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Things to do together this autumn

October 31, 2014
Author: Charlotte

As soon as the nights start drawing in and it’s dark when you leave in the morning and dark when you get home at night, it can be tricky to keep up with neighbours. So here are a few ways you can get-together this autumn.

Autumn stroll

Whether you live in rural countryside or the middle of a city, invite everyone out for a nice autumnal stroll. From hedgehog hunting to bird watching, den building to leaf collecting, spending time outdoors in the autumn is fantastic! How many leaves can you find in different colours? Collect as many as you can and check out Sustran’s Leafy weaving loom idea.

If you come across a Horse Chestnut tree, you could organise a conkers match – a great event for all generations to enjoy together!

Bonfire Night!

You don’t have to spend a lot on fireworks to enjoy them, many towns and cities put on free local events so if you can, why not gather your neighbours together and pop along to one? Or you could have an impromptu get-together in the street, garden or park with sparklers and glow sticks and enjoy everyone else’s fireworks! Activities such as apple-bobbing always go down a treat, have a look at our activity page for more ideas.

Forage and bake off

Take a day trip and venture out to a farm or countryside for a day of foraging! Ask neighbours to help out with lifts and car-sharing. It’s a perfect opportunity to take those who are housebound a chance to go somewhere a bit different – remember to wrap up warm! Then you can organise an informal bake-off – use what you’ve foraged to create something yummy and meet up at someone’s house for tea and goodies! If you find any Rose Hips we have a great recipe.

The Last Post

Gather your musical instruments and get involved with the Last Post Project by holding an event with your community! The Last Post fortnight takes place 4-18 November and is a lovely way to share stories and play music from the era. Perhaps some of your neighbours have some interesting things to share?

Eden Project fireworks

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Community, Ideas, Planning
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How we fundraised with a Big Lunch

October 30, 2014
Author: Charlotte

Julie Barbour_How we fundraised with a Big Lunch_image_webready

Julie lives in Castlefield, and with some of the other residents, she got together to develop a community garden. But after a while participation dwindled, this is how Julie turned it around:

“The idea was to renovate a piece of unused land that the council had put up for lease. It wasn’t easy to complete and unfortunately over time the number of volunteers for the project fell, but we persevered on! I’d heard of The Big Lunch and I thought it would be a good way to celebrate our garden and also fundraise for The Christie, a local hospital.

We had fantastic support from the local businesses. The nearby pub put on a barbecue and drinks with all profits going to charity, there was about £180 raised from that alone. We also had craft stalls which we sold for £10 each, a tombola, a raffle, a quiz, guess the name of the teddy and guess the weight of the cake! Some of the other local businesses that got involved were great and we now have a good relationship with them. Next year I can go back to them and ask for their support again. And it’s benefitted them too, a few people have now used the local garage whose owner came along on the day, no-one really knew about it before.

I had people coming up to me on the day saying ‘are you Julie? I think it’s fantastic what you’ve all done!’ People were chatting and you could see little groups forming where people were mingling and getting to know each other. Even now you see people talking to people they didn’t talk to before. It’s really boosted the community spirit.

We fundraised for The Christie Hospital in Manchester as my mum did her chemotherapy there so it’s a charity close to my heart. At the end of the day we’d raised £1800, but then the manager of the business that services the apartment blocks, who also had treatment for cancer at The Christie Hospital donated £200 – we ended up raising £2000 – a GREAT DAY! I can’t wait to do it all again next year.”

A big thanks goes out to Julie for sharing her story with us! Want to tell us about your Big Lunch? Get in touch at

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Case Study, Charity, England, England Case Study
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Decorate your street for Halloween

October 23, 2014
Author: Grainne McCloskey

We know lots of our Big Lunchers also enjoy fun street parties at Halloween. So here are some low cost Halloween decoration ideas which you can put to good use in your home or together with your neighbours.

Halloween window decorations

creepy tree with owl and bats and crescent moon crated out of paper to make a halloween window decoration

Making wicked window decorations for Halloween is cheap and easy to do with young children.

