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What it’s like at Community Camp: Kathryn’s story

August 23, 2016
Author: Elyse Clarke

Many potential campers are unsure if they’re the right fit for a Big Lunch Extras (BLE) Camp, so we’ve interviewed former participant Kathryn to tell us a bit about her experience (we think she must have really liked it ‘cause she now works with us).

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The lovely Kathryn

What first attracted you to the BLE programme?

I had an idea about setting up a befriending scheme for people experiencing anxiety or people who felt fear was holding them back from doing what they wanted to/be the person they wanted to be, but I didn’t know where to start.

I had spent a decade volunteering, working in management, and running local community baking groups but setting up something like a social enterprise felt incredibly daunting. But my passion saw me determined to make it happen. I didn’t really know anyone in my friendship and colleague circles that volunteered. This meant I found it hard knowing where to start, who to speak to etc. The project I set up was called Feardom Fighters and so what spurred me all the way was thinking ‘I can’t be an ambassador for this cause if I can’t face my own fears of stepping into the unknown and reaching out to strangers for help or guidance’.

I had begun to reach out to community groups online with success but all formal support/funding schemes seemed to be for more mature community projects e.g. School for Social Entrepreneurs. When I read about BLE I thought ‘that’s me, that’s me! I have an idea I want to turn into action but I don’t know where to start and am looking for ideas and inspiration from others who have been there, done that’.

What were your initial thoughts when you saw the camp being advertised?

I remember seeing it advertised on a tweet. I can’t remember exactly what it said but I remember thinking ‘Finally something I can apply for’. From the promotions I read it sounded like BLE was willing to invest in the person and their ideas. Also the focus seemed to be on networking and meeting others which I find is the best way for me to learn.

What made you want to apply?

The opportunity to get ideas and inspiration from like minded people. I wasn’t getting that from my existing networks.

How did you know that the camp was for people like you?

It was the bit about ‘you can sign up even if it is just an idea’ and that this community camp was an opportunity to start turning it into reality.

Did you have any reservations in applying?

As this was my first step in getting the ball rolling, I guess I wondered whether I was what they were looking for. I hadn’t set up anything at that point.

What would you tell others who are on the fence about applying?

Often people who give a lot to others don’t realise how amazing they (and their ideas) are. Or their full time jobs hold them back from putting ideas into practice. For those who have ideas, they may feel they have to show proof as that’s what lots of other funding applications ask for. Funding applications always ask, ‘Where is the evidence of the need for your idea?’ Or their experience might be ‘I have an idea but no one really ever takes notice, or red tape gets in the way’. On the camp I attended we realised that whilst we all had different life experiences and ideas,  their was commonality in :

  • Our willingness to share
  • To not always ask for permission. We are not scared to experiment and fail as long as we learn from it and share our learning with others
  • Making the most of the resources we have available to us
  • Leading the way in bringing communities out of their houses to come together and promote integration and inclusivity

What was your experience of the Camp?

I really felt for the first time in my life (I was 29 at the time) that I was surrounded by people who shared that ‘fire in your belly’ feeling when you are passionate about something that you want to do to improve the lives of others. It was a hive of positivity, of people who were willing to be open and share knowledge with complete strangers just because they wanted to help!

Kathryn and a friend on the final night of the Camp, when everyone lets loose at the disco!

Kathryn and a friend on the final night of the Camp, when everyone lets loose at the disco!

I signed up for the ‘Share your story’ session. This was the most transformational bit for me. I hadn’t really shared my idea before then only one person knew. I knew my family and friends would listen, but not having done something like this themselves, they couldn’t give practical advice. The reaction to my idea was amazing and after I told my story I had so many people (there were 90 on my Camp) approach me, signposting me to initiatives or offering their support. It was at the Community Camp that a mind shift happened for me and I realised ‘I don’t have to have to have the solutions’. Gather people who care about what you are doing and take it from there. And so my idea for the Feardom Festival was born, which would not have not happened if I had not been on the Camp.

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Kathryn’s group, Feardom Fighters, which she set up after the Camp

It also taught me that it’s ok to ask for help if you can explain why it matters and how people can get involved. After the camp a number of people got in touch and used their design skills to design posters, collaborated to create a photography exhibition, and highlighted my work on their websites. I will be forever grateful for their support.  On a personal level, knowing that there were a growing number of people who believed in what I was doing gave me the confidence to ‘think big’. I approached and secured venues, speakers (at home and abroad who had inspirational stories to share), and materials all for free, whilst doing my full time job. All of this wouldn’t have been possible without knowing I had such a positive ‘force’ behind me that I could turn to if I needed to.

