active with your community?  Up here in Glasgow we’re getting excited for the Commonwealth Games – and we’re thinking about ways we can celebrate sporting and cultural goodness with our communities.

If you’ve enjoyed getting together for a Big Lunch and are looking for ideas for something to do next, or if you’re  planning to hold a Big Lunch to celebrate the Games and cheer on your chosen teams –  we’ve got some great ideas to help you celebrate with your neighbours!

2014_BL_Aberdeen _Scotland_Prof_03Get Active

  • Encourage your community to get moving by holding a sports tournament.  Make sure you have plenty of silly races and games to get people involved – our favourites are the old fashioned egg-and-spoon races and tug ‘o’ wars. Two-legged races are always fun!


  • Get each house, family or participant to draw ballots and support a different Commonwealth team for the duration of the Games. You could make a special ‘medal’ for the winning household.

eden med foodFood

  • Hold a mini Commonwealth Big Lunch – pick a county in the Commonwealth and each bring a themed dish.
  • Ask everyone for their favourite recipes from different Commonwealth countries and create a street or community wide recipe booklet!



  • Ask around – perhaps you have a storyteller in your midst who would regale you all with tales of the Commonwealth countries? Does anyone in your community have their own stories to share?
  • Make a map of the world and encourage people to mark the Commonwealth countries they’ve visited, or would like to visit – if they have photos even better! Who’s the furthest travelled?


Scot_2012_BJL_Rutherglen_SouthIndianTemple_07_IainMcLeanGet Arty

  • Get everyone involved in doing a street mural in chalk – why not take inspiration from Aboriginal dot art? (Top tip – chalk will wash away afterwards – and we have some to give away!)
  • Is there a local dance group that could demonstrate some dances from the Commonwealth? If you have some keen dancers maybe they could research dance styles and put on a performance themselves?


Whatever you do, we wish you a warm and sunny summer full of excuses to get together. What better way to brighten your day and get you all out together?

We still have some Commonwealth Big Lunch packs availabel (posters, invites and an ideas sheet) – contact emily.watts@thebiglunch to recieve yours.

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Community, Events, Games, Ideas, Scotland, Spreading the word
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Portadown Big Pink Lunch

June 17, 2014
Author: Grainne McCloskey

Northern Ireland is recognising the value a Big Lunch can bring to a local neighbourhood community.  The support of Big Lottery Fund NI and our sponsors has been invaluable to me as representative for The Big Lunch in Northern Ireland. So throughout the summer I will be sharing stories from Big Lunches they organised and supported here. First up is ASDA Portadown…

Maxine Chambers a past employee of Asda who now works for Goal Line Youth Trust teamed up with Elaine Livingstone the local Asda Community Life champion and hosted a Big Pink Lunch. Maxine told me how only a year ago the super youth facility faced closure but with the support of local politicians and parents they were able to fight and find funding to stay open. Their Big Pink Lunch raised awareness for Tickled pink, and celebrated Goal Line who have plans to further develop facilities to bring all abilities together at play.  What a difference a year makes!

Tug of war at Goal Line with Asda Halifax and local politicians

Maxine said “Organising our Big Pink Lunch gave us the opportunity to thank local families and politicians who all pulled together to fight and helped us succeed in keeping Goal Line open.

“Halifax, Asda, SELB and Children in Need also provided valuable support which made our event possible. We are also very grateful for the fundraising efforts of our parent committee. I would definitely recommend the Big Lunch to other local groups who want to build stronger links in their local areas.”

Upper Bann MP, David Simpson said: “I’m delighted to support the sterling work of Goal Line Youth Trust, attending this Big Lunch was also a good opportunity to recognise their value in our local community and to  encourage the work Asda are doing in their fundraising efforts for breast cancer.”

Attending the event I couldn’t help thinking what a wonderful sense of community there was between the Goal Line team and the youths they support. Northern Irish people have a reputation where ever we go for being fun loving and friendly and yet we do have social isolation and one of the highest levels of youth suicide. Asda CLCs across Northern Ireland do amazing work to support community initiatives such as The Big Lunch and Asda staff support has been invaluable in helping encourage local people to give The Big Lunch a go, in fact the staff of ASDA Portadown baked so many lovely cakes, we shared some of them with the Rathlin Island Big Lunch.

Party Portadown

Elaine, ASDA Portadown Community Life Champion does some super volunteering and has been a great support to me in raising the profile of The Big Lunch here. She understands the difference good neighbours can make.

Elaine says “When it comes to helping charities and local good causes my ASDA colleagues offer tremendous  support – the delicious cakes we shared were home made by many of our staff. I am delighted to support The Big Lunch and motivate more neighbours to make friends over lunch.”

