Streetclub is an easy to use ‘online noticeboard’ where you can talk, share and plan with those around you, and bring back a sense of community to your area! Streetclub helps you keep in touch with your neighbours all year round and it’s a great planning tool for your Big Lunch too. After organising a Big Lunch with Streetclub, Mildmay Close said: “Streetclub is fantastic. We’ve lived here 8 years and I didn’t know our neighbours. Now we’ve met, and they’re lovely!”
Setting up a Streetclub for your area is free and really quick. You choose the size, the name and that’s about it. And, just because you set the club up, there aren’t lots of admin duties – it’s designed to make it easy for every member to use.
You can start local discussions, make or ask for genuinely local recommendations, plan community events like a Big Lunch, keep track of community news, swap helpful tips and advice and even save money by buying together!
What’s more, with its privacy settings and flexible club structure, neighbours are free to get involved as much or as little as they want. Richard from Reading says, “Streetclub is the perfect place to keep the channel of communications open on a peer to peer social level. It allows local people to take responsibility for their community.”
Streetclub also enables you to limit communication with a trusted list of neighbours in your club and then choose whether to share with the wider community or simply with the street a few roads away! Find out if there is a club near you - or to be the first to set one up in your street.
Ever thought how you don’t each need to own ladders, lawn mowers, and all the other things you not often used? Being able to share tools and resources saves money, creates valuable storage space and enables your community to function more sustainably. With your club just a ‘Streetmail’ away, it’s also reassuring to know there’s a network of neighbours who could help things like with last minute babysitting or gardening.
Jo from Bath uses Streetclub to get the children from the street together: “Our street closes every other week for the children to play out and we use Streetclub to keep everyone up to date and organise the rota of wardens.” And Jo’s neighbour even uses it to offer everyone the use of his rugby season tickets on the weeks he can’t go!
So sign up and make planning your Big Lunch the easiest it’s been!
Castlemilk lies to the South East of Glasgow. It was developed in the 1950s as a housing estate for those affected by the ‘slum’ clearance of Glasgow’s inner city tenement buildings. The tale of how people felt about their new homes is summed up in the Scottish song ‘Jeely Piece’ (Jam Sandwich) about the difficulties of throwing lunchtime sandwiches from 20th storey windows to children playing outside.
Elizabeth Arbuckle, the local Community Life Champion for Asda, has been working with Millar Primary School in Castlemilk, supporting the P7s to hold a Big Lunch as part of the annual Castle Fun Day for the last two years. Instead of “flingin’pieces”, the class decided to put them on a table, in true Big Lunch style, and encourage fun day goers to sit down with one another, chat and relax. Elizabeth was bubbling with enthusiasm for the event:
“It’s just so good for the kids to be involved in something like The Big Lunch. It makes them feel a part of something. Millar Primary has just passed its inspection after a few difficult years, but their new head teacher, Mr. Neil, has helped the school to pull through. He and their teacher Miss Brock encouraged us to take part again in The Big Lunch this year. It’s good for the community too, to see the kids take a lead in bringing everyone together. I’m really proud of them all.”
In the lead up to their Big Lunch the Millar Primary pupils got creative with decorations for on the day. They had spent several weeks decorating tablecloths, making hats and table decorations from old wallpaper and glue, and the results were brilliant. They’ve kindly shared some of their ideas with us to inspire other Big Lunchers:
Beverley McCallen is a Big Lunch champion in Northern Ireland and works at sheltered housing complex Elmgrove Manor in Belfast, part of Trinity Housing Association. Here she tells us about the impact felt since they have taken part in The Big Lunch over the past few years.
“I am lucky to have a fantastic group of residents who are really keen to get involved in events and we wanted to make sure the tenants were involved with all stages of organising our Big Lunch. We didn’t want to ‘put on an event for them’ but instead work with them.
Building upon the relationships forged between generations at our last Big Lunch we shared old-time games – hop scotch, hula hooping, boccia (a game similar to bowls) – to encourage more interaction and learning between older residents and younger children and families.
We also took visitors on a tour around our newly completed gardening project, teaching youngsters how to do some planting. The activities really helped the older and younger generations form ties, which has definitely helped with anti-social issues we have faced in the past.
Local children would often play around our development late at night, not realising they were disturbing residents. At our first Big Lunch I went outside and kicked a ball against the wall without telling anyone in advance. The noise really shocked the young boys – now they know how this action negatively affects our residents, and this behaviour has significantly reduced. It’s also great that when our elderly residents are out and about they get local kids coming up to them saying ‘wasn’t I in your house for The Big Lunch?’ It’s great that it’s led to a feeling of warmth between the generations.