To hear more from other people Community Camp experiences then check out our videos

Get in touch with someone to find out about the next Community Camp in February 2017.

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Community, Spreading the word
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How to grow wild flowers and community spirit at the same time

August 18, 2016
Author: Peter Lefort

Grow Wild, the UK’s biggest-ever wild flower campaign, from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, are offering free packets of wild flower seeds, just in time for autumn sowing between September and October 2016.

Grow Wild brings people together to transform local spaces with native, pollinator-friendly wild flowers and plants. Thanks to the project, millions of people are doing something positive where they live; connecting with wild flowers, plants and places around them, taking notice of nature, getting active, learning new things and sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm. Because of this work, Grow Wild have just been named the UK’s Best Environment project in this year’s National Lottery Awards!

Many Big Lunchers have already applied for and sown their seeds, but whether or not you have, the packets are a great opportunity to reach out to others in your community.

Countryfile Presenter Anita Rani visits Barrhead to celebrate Grow Wild being voted the UK’s Best Environment project in National Lottery Awards Pictured: Anita Rani at the former Barrhead waterworks with Lucy Thompson, Laura Trundle and Louise Young. See attached press release

Countryfile Presenter Anita Rani visits Barrhead to celebrate Grow Wild being voted the UK’s Best Environment project in National Lottery Awards

If you know of a neighbour, a group or anyone else in your community who would appreciate someone reaching out to them, then why not apply for a packet and pass it on? Wild flowers are simple to sow and beautiful to look at once in bloom, a real example of the transformation possible within connected communities.

Wild flowers create important food and shelter for a huge variety of animals, including bees, birds, butterflies and insects. Plus the benefits of gardening and spending time outdoors on physical and mental well-being, are well documented.

So why not pass on a seed packet to someone you know? Or, better yet, someone you don’t. The idea of Paying it Forward is growing across the UK and the world, with small acts of kindness leading to big things. It could be a way to start a conversation, or to follow-up a chat at a Big Lunch, or simply to brighten someone’s day.

Grow Wild seed packets contain a colourful mix of country-specific native wild flower seeds, which have been researched and sourced by experts at the UK Native Seed Hub in partnership with UK-based seed suppliers.

To get your free seed packet, just fill in this short form, and read some tips on growing wild flowers in autumn.


A job coach’s advice to spark curiosity and excitement in community work

August 12, 2016
Author: Elyse Clarke

Big Lunch Extras alum Debbie Hyde speaks to us about supporting people to employment in her community…

Every community has one. The go to person. The individual who knows how things work, how to bring everyone together and make things happen.  Their knowledge is endless, their organisational skills are exemplary and their enthusiasm is boundless, bringing out the best in others and engaging them. Initiatives take form and are shaped when they are involved. Things become possible.

In my role as community radio show producer and presenter for It’s All Good Radio Show, I actively sought out these individuals. Shining the spotlight on their activities acted as a beacon of hope showing what is possible when people come together to bring about change in the world.  Meeting many of them at Big Lunch Extras ignited an extra spark in me to be better, to do more, to find ways to bring more positive action into being.

Debbie enjoying the rainforest biome during the Big Lunch Extras camp at the Eden Project, January 2014.

Debbie enjoying the rainforest biome during the Big Lunch Extras camp at the Eden Project, January 2014.

The radio show continued, but then a new role emerged for me as a job coach in a community hub. This was the first time I had worked out of a corporate or educational environment and it opened my eyes to so many issues in communities. I saw help and support in critically short supply but I also discovered huge potential for positive change.

When people find themselves out of the confines of a working environment, whether that’s on a temporary or a permanent basis, they have time to stop and reflect on where their life is going and they are open to exploring new possibilities.

There may only be a short window of opportunity for an individual to change paths. Jobcentres may be pressuring their clients to get the first job they can and there could be a whole host of financial and personal pressures on the individual. However, a well-timed, informative and personal conversation about different possibilities can lead to someone taking a very different path and using their skills in a whole host of new ways. One conversation really does have the potential to spark a whole chain of events.

With my new found knowledge of community initiatives from across the country, I started to share these ideas with individuals who came in seeking jobs, volunteering or training opportunities.  I told them about a whole range of groups, companies and organisations who are transforming the way we live and work for the better, and that there are voluntary and paid opportunities in these organisations who put people and planet before profit. It never failed to bring a spark of curiosity and excitement into their eyes.