Portadown Big Pink Lunch_image_balloons

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Asda, Case Study, Community, News, Northern Ireland
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Nurture the soul at Sunflower Fest

June 13, 2014
Author: Grainne McCloskey


sunflower fest 2014

FAMILIES looking for a weekend to remember this summer had better head to Hillsborough this August for the fifth annual Sunflower Fest. It promises the biggest programme of FREE kids’ activities to feature at any event in Northern Ireland and The Big Lunch is delighted to be involved.

The festival was named in the Irish Times as one of the Top 25 Festivals and Music events of the summer.  It is an excitingly different and magical weekend of great music, arts and entertainment. It will nurture the mind, body and soul through a wide range of superb music, and fun with performances in the Enchanted Glade, storytelling, poetry, and interactive art, dance and music workshops.

Sunflower Fest shares a love of the countryside and aims to make Tubby’s farm and all its glorious flora, fauna and festival magic accessible to everyone. This year festival Sunday will be a Big Lunch day with everyone encouraged to talk to their neighbours at the event and get to know the other folk attending.

sunflower fest

The Big Lunch at Sunflower Fest

The festival, famed for its relaxing and family-friendly atmosphere, has worked hard to offer fun-loving families a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of every day life and enjoy a safe environment where young and old can enjoy the best of music, arts and culture.

Set on Tubby’s Farm, Hillsborough and taking place from August 22nd to August 25th, the specially designed Kidz Zone gives creative kids a chance to try their hands at everything from stilt walking to sculpture, clay modelling to creative arts as well as a wide range of interactive activities including poetry, storytelling, puppetry and painting.

The Big Lunch will be featured as part of the ‘Kidz Zone’ where we will be encouraging children to help us do some guerrilla bunting to brighten up the area. We will be asking the children to make their bunting illustrate  what they love about Our World and we promise to let you all see some of their lovely work on here afterwards. This  year’s theme is birds, bees and butterflies and our friends at RSPB and Ulster Wildlife Trust will encourage kids to interact and learn more about nature.

The seperate campsite for families means that you won’t miss out on all the fun of the weekend. Its sure to please as there will be dancing, face-painting, kids yoga, rock and roll football and even a gyroscope and with the offer of two children under 15 getting free tickets with one adult ticket – having fun this summer doesn’t have to break the bank!

So if you’ve been wondering what to do this August get to Sunflower Fest and don’t forget to find us and say hello!

SunflowerFest  is a not for profit community interest company.

Enjoy your own  taste of Sunflower Fest


hatter party


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Events, Northern Ireland
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This summer at the Eden Project

June 5, 2014
Author: Trudi Holden

There’s  never been a better a time to come down to Cornwall, and visit the birth place of The Big Lunch; the spectacular Eden project! From plants and exhibitions to delicious food and fun-filled entertainment; Eden’s summer program is packed full of things to do to keep the whole family happy. Here are our 5 favourite things coming up over the next couple of months: 

 eden project summer 201

Green fingers festival

Eden’s acclaimed horticulture team will be sharing their knowledge in a series of free expert gardener talks at their Green Fingers Festival, between 2-29 June 2014 (excluding 21 June). Join in for hour-long talks; covering everything from allotments and growing your own to composting, wildlife gardening, flowers and ornamentals and exotic gardening. They will also be welcoming along celebrity gardeners and friends from other Cornish gardens, such as The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Trebah and Tresco. 


Spot the Dinosaurs!

Get set for adventure and discover a lost world of dinosaurs at Eden. Become a true explorer and track down the giant beasts that used to rule the planet! Hone your exploring skills, dig for fossils, meet explorers and much more! The dinosaur exhibition will also feature an amazing collection of dinosaur fossils, including real dinosaur eggs, a fossilised brain, a whole skeleton and a real T-rex tooth. Not to be missed!

Fly like Superman!

Fly like a hero and take an adrenaline-fuelled headfirst ride in the new ‘superman’ harness. Eden’s zip wire is the longest in England at 660m and now it’s definitely the fastest; with some of their test pilots going at 60mph! The SkyWire is £15 if you buy on arrival or upgrade your day admission ticket into Eden and pay just £10. The Big Lunch team have already had a go!


Get a taste from the Med

All of Eden’s cafes and restaurants offer a great range of fresh, healthy food whilst also telling enchanting stories about the origins of their ingredients. Catering for vegetarian, vegan, carnivore and gluten-free diets (and others if you ask nicely!), the newly renovated med deck in the Mediterranean Biome has a mouth-watering array of deli platters, salads and pizzas! Taster menus can be found on the Eden website.

eden med food


Experience the Sessions

See world-class bands and artists perform in front of Eden’s beautiful Biomes; with the amazing acoustics created by our natural amphitheatre. And as each ticket includes entry on the day of the Session and the day after, you can make a real holiday out of it! This year artists include the Pixies, Ellie Goulding, Elbow, Dizzee Rascal and Skrillex! There are tickets still available on the Eden Sessions website.

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Events, Ideas, Video
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