Yesterday, we were lucky enough to have a very special guest at a Big Lunch in East Belfast. Patron of The Big Lunch, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, joined a group of Big Lunchers from all over Northern Ireland and community minded people from East Belfast. The day was spent sharing stories and chatting about local neighbourhoods and reducing loneliness. The event was held at the Skainos Centre, part of the East Belfast Mission and close to a Big Lunch taking place this year by two ladies from either side of the East Belfast interface.
The Duchess prepared a nutritious quinoa salad for the guests with local ambassador, Jane McClenaghan and also helped to paint a chair in a restoration demo, with Refurb manager Nick Cave. Both wonderful examples of Big Lunch activities!
The Duchess herself told the crowds of people at Skainos:
“It is three years ago I came to my first Big Lunch in Northern Ireland and you can really see how the idea has grown. It’s getting bigger and bigger, with more and more people getting involved.
People from every section of society, every religion, we are getting people talking to each other and that’s what its all about. There are also a lot of lonely people out there, who probably never say anything to anyone for 24 hours, but with The Big Lunch there is a way to get people talking and sharing and saying hello to their neighbours.
I hope you get thousands of people together, and get the whole country involved.”
A number of Big Lunchers in Northern Ireland got the chance to meet with the Duchess and shared their thoughts too:
Diana Miller, who is organising a lunch in Benburb, Co. Tyrone, said: “It was lovely to meet the Duchess, I don’t know what I was expecting but it was a great pleasure, and she was very down to earth.”
Jackie Upton who is busy organising a cross-community Big Lunch in her local area with Jacqueline O’Donnell, from the other side of the interface. Jackie Upton said: “The Duchess is very down to earth, she gave us a lot of time and listened to what people had to say around the table. She was very interested in the Big Lunch we are organising.” The Duchess was particularly pleased to meet Jackie and presented her with a plate, that Jackie said she will be using it at her event.
The day ended with a great cheer and people left on a high, looking forward to their own Big Lunch!
If you read your local paper or listen to your local radio station, you might be wondering how you can get them to cover your Big Lunch. It’s definitely worth letting a few journalists know about your event, especially if you’re going to be raising money for charity or if you’d like more people to attend.
To help you, The Big Lunch PR team has put together a few tips and created a press release template that you can personalise for your event. We look forward to seeing how you spread the word!
Decide who is going to look after PR activity for your Big Lunch and think about why local people will be interested in hearing about your event: Do you have an interesting story to tell about your street? Are you raising money for charity? Does your event have a quirky theme?
You might have already thought about contacting your local newspaper, but don’t forget about local blogs, radio and TV too. Perhaps you could tell your story on a phone-in to your favourite local radio station, for example?
Journalists are busy people so the best way to contact them is by email. Look for the ‘Contact us’ section on their website and send your press release to the news desk email address (copy and paste it into your email rather than sending as an attachment).
Set up a Facebook page or Twitter profile to publicise your event and also post about it on your local media’s social media channels. Please include #thebiglunch in your messages!
Take lots of photos and videos at your Big Lunch and send them to your local media on the same day – some of them might have a ‘Send us your photos’ form on their website.
Don’t forget to let us know about your Big Lunch too by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Dawn from Manchester is holding her first Big Lunch on Sunday 7 June. She’s part of volunteer environmental group Envirolution which teaches people how to live more sustainably in a fun and informal way.
“At Envirolution, we don’t like to throw anything away so we’re always thinking of creative new uses for everyday items or how to upcycle junk into something useful. Some of our favourite upcycled decorations are Bottle Flower Bunting and Vinyl Flowers and we’ve been making some for our upcoming Big Lunch. They’re easy to make but make a big impression! Why not get together with some neighbours and have a go at creating your own? Not only do they look great, they’re great for the planet too!”
For this you can use a variety of bottles of all shapes and sizes.
You will need
Firstly, make sure you’re only using old or unwanted records, not someone’s prized possessions! You can use any record size, we prefer 12″ as they are easier to handle.
You will need
We chose to paint ours with vibrant gloss paint as it’s hard wearing and long lasting. We’ve used ours outside for years with no issues, apart from people wanting to take them home from our events!
Feeling inspired? We’d love to see your upcycled decorations. Share them below!
As we approach Sunday 7 June many of you will have a few last minute worries! But, do not fret, we are here to help bust those oh so familiar worries and get you ready to enjoy a day of fun, socialising and community bonding!
So, here are a few of the most common panics for every Big Luncher:
We live in the UK, so there is a possibility you may experience a bit of wet weather! But, this is nothing to stop your Big Lunch going ahead. Make sure to have a wet weather plan a week in advance of your Big Lunch. Ask neighbours if they could host it in their lounge or kitchen, or what about a local community hall, church or local space. Be brave and ask around, you might be able to borrow a marquee - that way you can still be outside!
This can easily be resolved with a little imagination and forward planning. A few games and props can create hours of amusement, explore our Games page for ideas. How about an old-fashioned egg and spoon race? Tug of war? Skipping? Or how about a coconut-shy? – using coconuts or other round vegetables, with hula-hoops or buckets for them to be thrown into.
