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Spreading festive community spirit at Christmas Big Lunch

December 19, 2014
Author: Trudi Holden

Christmas cheer and a big helping of community spirit were served up last week at a special festive lunch for elderly residents in South Gloucestershire. The event was organised by the Chipping Sodbury Big Lunch committee, following a number of successful Big Lunches every June.

Chipping sodbury christmas big lunch

Pensioners who live alone – and may be unable to get out regularly or who are not members of any local groups – were invited to enjoy a buffet lunch of homemade soups, savouries, cakes and mince pies at the Old Grammar School Rooms.

They were treated to a performance by young singers from Raysfield Infants’ School and joined in some Christmas carols with Chipping Sodbury Baptist Church. There was a raffle of donated prizes and a visit by Father Christmas who handed out handmade treats courtesy of local a cooking school teacher.

Big Luncher Alexandra Womack said:

This was our first Christmas Big Lunch and we are really pleased with how well it went. We thought it was important to give elderly people in our community, who may find it difficult to come to our main event in the summer, a lunch of their own where they could meet new friends and be made to feel really special.

Some of our guests hadn’t been to a party in four years, some never get out, but because we arranged transport they were able to come and join us. There was a lovely festive atmosphere and we had lots of volunteers who took the time to talk to all our guests and made them feel very welcome.

elderly festive big lunch

The Christmas Big Lunch was funded by Waitrose’s Community Matters scheme as well as donations from local companies including Chipping Sodbury Motor Company, Hobbs House Bakery, Tesco and Marks and Spencers in Yate.

“We received lots of donations of cakes and many people were happy to give up their time to help,” added Alexandra. We are very grateful to everyone who helped us put on this memorable lunch which we hope has given some vulnerable and lonely people something to smile about this Christmas.”

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Case Study, Community, England, England Case Study, Sharing, Stories
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Cranberry Flapjacks

December 18, 2014
Author: Grainne McCloskey

An easy healthy recipe from our friend and nutritionist, Jane Mc Clenaghan. It’s perfect to share with the folk on your street and the cranberries give it some seasonal zing!

healthy lunch box recipe

Ingredients (makes about 25 bite-size pieces)

  • 125g cranberries
  • 175g chopped dates
  • 200ml water
  • 60g coconut butter
  • 60g butter
  • 3 tblsp maple syrup
  • 250g porridge oats
  • 2 tblsp desiccated coconut
  • 3 tblsp seeds – sunflower, pumpkin and linseeds

You will need: a cake tin or baking tray approx 18cm x 18cm – lined with baking parchment or greaseproof paper.


Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

Place the cranberries and dates in a small saucepan with the water and bring to the boil.

Simmer gently until the fruit has softened and the water has soaked into the fruit, adding a little more water if you need to.

In another pan, melt the coconut butter, butter and maple syrup together over a low heat.

Mix the oats, coconut and seeds together in a large bowl, make a well in the middle and pour in the melted syrup and butter mixture.

Stir in the softened dried fruit and mix well.

Tip the mixture onto a lined baking tray, spread it out evenly and press down firmly with the back of a metal spoon or palette knife.

Bake for about 25-35 minutes until golden brown.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting into squares.

Once cooled, store in an airtight container or better still wrap them in little bundles and give to your neighbours on Christmas Eve!


Why not bookmark this recipe to cook for your next Big Lunch as flapjacks are a great sharing food.

If you would like to check out more of Jane’s healthy recipes and ideas you can connect with her on Facebook.

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Ideas, Northern Ireland, Recipes
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Discounted Festival Tickets

December 17, 2014
Author: Grainne McCloskey

festival sunflowerfest northern ireland - folk having fun in the sunSunflowerfest - “A festival for Everyone”

Discount for you

Big Lunchers here’s a great discount on a laid back festival that appeals to all tastes. Weekend tickets RRP £70 can be bought for only £44.95 +£5 bf without camping or £54.95+£5 bf with camping until 31st December. Remember 2 children aged 15 or under go free with each adult ticket bought.

Click here to buy discounted tickets

Reward yourself and join the warmest friendliest festival community of the Ulster Summer.

Discover the very best music arts and culture just 20 minutes from Belfast.

Relax and get back to nature in the beautiful surroundings of Tubby’s Farm.

Feel the beat, feed your soul at this all inclusive festival of tolerance, peace, community, creativity and sharing in the beautiful Co. Down country side.

kids playing in hay at sunflowerfest music and soul

Tubby’s Farm Hillsborough is the venue for this hugely entertaining and excitingly different weekend of great live music from Rock to folk, reggae to dance, musicians, comedians, poets, actors, dancers, sculptors and entertainers of all descriptions will unite for three days of festival frolics this year featuring a special food and friendship space hosted by The Big Lunch.