  • Get some black card, lay a child’s arms with fingers out stretched on the card and draw around them with chalk or a pencil as either will be easy to see afterwards.
  • Next let the child draw around your arms.
  • Cut out both sets of arms and sellotape to your front windows.

children creating hand shapes for halloween window decorations

Note: You can create a range of shapes from bats to witches or ghosts and ghouls. If you don’t want to buy card use black bin bags but they are a little trickier to pin to the window afterwards and harder to draw on to0.

Tip: If the tape leaves a sticky mark simply rub off with nail varnish remover or vegetable oil!

When you draw the blinds or curtains to put on the lights at night, peep out from another window and watch passer by reactions.

Halloween street decorations

Fearsome Figures can be made easily using recycled materials.

a scarecrow ghost

Found on

  • Make scary ghosts or witches by creating scarecrows with old rags. The face can be an old mask placed over a football.
  • You can also make cats and bats to decorate your garden or to hang high on lamp posts or trees where you live. Bear in mind they need to be fairly water proof in case of wicked weather, so seal with PVA glue or varnish.
  • Make paper lanterns to help create atmosphere. They don’t need to be lit but if you want to do it safely use LED Christmas lights or individual ones like those you get in light up balloons, these can be found online.
  • Stretch cobwebs in the trees, these can be purchased at most pound shops at this time of year. Finally play some spooky sound effects; a lot of fun can be had creating your own sound effects recording.

Haunted houses

Last week we shared the story of one Big Lunch neighbourhood and their haunted house plans and that’s certainly a good way to bring lots of people together. It can even raise money for a group or charity. But if that seems too adventurous simply decorate a few rooms in your house and invite neighbours and friends for a frighteningly good time, with everyone bringing a dish to scare, we mean share!

Trick or treats

Here are some recipes to impress your trick or treaters or ghoulish guests.

And a ghost, I mean host of other Halloween party treats and ideas are available over on our Pinterest board

So whether it’s a scary street party or ghostly goings on at home you are planning, have a Happy Halloween everyone!


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Community, Decorations, How to, Ideas, Northern Ireland
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First Big Lunch fears

October 21, 2014
Author: Emma

Alison is Community Assistant for Habinteg Housing Association’s residents in Poleglass, West Belfast. Fairly new and looking after the needs of 90 homes, she saw The Big Lunch as a way to introduce herself properly and get everyone mixing.

“I was aware that there hadn’t been many events or ways for the residents to get together so when Grainne, from The Big Lunch spoke at a Habinteg Housing event, I got in touch to find out more. Her enthusiastic, down to earth approach helped me to grow in confidence. I liked the simplicity and the fact that The Big Lunch is inclusive, bringing people together in a shared neutral space making it easier to get everyone to join in, so I decided to give it a try.

Ours was a Big Lunch on a shoestring and I called for help from friends with things like junk art, face painting and seed planting – all cheap to do and great for kids. Habinteg produced flyers for me and encouraged me all the way.

The Friday before our Big Lunch I was extremely nervous that no-one would turn-up. I didn’t yet have a good sense of whether I had community support and I hadn’t received very many RSVPs or much response from the residents. I almost cancelled the whole thing, but Grainne’s advice was ringing in my ears, “It doesn’t matter if only one resident turns up, it’s still a success if you sit down and talk”.

However, it was all great in the end! We went ahead and had a great turn out! Most importantly, we reached the people that normally wouldn’t attend events and who could feel less isolated as a result. Spending time with the tenants in a relaxed informal atmosphere was special.

The sun shone and the craic was mighty!


So, a piece of advice I would give to others thinking of doing a Big Lunch street party for the first time is, just do it! Keep it low cost and simple to begin with, so you don’t have to worry too much about not hearing back from people or knowing what numbers to expect.

Organising our Big Lunch helped reinstate my faith in people and helped me realise how much everyone appreciated someone taking the first step and trying out something new for the community.

Thank goodness I wasn’t eating a cheese sandwich on my own!”