As participants of Big Lunch Extras –  individually and collectively – we are all actively involved in creating a new environment where people can freely use their skills and develop new ones in ways that benefit individuals and communities alike – and who doesn’t want that?  Don’t we all crave a sense of belonging and fulfilling meaningful work close to our homes?

When we create more jobs and volunteering opportunities in community businesses we give everyone in society an additional choice – a choice to use their skills as a means of caring about others and our planet.  It is my belief that when our own self-interest is aligned with the opportunity to care then a more humane society can emerge.

So I make this call out to all my fellow Big Lunch Extras participants: find as many ways as you can to engage new people into your projects, groups and organisations.  As a job seeker, finding your next role can be a difficult and lonely experience but if you come into contact with a friendly community organisation where you can see your skills will be valued, it can provide a much needed boost and could even lead them to a whole new career.

5 ideas for engaging new people:

  1. Set up informal one-to-one exploratory sessions in local community centres and cafes
  2. Make friends with the local jobcentre staff and support agencies and tell them all about your activities
  3. Make connections with local voluntary advice bureaus and keep them updated on what your activities
  4. Set up a human library in a community space and invite people to come and chat to participants
  5. Create a video of your activities and share it with your local media to spread the word

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Big Lunch Extras, Case Study, Community

How a Big Lunch is like a fairy house

August 9, 2016
Author: Siobhan File

A Big Lunch can cast a community spirit spell over a neighbourhood, but the enchantment doesn’t end there. Our very own Niamh (Community Network Developer in Northern Ireland) shares her tale….

I’ve been building fairy houses with my kids and at festivals for years and it is a real joy. I love to see kids get really into it. The parents always watch but gradually get more interested, and then they’re helping too, building seaglass waterfalls, fairy campfires, ladders and hammocks, and paths between the little fairy houses.

I spent the weekend at the Kids’ Zone at Sunflowerfest holding fairy house workshops and talking to parents about creativity and taking the initiative in their community.

Children and parents make fairy houses with The Big Lunch team

Adults ‘watching’ their children make fairy houses

To prepare for a fairy house workshop I normally go foraging for shells, seaglass and pebbles on a beach and then visit some woods to collect sticks, bark, pine cones, feathers, rosehips, hazelnut shells and acorns, moss and whatever else I can find that might be useful. Sometimes the supermarkets will hold over their ‘out of date’ flowers for me to pick up just before a workshop and these help make everything beautiful. But it works just as well to pick flowers and colourful weeds at the building spot.

Some of the kids at Sunflowerfest wanted to make fairy doors or houses to bring home, but I asked most to build a fairy house to leave for the fairies at the festival, so they would connect up and create a growing village of little fairy houses around a tree on site. Then they’d know how to make one at home with whatever is in their own garden or park nearby, and there would be no limit to the number of fairy houses they could build.

While a little girl was busy building her fairy house, I spoke with her mother about The Big lunch, and how it’s crowdsourced and it’s all about using what you have, or making something out of nothing.

“You don’t need anything to build a Big Lunch, the neighbourhood already has tables, chairs, food, etc., they just need someone to get creative and take the initiative. You don’t need anything more, you already have everything you need.”

“Ah, like the fairy houses,” the parent said.

And there’s the magic.

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Community, Events, How to, Ideas, Northern Ireland
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10 ideas to get your local children playing outside

July 27, 2016
Author: Jocelyn Murdoch

Children spend half as much time playing outside as their parents did, according to a new National Trust survey. The charity is encouraging youngsters to get outdoors – and we couldn’t agree more!

The Eden Project inspires people to connect with the natural world, and introducing children to their environment early on allows them to forge connections and memories with nature. The wide-ranging benefits of being outdoors are well-known; it improves children’s physical and mental wellbeing, develops their language skills and grows their imaginations.

Eva (11) and Rosa (6) Barr from Coleraine pictured at the Eden Project’s Big Lunch in Garvagh at the weekend.