We are delighted the people behind Sunflowerfest support The Big Lunch and look forward to taking part in the magic. We hope you’ll join us!

sont worry bout a ting at sunflowerfest

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Events, News, Northern Ireland
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“The Big Lunch has changed everything” – Emma’s story

December 16, 2014
Author: Gwion Thorpe

Emma Parsons-Reid from Cardiff shares her experiences of The Big Lunch and the positive and lasting impact it has had on her street. Emma also shares some great, fun advice for all you first time Big Lunchers!

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Case Study, Video, Wales, Wales Case Study

Games for Festive Get-togethers

December 15, 2014
Author: Emily Watts

eden christmas2 We’ve seen the issue of loneliness being widely reported in the news over the last week, from the BBC’s #take10 campaign to articles in the Independent and on Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s blog. We also know that there will be people across the UK who will have people to be with at Christmas this year because of a one day lunch get-together that happened in the summer.

For all of those Big Lunchers who are planning a festive get-together for neighbours here are a few simple games might be useful. Help break the ice and get the laughter going.

1. Consequences

This is a simple game that everyone can take part in. No one needs to get up and perform, so it’s a good one to start with. Each person receives the piece of paper in turn and writes a word or two before folding the paper to cover their words. You can decide what people should write next but it normally follows this kind of pattern:

  • An adjective for a man
  • A man’s name
  • An adjective for a woman
  • A woman’s name
  • Where they met
  • What he said to her
  • What she said to him
  • What the consequence was
  • What the world said


Here’s the one Emma and I did to check it works…


Jonathan and



met on an ice rink.

He said ‘Let’s have a street party!’

She said ‘Please don’t eat that cake, I dropped it…’

They became great friends and supportive neighbours

and the world said ‘I believe in Father Christmas’.”

Silly, isn’t it?

2. Mousehole

Mousehole2 We couldn’t resist this one as Mousehole is not far from the Eden Project (there’s one in Dumfries and Galloway too). Here you’re testing your geographical knowledge, but the idea behind the game is very simple.

The first player says the name of a town in the UK. The second must come up with a town that begins with the last letter of the word before. So if I said ‘Edinburgh’ to Emma, she’d need to come up with an ‘H’ – Hull maybe? Then Grainne would have to come up with an L – ‘Llandudno?’ Fay would get an ‘O’ – ‘Omagh’ until someone says a town ending with ‘M’ which means the next player cries’ Mousehole!’ and wins the game.

3. In the manner of…

This one is about performing, so maybe best left until everyone has warmed up a bit! Start with a list of adverbs. Cut the words up and fold them over, placing them in a bowl for the players to choose from. One player takes a piece of paper and reads the adverb to themselves, stands up ready to help the others guess their word.. Then the rest of the players have to call out situations to be acted out ‘in the manner of…’ the adverb. So if I picked ‘Sneakily’ I’d have to act out whatever was called out in that way.

We played this with my 5-year old who loved it. Part of the fun is choosing the situations. We ended up with the first action anyone had to do as ‘go to the toilet…’.

eden xmas 

And on that note… whatever size or shape your Christmas gatherings this year, we wish you a happy fun filled time.

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Games, Ideas, Sharing, Spreading the word

Win a Healthy Big Lunch Workshop

December 11, 2014
Author: Grainne McCloskey

win a big lunch cookery workshop

Whether you are a community group or neighbours planning a Big Lunch in Northern Ireland during 2015, you can enter our competition to win a healthy cooking workshop. This workshop and demo will be delivered by Big Lunch Healthy streets ambassador, nutritionist Jane McClenaghan.

We have four cookery demos up for grabs!

Packed full of tasty ideas and fun tips this will be a great opportunity to get everyone thinking about what they will bring to the table on Big Lunch day Sunday 7th June.

Any one in Northern Ireland can enter.

To win:

Simply send an email marked Healthy Happy Streets to

Include your name address and postcode and in less than 150 words tell us why you should win Jane’s help to help plan the menu for your Big Lunch.

Terms and Conditions

  • Competition is open to residents of Northern Ireland only.
  • All entries must be received by 10pm 12th April
  • Winners must agree to publicity and must be able to provide a room with electricity to deliver the workshop.
  • Workshops must take place between 15 – 16th May
  • Judges decision is final.

For more information on The Big Lunch – the one day get together for neighbours visit

Request our newsletter and we will let you know when our Free Big Lunch packs will be ready to order.

Good Luck Everyone



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Competitions, News, Northern Ireland, Planning
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Big Lunch by the sea

December 11, 2014
Author: Charlotte

Reculver Drive's Big Lunch sign

Linda shares her story:

“We’re very lucky with where we live. The land overlooks the sea, it’s perfect for getting together and it really lends itself to a Big Lunch. We moved here about 15 years ago, originally buying the house as a holiday home. Our new neighbour immediately came over to say hello which was really welcoming – and very unlike the area that I used to live in in London.