Street play idea

My friend painted trees on canvasses and we asked everyone to put their painted finger print onto the trees as ‘leaves’. They are a great source of conversation and a visible memory of our lovely day together.



Many thanks to Alison for sharing her experience. We need your stories! Please get in touch at

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Case Study, Housing, Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Case Study, Spreading the word, Stories, Top tips
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Halloween tips to treat your neighbours!

October 16, 2014
Author: Emma

As the nights are drawing in and we’re set to spend more time indoors and less out in our communities, why not go a step beyond trick or treating this year. Bring your neighbours together for a spooky street party or fancy dress Halloween event You may just have a frightfully spooktacular time like the Cairns residents!

Halloween haunted house fundraiser


Cairns Residents Group represents a housing estate of 40 homes in Cushendall, in the Glens of Antrim, NI. They first got involved with The Big Lunch back in 2013, organising an event as a way to launch their recently completed community allotments. They found organising their first Big Lunch to be a real confidence booster and have since gone on to set-up loads more ways to get people together, including seasonal events.

Halloween House of Horrors

One of the biggest successes for the group so far was last year’s Halloween House of Horrors event -‘guaranteed to scare the bejeepers outta ye!’  It’s back by popular demand this Old Hallows Eve too!

neighbours carving pumpkins

The group drew on resources available on their streets and in the wider community, bringing people’s skills together to get their gruesome grotto off the ground. Local builders were brought in, volunteering time to assemble the scaffolding structure of the haunted house and do the essential safety checks. Groups of residents were given specific rooms to decorate to make sure everyone was involved and that it wasn’t left to a few individuals to work on. In preparation, they held a pumpkin carving night for local souls who wanted to get into the spirit!

The response they received from the community was brilliant and everyone was kept busy spooking and scaring the huge number that turned out. It was the talk of the village the following day and proved what they could achieve through co-operation and a bit of imagination.

If a big Halloween event isn’t possible for you this year, you could start by making some tricky treats (like this pumpkin pie) to share with your neighbours instead.


Happy Halloween to all you community spirits!

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Case Study, Community, How to, Ideas, Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Case Study
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Stony Stratford Town Council’s Big Lunch

October 14, 2014
Author: Charlotte

From the Summer Festival of Music and the Classic Car Festival, to Apple Day and The Big Lunch, Stony Stratford in Milton Keynes has a real culture for celebrating local community events. There’s a wealth of community and volunteer groups throughout the parish, and Stony Stratford Town Council who organise The Big Lunch. Following the success of their first Big Lunch in 2012 the Town Council have made The Big Lunch an event to accompany the rest in their community calendar. Big Luncher and Deputy Town Clerk, Ian, tells us why The Big Lunch in Stony Stratford is so great.

“The Big Lunch is different to our other events we do such as Apple Day, it really is all about the people and is a great opportunity for communities and parishes to come together. This year we set up on a different site which had a big green area for the parish to enjoy, and people came along and just organised their own games for everyone else to join in. We set it up and they got on with it!

Milton Keynes_Big Lunch_2014_webready

We held our first Big Lunch in 2012 to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and this took place in our Community Orchard. About 400 people turned up which was brilliant. We had lots of activities going on such as a family fun run, live music, plant potting for the children and a hog roast, but the aim was to keep it simple and that’s what we found worked. The feedback we received after the event was ‘don’t change a thing’ – so we didn’t! And we’ve kept it very similar since.

We also used the opportunity to get information about the town council across to the residents though the PA system, and there were opportunities for consultation over local issues. This year the Youth Council did a survey about a current issue so they got a chance to be involved.

We put The Big Lunch on for free, all we asked for was a donation to be made to the Milton Keynes Foodbank collection. It was inspiring, the great thing about the day was that it showed that there were people thinking about other people.”

Milton Keynes Foodbank 2013

Has your local council put on a Big Lunch for your community? We’d love to hear about it! Email or call us on 0845 850 8181. For more examples on how councils have supported The Big Lunch, please visit

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Case Study, Community, England, England Case Study
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Street party history

October 10, 2014
Author: Emma


We have a long history of celebrating with our neighbours in the UK and the street party tradition is something that’s quite unique to the UK historically, particularly in England and Wales. Street parties have brought people together on various occasions.