A Big Lunch is great for allowing the neighbourhood’s children to get to know each other, but don’t let it end there. Here are our favourite ideas for getting kids outside to play together:

  • Close your street and create your own Community Play Day. Give the children on your road a chance to rollerblade, cartwheel and play tug of war on their doorstep! Get started by contacting your local council to apply for a road closure.
  • Check out the National Trust’s fantastically fun list of 50 Things to do before you’re 11 and three quarters. Can you tick climbing a tree, making a mud pie or playing conkers off your list?
  • Arm yourselves with your favourite water gun and have a water fight! And, if you’re feeling adventurous, try our water assault course.
  • Go geocaching. There are millions of geocaches hidden around the world, meaning, wherever you are, you’re probably not too far away from finding one.
  • You don’t need to branch out too far – you’d be amazed at everything you can do with the humble stick.
  • Build your own den using our online inspiration.
  • Blow some bubbles! Here’s our recipe to make the biggest and bestest bubbles.
  • If you’re struggling to tear yourself away from the wonders of mobile technology, try playing a game that gets you outside. With new craze Pokémon Go you have to walk 5km to incubate an egg.
  • Get in the garden and grow your own food. Eat Your School is aiming for 80 percent of schools to have gardens by 2020. Could you start a community garden run by kids?
  • Take part in the national PlayDay on 3 August and join people across the country in celebrating the joy of play.

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And here are a couple of testimonials from Big Lunchers themselves:

“We take part in the Playing Out scheme, something which came out of The Big Lunch. We realised there were loads of children living on the street and we never saw them. We close the roads once a month and the adults also meet up to have tea, scones and a chat.”

Sara Nathan, Acton, London

“Since having our first Big Lunch in 2015 our community has come together to organise other events. We now have monthly play street events for children that live locally. We’re able to shut the road for a couple of hours and let them use the space. We usually have at least 30 children with their carers in attendance.”

Emma Hope-Fitch, South Norwood, London

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Winners: Community Spirit Photo Competition

July 21, 2016
Author: Elyse Clarke

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Thank you to all those who entered our Community Spirit photo competition. Your pictures really captured the spirit of Big Lunch day and it was very difficult to choose the winners, however two of the snaps captured our attention and have been awarded first and second prize!

First prize: David Pearse, ‘Limbo Queen. Can she do it?’, taken at their 9th Big Lunch in Sale, Greater Manchester. What a  great ideas for keeping the kids (and probably some adults!) entertained at The Big Lunch. Did she make it? We’ll never know!

first prize rhea pearse blog


Second prize: Faye Earwicker, ‘Defiant against the weather’, taken at The Big Lunch in Croydon, London. We know it was a slightly soggy Big Lunch this year, but these lot proved that you don’t have to let the weather get you down!

second prize defiant against the weather faye earwicker blog

Congratulations again to the winners. We always want to see your pics and here your stories, so if you have any to share please send them to

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Charity, Community, Competitions, Games, Ideas, News, Spreading the word

Whats on your plate?

July 6, 2016
Author: Grainne McCloskey

With so much political and economic change in the pipeline we would be forgiven in the voluntary and community sectors for finding it difficult to see the wood from the trees at present.

So when John Paul Flintoff invited us to try out his special mindful plate we decided to throw the offer open to our Big lunch network in Northern Ireland by way of an opportunity to network and connect.

John Paul is a creative thinker and journalist, he bakes bread, darns his clothes, teaches at the school of life London and wrote `How to change the world’. He is well known for his thoughts on change, community and creative collaboration and his Ted talks are available online. He joined us for a Big late lunch at Belfast Harbour Commissioners Office who kindly donated use of their beautiful venue  for us to come together for a shared meal and conversation about Whats on our plates as community volunteers.

Margaret from Derry enjoys John Paul Flintoffs mindful design – whats on your plate?

John Paul explained the design of his beautiful plates available through Department store for the Mind, he kindly gifted them and the dishcloths to us all and invited us to explore a conversation with our neighbour around what is going on in our lives, using the plate as a spring board for the conversation.

John Paul got back in touch “thank you so much for your enthusiastic and warm contribution at Friday’s Big Lunch. It was lovely to be able to share my plates and tea towels with you and to see you getting to grips with them.

I would love to hear, even briefly from those who attended:

a) what you like about the plates/towels, and

b) what it was like to use them in conversation.

My email is

Thank you very much in advance!”

We would also like to thank everyone for making it a great event but also in particular John Paul for his time and thoughts and Department Store for the Mind for arranging this with us. Together you encouraged us to really consider what needs to happen next rather than continuing down the expected pathway.

The Department Store for the Mind is a place to explore the world inside your head: a vast and unique terrain of thoughts, ideas, emotions and memories.

We think the journey into our own minds is the most challenging but worthwhile adventure any of us can embark on. As with any great adventure, it helps to have good kit. Their products are designed to help you navigate your inner landscape, discovering and celebrating your best capacities.

Taking time to consider our options we can certainly gather strength and confidence to achieve anything starting by reaching out for help from those around us.