About 8 years ago we moved here permanently and I think I would have had a very different view of relocating here full time if the street hadn’t been so welcoming and community spirited. Some of us even go on holiday abroad together!

Linda Hackwith_Big Lunch By The Sea_image_webready

The Big Lunch gives people like my neighbour, who has severe arthritis, a reason to come out for the first time in ages. She was so frightened about leaving the house, but we accompanied her so she wouldn’t have to walk on her own. She hadn’t seen the neighbours for quite some time and she really enjoyed it!

We’re all looking forward to doing a fireworks party in November and some of us are also going on a Murder Mystery Tour, there’s always something going on! But we wanted to do The Big Lunch because there are still people to meet and get to know in our neighbourhood. I’m proud to support my community.”

A big thanks goes out to Linda from Herne Bay for sharing her story with us! Want to share yours too? Send it to

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Case Study, England, England Case Study
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Local Giving FREE Memberships

December 10, 2014
Author: Grainne McCloskey

New to her role as Northern Ireland Coordinator for Local Giving, Julieanne Skillen told us why UK groups and charities should be using if we want to take control of the future and how she can provide folk with top tips for online fundraising.

She said “ is a digital fundraising platform for UK community groups and charities. Since 2008 it’s assisted over 4,000 charities to raise over £5.5 million throughout the UK and has now partnered with the Community Foundation Northern Ireland encouraging people living here to give online fundraising a go, and with Big Lottery Fund support, this is completely free!

We have 100 fully funded annual memberships up for grabs and a year’s membership will allow UK groups to access automatic Gift Aid on eligible donations; that’s an extra 25% on top of donations, for registered and non-registered charities alike.

The unique benefits of in comparison to other similar online sites are that we have annual match funding campaigns such as Grow Your Tenner where donations are doubled whilst the campaign is live or until the funds run out. In addition, we offer free support and as Northern Ireland Coordinator  I provide help with the registration process and comprehensive one-to-one training covering how to make the most out of online fundraising, social media and using technology to reach people.”

children celebrating at a Big lunch

“ loves that The Big Lunch gives local people an opportunity to come together, talk, share and get to know each other. We see this is a catalyst, inspiring big ideas which collectively neighbours can take forward resulting in positive change in local communities.

If you fancied raising funds as part of your Big Lunch event, you could offer the occasion for free and ask for donations to local groups who are signed up to in lieu of charges.”

To register for membership of please click here.

Organisations can contact Julianne Skillen on 028 90 408708 or


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Competitions, News, Northern Ireland, The Big Lottery Fund, Top tips

The Campervan of Dreams

December 9, 2014
Author: Emma

Ruth from Belfast took part in The Big Lunch for the first time in 2014. She recently started up a new project, all about having courage in your ideas and daring to dream (something Big Lunchers will know a thing or two about!) Here’s Ruth’s story of what she went on to do next – inspiring food for thought as we start looking ahead to 2015 and dreaming of what could be possible in our own lives and communities…


“Driving our 1973 VW camper has always been an adventure, never predictable, teaching us the joy of the journey and the possibility of unpredicted destinations. It brings lightness to the communities we drive through, a shriek of excitement, a glance of nostalgia, a moment of possibility, a reawakening. There are many stories to tell.

Recently, after hearing a social activist talk about grassroots political and social movements in America, we were challenged about the power of collective dreaming, people re-imaging how their lives or society could be better. We started to ponder why do people stop dreaming? Are people living the lives they hoped for? Is family life, community life or the world the best that can be envisaged? (more…)

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Case Study, Community, Northern Ireland Case Study, Stories
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The Big Lunch is looking for interns!

December 8, 2014
Author: Charlotte

We’re looking for 2 lovely interns to help our team during the busiest time in the campaign year.

We’re a small and friendly bunch based across the UK; this position will be in our bright London office for 2-3 days a week over a period of 3-4  months.

It’s a fantastic opportunity for those who have just finished university and want some first hand experience in a PR and Communications role within the charity sector.

Interns will be contributing towards an inspiring campaign that encourages communities to be more engaged with their neighbours and their neighbourhoods. There’ll be a chance to liaise with new people such as Big Lunch organisers, council and housing association representatives and partner organisations. There will also be opportunities to develop writing skills and publish on our channels.

Jake and Elyse at The Big Lunch 2014

We’re looking for someone who:

  • Is available to start week commencing 9th February 2015.
  • Is interested in The Big Lunch as a community initiative.
  • Has a flair for writing and can tailor communications.
  • Has an interest in a career in PR and Comms.
  • Is highly organised and can work independently.
  • Is fun and friendly!

The role is voluntary, but lunch and travel expenses will be paid. Interns will also get to visit the Eden Project (where The Big Lunch was born!) and take part in an induction day on Monday 2nd February 2015.

For further details and information on how to apply, please read the full role description: Final Big Lunch Intern Ad

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News, Spreading the word
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