A few days before your Big Lunch day, it is worth doing a little round up of what everyone will be bringing to the table. This doesn’t necessarily mean, what exact dish, but asking if neighbours are bringing sweet or savoury; this will help to see if you need more of one or the other. Similarly, asking all attendees to RSVP to your day is helpful as it will give you an idea of numbers and therefore make food planning a little easier.
At first, it is worth asking everyone who is attending if they have any chairs or benches that they could bring along. Make sure to ask for a reply, so you are able to tally up the numbers. If you are still in need, approach your local schools, community groups (like Scouts or Brownies) or religious centres if they have any you could loan for the day. You can also get creative – up turned buckets make nifty stools!
Whatever size your Big Lunch is, it will still be a worthy event in your local community! Even if you meet just 1 new person, you will have achieved something by growing your neighbourly links.
A little bit of décor can turn any street into one that looks ready for a party! How about using recycled materials to make your own bunting? Or, decorating an old bed sheet to use as a personalised table cloth? Get the kids to do chalk drawings along the pavement and pop a few flowers in some old jam jars. Easy to do, cheap and quick!
The main aim of Big Lunch day is to enjoy yourself! Although you may worry about everyone else having a good time, it is key to relax a little and go with the flow! Things will fall into place and sometimes the most fun events are the ones that don’t run the smoothest!
Got any other worries our Agony Aunt can help with? Email us at email@example.com
Michelle from Bebington is organising her second Big Lunch on Sunday 7 June. Here she shares her top tips for promoting The Big Lunch ahead of the big day.
“Organising an event doesn’t always seem like an easy thing to do. Thankfully, The Big Lunch has a national date and provides lots of guidance and advice but there are still decisions to make on the date, venue and activities, helpers to recruit and important work to do to promote your Big Lunch plans to neighbours and community members.
I’m very excited about our Big Lunch in Meyer Park.
There have been so many positive developments that I know it’s likely to be a big success, but now I’m in the process of promoting our event, I wanted to share my top five resources for getting your Big Lunch plans out there:
1. Facebook – (www.facebook.com) – Why not use Facebook to create a Big Lunch event which you can share with your friends and groups? Post event updates at least once a week and generate excitement with a countdown just before the Big Lunch day. Check out my Facebook event here – https://www.facebook.com/events/1663074283920508/
2. Twitter – (www.twitter.com) Use Twitter to share your Facebook event link and utilise hashtags such as #Wirral so local people who search for that term will see your tweets. Tag any accounts that promote local events like @whatsgoodtodo1 (A UK wide account for fun and entertainment) and tweet me – @blueybaloo for a retweet!
3. Streetlife – (www.streetlife.com) –Register for a Streetlife account and create an event that can be shared with anyone in your local area, even if you’re not connected with them. After creating your event, keep people up to date with your latest plans by regularly commenting on the event wall in the lead up to the big day.
4. Netmums – (www.netmums.com) – If you want to spread the word more publicly, you can add an event to Netmums event page, explain what The Big Lunch involves and link to The Big Lunch website; www.thebiglunch.com. You can also include contact details but be mindful these are available for public view so you might want to consider creating a special Big Lunch email address.
5. Mumsnet-(www.mumsnet.com) – Search ‘Add event listing’ and find your local area’s page. Promote your Big Lunch on there to let your community know exactly what’s happening in case they want to get involved.
What are your top tips for promoting your own Big Lunch? Share them in the comments section below; we’d love to hear them!
Georgina Jones is founder of TLO – Turn Lights On – a movement that’s all about creating connections between people and doing something positive to help others. She’s passionate about human connection – that wonderful experience that you get when you’re connected to someone, or something. This year Georgina is organising her first ever Big Lunch on her street in Cardiff Bay and here she shares her hopes, fears and honesty about taking that first step!
“Had my first meeting at The Deck today about our Big Lunch. If you are unaware of The Big Lunch, have a gander at the site. In a nutshell it’s about connecting with the people that live around you and coming together and having a lunch on your street. Everyone brings a dish and you enjoy connecting! This is such a lovely link with Turn Lights On so I’m very happy to be getting involved.
Getting a whole street together takes some organising so naturally I need a partner in crime and lucky for me I have a rather wonderful one. Deborah owns The Deck, an award winning coffee shop which is one of my favourite places in the world. Deb and I are going to see if we can get two streets together to do a lunch in the Cardiff Bay area where we both live, Hunter Street and Harrowby Street. The date for this is 21st June and the time is yet to be decided.
Gwion from The Big Lunch joined us today and told us wonderful stories of people connecting in Big Lunches all over Wales, some places even close all the streets in the village! Getting to know the people around you can make such a difference to the way that you feel – as I say all the time we are better together.