Why not keep in touch with us at:

 The Big Lunch Northern Ireland on Facebook

John Paul Flintoff online

Department Store for the Mind


whats on your plate blog

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The Big Lunch at the Barrhead Waterworks

July 6, 2016
Author: Emily Watts

The Big Lunch at the Barrhead Waterworks on Saturday 18th June 2016 in pictures

The resident chef on the day making the pizzas was Mark Brand from Environment Services Department of East Renfrewshire Council.
Healthy eating was also on the minds of the staff from The Richmond Fellowship Scotland who had a healthy eating stall, filled with luscious fresh strawberries mangos and much more, along side a few pastries of course (for those of us who healthy eating doesn’t appeal!).

The day was co-ordinated in partnership, and with thanks to Mark Brand of East Renfrewshire Council and Lorraine Bruce at The Richmond Fellowship’s Dementia Service.
Around 50 people passed through on the day enjoying the sun and fun. So here’s to next year Mark !!

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Scotland, Stories

Be a part of the Grassroots Directory

July 1, 2016
Author: Peter Lefort


The Grassroots Directory is an A-Z guide of the UK’s most exciting community-led  projects.

This innovative sourcebook will showcase over 50 kinds of initiative in its colourful pages, all the way from Alternative Currencies to Zero Waste, and provide a diverse and interconnected portrait of grassroots Britain.

Could your project be included? Send them an outline of your enterprise (about 200 words)to Include any essential contact information, quotes or maybe your most popular activities that might inspire others  They would love to hear from you.

The book is currently crowdfunding with Unbound Books, so if you would like to support the project and pre-order a book you can do so directly from their site.

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Open your door to a network of friendship and support with The Big Lunch

July 1, 2016
Author: Elyse Clarke

Here is a story from one of our lovely Lunchers. She bravely took the first step towards a stronger community by holding a Big Lunch and  uncovered a whole network of support that was always right outside her door. Her story shows that although it might be scary to knock on those doors, the reward makes it all worthwhile!

“We moved into a new home a year ago and became good friends with our next door neighbours. The property was brand new, so everyone on our road had moved in at similar times to us. Most of us were young working couples, so with the exception of a quick ‘hello’ every now and then, we rarely saw each other.

A couple of months ago my neighbour and I decided to invite the street to a Big Lunch, but we had several reservations. Our first concern was always: ‘what if people don’t join in?’ Then ‘what if we don’t get along with one another?’ We were concerned that the rest of the street might not join us, or that they might not understand us. But we went ahead anyway, and hand delivered the invitations together. Quickly the event grew from a small garden picnic to an all-inclusive street party!

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All but five of the houses joined us, and those that didn’t come couldn’t make it due to work commitments. Some joined in for an hour and some didn’t leave until midnight! Everyone bought food for the BBQ, and our kitchen was a sea of homemade cakes.


The lads all discussed the football and shared beers, whilst the girls swapped recipes and ate far too much cake! We all had the chance to discuss the trials and tribulations of owning a new home: discussing new turf and decorating. Once full on burgers and cakes, we all piled into the road to play rounders and giant Jenga.


We discovered that one lady worked as a nanny, lived alone and was rarely home; so we all offered to look after her house while she was away. One couple had a new baby who we all shared cuddles with. Another couple are about to go travelling, so we offered to keep an eye on things while they’re away. We quickly realised that none of us were ‘local’ or lived anywhere near our families. There were families from Scotland, Cornwall and Poland, so the concept of getting to know your neighbours turned out to be even more important for us. Several of the boys work in the military and are often away, so we’ve offered to become a support network for their spouses. Unfortunately, one neighbour was away on a training exercise on the day of our lunch, so we enabled him to join us by gluing his photo to a mop and introducing him to everyone!

One of my favourite parts of the day was meeting the local Eastern-European families. They brought Polish specialities, fantastic cured meats, and Polish beer for those who wanted to try some. They translated for one another, so they could easily join our conversations. Poland were playing in Euro 2016 that afternoon, so the boys joined them in our lounge to watch football and all supported Poland for the day!

We’ve already started to organise BBQs for later in the summer. Perhaps a street Bake Off when Bake Off returns to our TV screens and possibly a get-together at Christmas too. We’d just like to say thank you for encouraging us to have a Big Lunch.”

If you were inspired by this story, why not hold your own Big Lunch? You can hold a Big Lunch whenever suits you and your community. If you’d like to get involved request a free pack here!

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Case Study, Community, England Case Study, Spreading the word, Stories
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