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The Big Lunch - an Eden Project

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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
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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
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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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Grow Wild Community Funding

September 30, 2014
Author: Grainne McCloskey

We invited Grow Wild to come along to our recent Big Lunch Extras Community day in Northern Ireland where Stephanie their local contact shared lots of useful tips. Since the project is UK wide we thought you might be interested too, so here is some information to get you started, please do spread the word about Grow Wild in your local area we love a bit of HUMAN WARMING!

wild flowers planted through grwo wild kew gardens project in Northern ireland. bright yellow and very pretty

Grow Wild flowers on the meadows, Dundrum in Northern Ireland .

Grow Wild Funding

Grow Wild is awarding of funding of levels from £1,000 to £4,000 to community groups. This Big lottery funded project from our friends at Kew Royal Botanical gardens aims to help community groups bring people together to transform a communal space by sowing and growing UK native plants.

a man from grow wild kew gardens is handing seeds to a little blonde boy of three years of age and there is a group of adults and childen gathered in a field waiting for seeds to sow wild flowers

Growing community spirit with Grow Wild!

If your group has an inspiring idea to connect people to nature,  apply before 2nd December 2014 for your chance to join this lively network.

First, please read their community project application guidelines for 2015 funding:

Flagship sites

Grow Wild is also awarding funding of £120,000 to an organisation and its partner groups to become an ambassador for a new approach to connecting people to UK native plants and will be looking to fund one flagship site in each UK country.

In the meantime:

  • Register free for Grow Wild seed kits to share with people in your group. Register online from October 2014 to mid February 2015
  • Be inspired by Grow Wild 2014 community projects. Click here to visit the interactive map.
  • Get the newsletter
  • Keep up to date on Social media  @GrowWildUK @GrowWildNI
Wild flower Meadow Muckamore Co Antrim blue yellow and red wild flowers native to northern ireland

Native wild flower meadow in Muckamore, Co. Antrim.

Community, Competitions, Environment, News, Northern Ireland
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Community art: drawing over the cracks

September 30, 2014
Author: Grainne McCloskey

This blog was written for The Big Lunch by Lucy Pearce a free spirited Big Lunch supporter freelance writer and contributing editor, JUNO magazine.

Walking home last night, it struck me that the thing I find most dispiriting about where we live is all the grey concrete and tarmac. This evening the children solved that problem for me. A neighbouring child called round, and had to almost drag my children out by the hair, so goggled-eyed and lethargic were they from too much screen time. They headed out with a box of chalks and began an impromptu street art competition. More flocked to join them. Soon there were seven kids, aged between 2 and 9, pouring their creative souls onto the vast blank canvas of the pavement -bringing brightness, exuberance, colour and life to the paths we daily tread.

When dreaming up our Big Lunch, I wanted to suggest painting a mural on the grey wall at the end of our estate. It being our first Big Lunch in the community, and organising it single-handedly, I didn’t want to put noses out of joint, or foist my mad creative projects on unwilling victims. I love community art projects. A few years back I co-chaired a local arts festival. One of our most popular events was the family sand-sculpting competition on the beach. Next year I have a feeling there will be another pavement art competition for the Big Lunch, and perhaps a mural too – even if it’s just in chalks.


What artistic plans do you get up to on your street, or what would you love to start?  Let us know in comments below we might even be able to help through the pioneering Lottery funded Big Lunch Extras programme.


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Case Study, Community, Decorations, Ideas, Northern Ireland, Top tips
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Lis Duffy: losing the fear

September 26, 2014
Author: Gwion Thorpe

Watch this lovely little film about a wonderful little lady from Carmarthen -Lis Duffy. Lis organised her first ever Big Lunch last year in the sheltered housing scheme she was living in at the time.  Although a small affair, it gave Lis the confidence and appetite to get out in the community and make things happen.

Lis enrolled in the Big Lunch Extras programme and came back as “dynamite”!  This year Lis (with help from her wonderful community) organised a massive Big Lunch for the whole town in the local park, attracting hundreds of attendees and showcasing all the wonderful resources the town has to offer.

Her story is a great example of how one small act can lead to big, positive thing and that, sometimes, all you need is a little bit of encouragement and a sprinkling of inspiration to go and achieve whatever you want.  Or as Lis says “Being at Eden. I lost the fear”.

For more information about the Big Lunch Extras programme visit and if you’d like to share your story with us get in touch on our Facebook page or email

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Case Study, Community, Stories, Video, Wales
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How to make Rose Hip Chilli Jelly

September 22, 2014
Author: Grainne McCloskey

Rose hip chilli jelly is a great gift for new neighbours or low cost Christmas present. In fact rose hips are full of vitamin c and antioxidants so a little a day might keep the doctor away so this could be the gift that keeps on giving!

Rose hips or haws as they are also known are found on rose bushes from September to late October. They are best picked after the first frost as it ripens and softens them. You can use any kind, even your garden rose, but if you used pesticide you must check the label to ensure the hips can be eaten. I picked wild dog rose hips from the hedgerow and to get the ripest go for the ones roughly the size of grapes and leave shrivelled ones for the birdies.

rosehips or haws on the dog rose bush

Wash the rose hips in warm water and trim off both of the ends when you get home. If you don’t have time to use them immediately, freeze your cleaned stash and defrost when ready to use as the vitamin content reduces the longer you store them fresh.


Make sure you have clean containers ready to store your produce. I use my dishwasher to wash and dry mine just before I make the jelly then leave them in here as they will then be warmed and wont crack when you pour the warm liquid in.

Weigh your trimmed frozen or fresh hips so you can work out how much water and sugar you will need.


Food Processor, Heavy bottomed saucepan, Sterilized containers, Wooden spoon and a strainer.

Tip to make a good strainer line a colander with thick muslin, cheese cloth or use thick denier tights.


1kg of rosehips, 2 Litres of water, ½ a lemon, 1 tea spoon ground chilli powder and 1kg of jam making sugar ( if you don’t have this use normal sugar and a packet of pectin crystals)


Blitz the rosehips quickly in a food processor with half a lemon and place in a heavy bottomed saucepan and cover with 1 litre of water and boil.

Once boiling reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes,

Strain pulp through your colander into a clean bowl for an hour. If you want a clear rosy liquid do not squeeze too hard.

Cover the pulp with 1 litre of water. Simmer again for 15- 20 minutes before repeating the straining

saucepan of rosehips being made into jelly

Put all collected liquid back in the empty saucepan and cook reducing the liquid to half.

Now add all the sugar and a tsp of ground chilli powder, dissolve and boil for five minutes or so.

rose hip liquid starts to boil

If you aren’t sure about including chilli powder , separate some of the liquid and try a small sample It tastes lovely with blue cheese and crackers!

Allow the liquid to cool a little –so the jars don’t crack.

Get the jars out of the dishwasher or oven where they were warming up.

Pour into your sterilised jars, label and date.

Job done!

Other recipes and ideas

You can make a fresh tea by just putting 8 hips in a cup of boiling hot water but it’s probably wiser to dry them whole and use them when you need them. Eat Weeds has a great rose hip tea recipe and River Cottage have a much used rosehip and apple jelly that I’m going to try next.

For now though it’s time to put the feet up and enjoy the fruit of my labour, but before I do may I suggest you take a look at a lazy girl goes green blog she’s giving away two copies of Never Mind the Burdocks: a year of foraging in the British Isles.

rose hip and chilli jelly on wheaten


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How to, Ideas, Northern Ireland, Recipes, River Cottage
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