I have been buzzed about the Big Lunch since I met Gwion at Creative Mornings in February and I wanted to get the ball rolling but I felt a little scared about knocking on people’s doors and asking them to join me! Me…. Mrs Turn Lights On that encourages people to do this all the time! I’m not sure why I felt scared as I’m sure the majority of people I will speak to will be interested in a day of making new friends and yes maybe a few may not be, however that is their choice. I think it’s the knocking on the door bit that concerns me. I have always said that I could never do a door to door job and hats off to people that do. This will be a great TLO experiment for me. A time to leave my ego at the door and be present and passionate about this truly wonderful idea. This is not about me (my ego), it’s about the cause and connection so I need to get knocking those knockers!
We may have two streets worth of people coming to the Big Lunch or it may be Deb and I sitting outside The Deck enjoying a cuppa with one of her amazing cakes! Regardless, I will get to know Deb more and that will be a worthwhile use of my day. We may even attract a crowd as we both love a natter to people so the end result will be the same.
I will update you on how my canvassing goes and what people say. The first connection is always the tricky one and I may need a little bit of a push and a surge of puppy power to do it, but when the connection is made wonderful things happen. In our communities we have to face the fear to make things better.
Fear will keep us lonely, fear will keep us not knowing our neighbours, fear is creating this magnolia living where we don’t connect and engage and Turn Lights On and The Big Lunch is about creating colourful connections which start with a question and a great intention.
Right I’m going to put my best smile on and get knocking on those doors!
We always love to hear your Big Lunch plans are coming along; if you would like to share you story, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Big Lunch is all about getting to know your neighbours. So, we thought we should find out how well you already know them!
We commissioned a nationwide survey recently and it’s been really interesting to see how people up and down the country build relationships with their neighbours.
In the East of England and the South West, for example, getting together over a nice cup of tea is particularly popular while in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the South East, neighbours often lend each other things. In Wales, the North East and the West Midlands, more than one in 10 people have taken a meal to a neighbour when they were ill.
From lending lawnmowers and having a meal together to giving your neighbour a spare key, neighbourliness is clearly alive and kicking across the UK. And of course, bringing a Big Lunch to your street can help even more!
Here are the key findings of our survey:
38% of UK adults have borrowed something from, or lent something to, their neighbours and a third (33%) have asked them for, or given them, advice. 9% have taken their neighbour’s children to or from school and 8% say their kids have had a play date with other children who live nearby.
More than a third (34%) of adults in the UK have had a cup of tea with a neighbour, a quarter (25%) have gone to each other’s house for lunch, dinner or drinks and 16% have spent time together at the local pub. 10% have taken a meal to a neighbour when they were ill.
Despite these examples of neighbourliness, only one in 10 adults (13%) in the UK have given their main spare key to their neighbour. The majority of people (45%) leave their spare key with a relative, 10% have given it to a friend who lives nearby and 5% keep it hidden in a secret place. A third (33%) of people who have not given their neighbour a spare key say that they simply have not thought of doing so and 17% say they do not know them well enough.
Natalie is a social worker who works for Stockport and District Mind, a charity that supports people experiencing mental health distress. Here she explains how The Big Lunch helps people with mental health distress by covering the Five Ways to Wellbeing that have been researched and developed by the New Economics Foundation.
“This year is our second Big Lunch. Last year, we decided to hold a Big Lunch because the first step in the Five Ways to Wellbeing is to connect and this is really important to us because when people become unwell they lose connection with others. We’re passionate about peer support and people coming together and Sunday is a great day to hold The Big Lunch, as people can feel isolated on Sunday as there are usually no services. In fact, The Big Lunch covers all Five Ways to Wellbeing as it allows people to:
A lot of people who access our services feel isolated and recognise this as a cause of mental distress, as it can promote feelings of vulnerability and loneliness when they need support, acceptance and inclusion. The Big Lunch gives people the opportunity to be involved and feel connected to those around them in a fun way. Often in society we take people for granted and don’t acknowledge how important people are in our lives until there is no one there.
The Big Lunch focuses on all the positive aspects of community, enables friendships to form and allows people to realise that often they are not the only one feeling isolated. There are friends out there; you just need to meet them.”
Here, brand new Big Luncher, Joan from Cheshire gives her 5 top tips for getting over your door knocking nerves.
“I’m very new to The Big Lunch and have been inspired to give it a go with my street by my niece, who has helped organise hers for the last 3 years. Being a “newbie” to my street having only lived there for 2 years, I was rather nervous about knocking on my neighbours doors in the cul-de-sac. The first door knock was the hardest but the people I spoke to were friendly and positive which encouraged me. Here’s my top door knocking tips for other first time Big Lunchers who might be nervous about approaching their neighbours.”
People can visualise a happy street party and don’t mind standing at the door to talk when it’s good weather!
I introduce myself straight away to allay any fears that I am trying to get money from my neighbours or sell something.
You’re not in a rush and can give those people who need it, time to listen to everything you have to say.
Conversation flows easily after that!
It’s great to refer to while talking if you get a bit nervous and you can also post through the letter boxes of the houses when no one is in.
Remember every Big Lunch journey begins with the first step so take the plunge and knock on that door! A big thank you to Joan for sharing her advice.
Want to share yours too? Send it to email@example.com
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