Taking part has also helped us reach out to some of the more isolated people in our community too. People sometimes think that when folk live in sheltered accommodation they are cut off from society, but not at Elmgrove! For example, when the residents and I were handing out invitations we approached a single parent family in the community who it turned out had been feeling quite isolated. Since then we’ve got to know them much better – I hope they now feel part of the community.
Putting on events like these is above and beyond what is expected in a housing role like mine but getting residents and your community involved and integrated makes such a difference to how everyone feels about their neighbourhood. It can actually make life better and provides a bit of fun – something there’s no shortage of here.”
by Mark Williamson – Director, Action for Happiness, a movement of people committed to building a happier society by making positive changes in their personal lives, homes, workplaces and communities.
What really makes life happy and fulfilling? It’s a big question and perhaps one we don’t ask ourselves often enough in our increasingly busy lives. Traditionally people have searched for answers about how to live well from philosophy, religion and perhaps the self-help section of the bookshop. But in recent years something new and rather exciting has come along too – a new branch of scientific research which actually aims to uncover the real secrets of a happy life.
Here at Action for Happiness we aim to share the best knowledge about what really makes life good and to make this practical and relevant to people in their daily lives. We’ve done an extensive review of all the latest research and used this to create our Ten Keys to Happier Living. Everyone’s path to happiness is different, but the evidence suggests these Ten Keys consistently tend to have a positive impact.
When we first came across The Big Lunch we immediately loved the concept. And from speaking to people who’ve been involved it’s clearly a great source of happiness for many. So why is this? Well, we think the answer could lie in the Ten Keys. What we’ve been excited to discover is that The Big Lunch manages (rather impressively!) to touch on all ten of these areas in some way…
So the results are clear: The Big Lunch has amazing potential to make people and communities happier. If you’ve already been involved in The Big Lunch then please tweet us at @actionhappiness and @thebiglunch and tell us what impact it had on happiness for you and your community. And if you’re new to all this then why not get involved in The Big Lunch 2014, we’re pretty sure you’ll end up spreading some happiness – for yourself and for others too!
By Liz Duffy, Big Luncher from Yr Aelwyd Sheltered Scheme, Carmarthen
“For the past two and a half years I have lived in a 24 flat council sheltered housing complex in the middle of a large housing estate in Carmarthenshire. Most tenants in the complex are elderly or disabled.
This year the council withdrew our warden service which greatly impacted our neighbourhood social activities – she had put on events and classes in our lovely communal hall. While already working full time, I was inspired to step up and help organise something myself and invite the community at large as nothing had really been organsied together before - I felt that could help the community gel a little better.
In December last year, in an effort to encourage more community engagement our County Council Housing department introduced the complex to an organisation called SPICE to develop Timebanking. For every hour volunteered benefitting the community, people are rewarded with a time credit to spend locally; from cinemas and leisure centers, to theatre or museum tickets. The list of partners keeps growing and local businesses see the benefits of offering a few places to people who may not usually be able to afford it. A year after our complex was introduced to Timebanking nearly half of the tenants are now actively involved!
Holding a Big Lunch seemed the ideal vehicle to engage the community, break the ice and for people to volunteer and earn credits in the process. With the support of my Timebanking facilitator, I gained a £200 grant from the local tenant’s network for entertainment and food. I thought this would make the event feel more accessible for those who felt they couldn’t afford to contribute. We advertised the lunch on Facebook, in local shops and by letter drop. A young Community Councilor also helped. The Council offered to print for free flyers for us and we used this to also advertise a litter pick we were planning for the week before the lunch.
Although our Big Lunch didn’t have a large turnout, it was great to meet so many new people and encourage the tenants to get involved in more events. We now have a regular film night and are planning more events together including Christmas Fetes and other Big Lunches next year. The more we organise on the complex, the more people come along from all areas of the community. And word has spread fast! Other people I have spoken to have been inspired to hold their own Big Lunches and recently a local disbanded residents association donated £350 to our complex, to contribute toward a free lunch club in January for all our tenants!
One lady nearby, though physically fit, has previously been quite nervous about getting involved in things. Now she helps with letter drops for our events, using her love of walking to help the community. Doing this activity she also earns time credits which she uses for going out with her grandchildren. They now ask what’s going on in the complex and if they can come too!
Since organising our Big Lunch my confidence has grown a lot. Now I’ll stop people in the street to tell them what events are coming up in the complex and invite new people along. I would never have done that before!”
By Sophie Antonelli, co-founder of The Green Backyard in Peterborough.
We all like eating right? It’s one of the few things that we ALL have in common! With that in mind I’m not sure why I was so surprised at how effective growing and sharing food can be at bringing people together and strengthening the common bonds of community.
5 years ago my father and I took over a 2.3 acre derelict allotment site in central Peterborough and with limited experience, no money but lots of volunteers, set about creating a community garden, a place for everyone to share. In that time The Green Backyard has completely transformed the way I think about people and the city I live in. A bare and neglected plot is now a vibrant and productive green space, and over and over again I have witnessed first-hand the restorative powers of people simply doing good for each other.