We can date street parties as far back as Halloween in 1000BC, the Old Celtic New Year and, in more recent history, royal celebrations like Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, the Coronations of Kings George V & VI and Queen Elizabeth and the various royal weddings of recent years. We were delighted to join this tradition with The Big Jubilee Lunch in 2012, becoming the official ‘street party partners’ for marking the Queens Diamond Jubilee.


End of war street celebrations were also common across the country. The end of WW1 saw a trend of hosting ‘Peace Teas’ on streets, predominately for children who had suffered at home. VE and VJ days also saw whole communities take to the streets, with bunting flags flying.

It’s a tradition that’s more well-established in England and Wales, with Scotland and Northern Ireland having their own ways to celebrate, with Ceilidhs and get-togethers around sport, music and culture. Hogmanay is also a big occasion in Scotland and NI. Edinburgh holds a huge annual New Year’s Eve street party and ‘first footing’ – visiting a neighbour after midnight on old year’s night with gifts of food and wishes of good fortune – has been a way to keep community connections.

The Big Lunch has, however, been well accepted as an idea in Scotland and NI where we’ve seen participation grow year on year in all types of communities.


What The Big Lunch has aimed to do is show that we don’t need an occasion to get together – sometimes it’s nice to spend time with those we live beside just because, and to do so more regularly too! We can now say that The Big Lunch is well-established as part of the UK’s historic street party tradition, being the UK’s biggest street party movement.

Join in with The Big Lunch and join history in the making too!

For more street party history check out Historypin

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Community, Diamond Jubilee, Stories
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What a street party means to you…

October 8, 2014
Author: Emily Watts

I’ve just had the opportunity to get out and meet lots of Big Lunchers. I’ve been travelling round the country facilitating feedback groups on The Big Lunch and what you think about it.

I knew it would be good, but I didn’t realise how much I’d be touched by the process. I said at the beginning of each of the feedback groups we hosted that The Big Lunch is nothing without you – the organisers and the participants - and that might sound cheesy, but it’s true.  Without you, The Big Lunch is just an idea. With you, it comes to life.


I’m going to give you a very brief summary of the thoughts and ideas that I collected on my road-trip from Cardiff, through Bristol, to Belfast, Leeds and finally on to Edinburgh.

The Big Lunchers we met confirmed that we’re on the right tracks in what we do, and what we think about The Big Lunch which was good to hear. They also gave us lots of ideas on how we could improve things, how we could make everything work better.

We’ll be taking these ideas as a team and tackling them in late October. We’ll look at things we can change and the things we’d like to do but might have to adapt. We’ll also be reporting back on it all – even the bits we can’t do anything about – but we’ll try to make sure you know why and that we’ve taken you seriously. After all, as I said – The Big Lunch is nothing without you.

So here are a few of our favourite quotes (there are lots but I had to limit myself or we’d have been here all day!):


We asked why The Big Lunch interested people:

‘The chance to bring people together and really spend time talking, laughing and helping each other’

‘Working together with other people locally to make it happen’


We asked what was valuable about The Big Lunch:

‘You have just to open your front door to get involved’

‘Getting together purely for social and communication reasons. No charges, no charity. Good old fashioned socialising’

‘Because it crosses boundaries, it’s neutral’


We asked what people got out of The Big Lunch:

‘Feeling more together, valued, happier in my neighbourhood

‘To have a voice, to feel like we matter by working together’

‘It’s all about passion, and compassion, and bringing people together’


It was lovely to hear all of these things, backed up by real stories from real Big Lunches as varied as we all are.  There were lots of ideas and a whole load of food for thought (as well as real food) for us to chew over.

I just wanted to say thank you again to all who were able to come along to our groups, it was a pleasure meeting you. Keep your eyes peeled for our updates on your ideas in the next few months!