Every year we participate in The Big Lunch with our very own event that we call the Pitch in Picnic (named because it’s a picnic where everyone pitches in), it’s the simplest of events to organise – you just need an empty table and a sign that says ‘put the food here’. Each year I worry that no-one will bring anything, but I’m always proved wrong and reminded that sharing with others is a simple but powerful act that brings huge satisfaction. It is incredibly satisfying to see how an empty table can become the source of much enjoyment, conversation and new connections. Here’s what one participant said about their experience:
“This project is such a credit to Peterborough and to our community. I was at their Big Lunch on Sunday 2nd June, and I totally forgot that we were even in the city centre. It was like being transported away. When I left I was almost surprised to step out onto London Road again. I met so many people; it took me an hour just to make my way to the toilets as I kept talking to so many different people. It is such a cultural necessity for our city. I am always amazed at how much goes on inside there. On Sunday I felt really part of the community and it was a good feeling. It has inspired me to get more involved. Community spirit and feeling is so important in the fight against the ills that plague modern society; anti-social behaviour, drugs and alcohol, social isolation etc. But with projects like The Green Backyard, individuals can fight back with love and peace and energy and togetherness.”
Our project is now threatened with demolition in the name of ‘development’ but the spirit and drive that I have witnessed from the people I’ve met over the years gives me hope to be optimistic about our future. As far as I’m concerned this is the very best kind of development and we will find a way to continue our work and give a space for people to continue growing and sharing their food!
“Our Big Lunches really do bring members of the community together. I can’t walk through the village without stopping to chat and that has only happened since our first Big Lunch in 2011.” Sarah, from Rogate.
Sarah lives in a rural village in Hampshire and used The Big Lunch to celebrate The Royal Wedding in 2011. The event was so popular that neighbours were knocking on Sarah’s door to offer money towards the next Big Lunch! Residents of the village have found The Big Lunch to be a fantastic way of connecting with the neighbours, and enjoy the benefits of feeling part of a community. Sarah shares her story:
“I live in a small village called Rogate, near Petersfield in Hampshire. The housing estate I live on has a variety of people of all ages. Two years ago my neighbour and I decided to throw a Big Lunch to celebrate The Royal Wedding.
Sadly one of the oldest residents passed away shortly afterwards, so we decided to throw another Big Lunch in memory of her. Everyone helped out; the council cut the communal grass area, the kids raked up the loose cuttings and the men sorted tables, chairs and gazebos.
Everyone contributed towards the food and drink and one of our neighbours provided a disco which carried on until midnight. We raised a glass in memory of Rose. The children all camped out on the green and were so tired we didn’t hear a peep from them. This was our third street party and the most successful yet. I’m being bombarded by all my neighbours to have another Big Lunch in July!
It’s great that people all want to socialise with their neighbours, as before these Big Lunches life here was very dull and people kept themselves to themselves. One of our elderly neighbours told me she feels lucky to live here; that living in a rural village can be extremely lonely and since our Big Lunches started everyone has come together as a community!
Community spirit is now rife on our small housing estate, now that’s worth celebrating!”
To share your story please email email@example.com
Who doesn’t love a Big Lunch? But could sharing food with your neighbours really start to make a difference to your community?
Jo Scott, a teacher and volunteer leader with Millisle Youth Forum thinks so, agreeing that The Big Lunch can gently support cohesive, resilient community through the sharing of conversation and ideas, skills and resources. “It’s more than just the day, it’s about the friends made in the planning, the connections made locally and being part of a movement that provides opportunities for neighbours to connect and get more involved in local life.
Our first Big Lunch celebrated the Diamond Jubilee and brought the whole village together with all the different community groups contributing to a great day and we were delighted to be short-listed for The Big Lunch Community awards.
We’ve since had several Big Lunch events and this summer over 200 people came to our community Big Lunch – everyone plays their own important part.
We won the ‘Bringing Good Ideas to Life’ competition in Northern Ireland and set up a Cook it Eat It project in The Garage; a once derelict space we converted into a safe and warm place for local youths to meet.
During the day we invite mothers and toddlers to come along and cook together and its been great fun but also cemented some lovely new friendships. Then in the evening the young people have tried out a few recipes and are picking up life skills to become healthier, more independent people and it’s giving the different generations a chance to connect. For instance Aaron Crawford told us his Grandad makes the best scrambled eggs in the world so he came in and shared his secrets; we cooked it, ate it and had a laugh together too.
In mid-September we took part in Beach Watch with the Marine Conservation Society and invited the First Donaghadee Scouts and Cubs, Millisle Young Farmers and local community representatives and villagers back to `The Garage’ for a Big Lunch style get together with food and drink prepared by our young people. The Scouts and cubs couldn’t make it as they had school the next day but they play an important role in our community and it was important to invite them. We have held quite a few get together Big Lunches like this, not just on the main Big Lunch day because we find our Big Lunches a great way to recognise and celebrate our community pulling together
A local supported living scheme have asked us to cook their Christmas party dinner with the proceeds going back into our group and we are all delighted! The kids have been planning the menu, working out what they will need and the roles that will need to be filled. Last night they were all preparing to be interviewed by one of our young leaders for the jobs they want to do. Its giving them a taste of the real world, a position of respect in our community and a lot of fun too!”
The Big Lunch is a brilliant way to show your community the progress you’re making and bring people closer together. It’s great fun and it’s feeding community spirit – that can only be a good thing!
If you would like to know more contact firstname.lastname@example.org
I travelled to Orkney to meet some of the tenants of Orkney Housing Association recently. Orkney, if you haven’t been, is a windswept but beautiful cluster of islands just off the North East coast of Scotland.
I wanted to know what community meant to people there, and talk to them about how they could use The Big Lunch. We held our ‘moveable feast’ as part of the tenant information day, and in true Big Lunch style, I was able to sit with folk over a sandwich and natter to them. It’s absolutely the best way to learn about other people.
One lady told me that, ‘on Orkney community is.’ Just that, it is, a fact of life as certain as the return of the wind and the dark nights in winter. This came as no surprise, I had wondered if it might be a fact of knowing your neighbours well and being able to spot a new face easily.
The weather can be rough living on a North Sea island and occasionally the Isles are cut off from the mainland, and each other. In these circumstances you need to know one another just to make sure that you’re all ok, that you have what you need.
However, as I chatted with more of the folk there I realised that the situation isn’t quite as simple as it seems. The general population of the Orkney isles is around 21,000. Throughout the year, it sees 150,000 visitors. Although these visitors don’t come all at once they do significantly swell the number of people wandering around the historical sites, towns and landscape.
A small number of these sometimes decide to settle on the Islands and make their home there. I spoke to one man who’d moved from Yorkshire and told me that he’d never lived in a place where he would be less bothered if a neighbour found his lost door key. He trusted those he lived beside.
Some of the other tenants though, who lived in some of the newer blocks of flats in Kirkwall faced similar issues to those we hear from urban Big Lunchers – they lived close to other people, sometimes separated only by a wall, or the next building, but didn’t really know them. For them, The Big Lunch offered a way to make the introductions.
Another lady told me that she had moved to Orkney to be with her children who had all relocated there. She confided that she didn’t really like the sea. She stayed because that’s where her family were.
There was one thread woven through the stories of everyone I spoke to and that was connection. Some were born Orcadian, some chose to move there because they loved the land and the folk, and others had moved because they wanted to stay close to loved ones. What they valued was very much what The Big Lunch sets out to create – the links to other people.
After the September Big Lunch Extras camp, Rachael returned to Northern Ireland full of passion and enthusiasm. She and all the wonderful Growing Connections volunteers – held a Growing Memories Big Lunch at their base - a magical care farm in North Down.
Growing Connections told us their story: “Our Growing Memories Big Lunch was a chance to open the gates to the public for the day. We secured Heritage Lottery funding for this reminiscence project and had enjoyed ourselves with our Big Lunch last year so we thought a harvest time Big Lunch would be a good way to celebrate and share the progress - harvesting memories with the local community.
This growing memories project was exploring the significant change to farming and urban communities through rehousing in areas around Bangor and Ards, County Down during the ‘70s. It brought new people onto the farm, many of whom had spent time in the local area as children.
Someone who was evacuated to the cottage at the end of the farm lane during the Belfast blitz returned and recalled how she and her brother had enjoyed swimming in the quarry pools on the farm. She laughed about how they would avoid getting caught by the farmer! (Of course these days we know this is something to never do!)
We shared slides of the reminiscence sessions, which Heritage Lottery funded. They covered TV programmes, food, farming and games, to help participants share memories.
It was great fun playing games remembered from the streets of Belfast; folk remembered swinging on ropes hooked on the gas lamps, hopscotch along the paving slabs for the townies or chalked on the yard for those in the country.
One lady, who had grown up less than a mile from the farm said, ”I’m amazed how sharing a story starts a flood of memories, things came rushing back that I thought I had forgotten.”
Hearing the stories from days gone by is interesting no matter what your age, especially with all the good food, light atmosphere and our bowls of fresh homemade soup, six different farm grown varieties- a magnificent day all round!
Share your memories
If there are special memories to share from your Big Lunch – jot them down and send them to Yourstories@thebiglunch.com or call and chat to one of our team.