If you have anything you’d like to feedback to me in the meantime – whether you were at one of our events or not, you can email me at:

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Events, News, Spreading the word
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Celebrate where you live with art

October 6, 2014
Author: Trudi Holden

From 1st October – 2nd November over 1,000 museums and galleries across the UK are opening their doors for children, encouraging them to create their own piece of art as part of this year’s Big Draw. The project offers thousands of fun, and mostly free, drawing activities; which aim to connect people of all ages with museums, outdoor spaces, artists, designers, illustrators – and each other.

eco art

Photo: TRAIL 2014, Michelle Greenwood Brown, Teignmouth, Devon

It’s easy to search for upcoming events using the great Big Draw map, and get involved in the talks, workshops and art activities happening locally. This year’s theme, It’s Our World, is a celebration of our environment, from urban, rural and coastal landscapes; to the neighbourhoods in which we all live!

The theme is inspired by upcoming art project It’s Our World; which launches as part of the United Nation’s World Environment day, on 5 June 2015. They are inviting children aged 4 – 19 years to put themselves on the map by creating artwork to celebrate where they live. There are no limitations on medium or size, and can be a drawing, painting or even a picture of a sculpture.

children environment art

Photo: Cool It Art, The South Downs Show 2014

Children can then add their finished piece to It’s Our World online Gallery; contributing to what will be the UK’s largest online collection of artwork mapping the British Isles. The uploaded artwork will be showcased in June 2015 on digital ad screens across the UK. The entire collection will also be handed over to The UK Web Archives to be stored for the nation.


Fancy getting your artwork on the map?

For more information about how to get involved check out the Its Our World and The Big Draw websites.

its our world

Photo: Ian Sommerville

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Education, Environment, Events
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The Big Lunch works hand in hand with Neighbourhood Watch

October 3, 2014
Author: Emma

Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) work to promote safer and friendlier neighbourhoods. This is something at the heart of The Big Lunch and it’s been brilliant to see many NHW schemes taking part, holding their own street parties and getting more local people involved in what they do. We’ve seen new NHW schemes being developed after Big Lunches and street parties. A number of existing NHW schemes are also planning their community’s first Big Lunches too!


Brooklands Big Lunch 2014

Brooklands, resident and Big Lunch Champion, Paul, explains; “Our first street party in 2008 seemed to instantly create something special that needed to be built on and we started Home Watch for the estate the following year. The Big Lunch has assisted with our Home Watch scheme and neighbours actively look after each other’s houses when they are away – or even on holiday together!”

Tackling antisocial behaviour issues on Cranston Drive in Cheshire was, as resident Barbara comments, “only possible because the residents knew each other through a Big Lunch. Before our first one in 2009, I didn’t really know anyone but now we’re really lucky. Having got together on several occasions, we subsequently went on to create a NHW scheme and haven’t faced these problems since.”


Residents sitting down together at Cranston Drive Big Lunch street party

NHW involvement has also been the starting point for many Big Lunches. Tim, a NHW coordinator for The Spinney and Bolters Rd. in Horley used The Big Lunch as one of the first things they did as members of NHW. It has since worked hand in hand with their scheme, becoming an annual event over the past 5 years. Getting to know neighbours better has meant other residents now approach Tim much more often to talk about things to do with the street.

And in Doncaster, The Willows NHW held their first Big Lunch street party this year, helping the group to make connections into the local community. They have since expanded, as more neighbours were keen to get involved, and now benefit from a better mixture of ages represented in their group.

As these NHW stories show, Big Lunches can be the start of further community activity in your area or be used as a way to celebrate or engage local people with the work of existing local organisations. NHW could be a natural step for Big Lunch communities not already involved.


The Willows NHW first Big Lunch street party

Did you know Neighbourhood Watch cover the insurance if you have a NHW Big Lunch street party in England and Wales? More info here.

For those wanting to do more in your community, our Halifax and Lottery funded Big Lunch Extras programme could be right up your street – a super way to generate wider interest for those trying to get new community ideas off the ground.

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Case Study, Community, Friends
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