The Eden Project
The Big Lunch - an Eden Project


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

Grow votes for Grow Wild

June 30, 2016
Author: Elyse Clarke

Grow Wild, currently in the running to win The National Lottery’s Good Causes Award, brings people together to transform their local spaces with native wild flowers and plants.

© Joel Goodman - all rights reserved . NO ONWARD SALE OR SYNDICATION PERMITTED - ONLY FOR USE IN REPORTING THE LIVE STORY TO WHICH THE PHOTOGRAPH IS RELATED . 30/07/2015 . Manchester , UK . " Grow Wild " , supported by Kew Botanical Gardens and the Big Lottery Fund , launch " Dig the City " in Manchester with a procession of wild flowers , lead from Hulme Community Garden Centre in the outskirts of the city , to St Anns Square in the City Centre . Photo credit : Joel Goodman

© Joel Goodman

Sadly we have lost 97% of wild flower meadows since the 1930s but thanks to this initiative, many community groups have been doing their part to reverse this trend. Millions of people are now taking notice of nature, getting active, learning new things and sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm.

Maria, who attended our Big Lunch Extras Camp in 2014, has worked with her community group Gatis Gardiners and Grow Wild to turn a barren space in Wolverhampton into a flourishing and happy community space.

“Grow Wild was actually the first funding bid we applied for after coming on camp in September 2014 and we had decided we could make a go of Gatis,” she says.

“We thought if we could prettify the place with some wild flowers it might help. So our Grow Wild project was all about getting local people growing wild flowers and creating a wild flower strip on the playing fields next to us.

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“We received a smaller pot of funding than we applied for as we were a very new group and our project changed slightly from what we originally planned but it all went really well. We created wildflower beds in West Park Primary School with children and carers and we created another two in Kind Church of England School with some Year 7 students. We also had a fundraising day in the Newhampton Inn and created a little mini wild flower bed in the pub garden. We did lots of wild flower information sessions with various local people and groups, and in September 2015 we created the wildflower strip on the playing fields which was sown with the wildflower seeds late spring this year so we are just waiting to see how it looks!

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“In January I was asked to sit on this year’s funding panel to help decide who should receive funding this year.  This involved me spending the day at Kew Gardens sitting with the Grow Wild team and other panel members and going through all the funding applications and marking them to set criteria. This was an amazing experience seeing the process from the other side and feel like I was giving something back to the Grow Wild project. We have also given away many packets of wildflower seeds. None of this would have happened if we hadn’t decided to take over the Gatis site.”

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Gatis Community Space, Wolverhampton

So don’t forget to cast your vote for Grow Wild, and help them to continue their wonderful campaign to transform local spaces with native, pollinator-friendly wild flowers and plants.

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Charity, Competitions, England Case Study, Friends, News, Spreading the word

Have your say about The Big Lunch and you could win a £250 voucher for the Eden shop!

June 27, 2016
Author: Elyse Clarke

It’s that time of the year again! We need your views on The Big Lunch (and we’re prepared to reward you handsomely for it.) Whether your event was big or small, your first or your eighth, we really, really want to hear about it.

So, here is our fabulous survey! Well, ok, it’s as fabulous as we could make it, but we do need to hear your thoughts. If you fill it in you automatically enter the draw to win a £250 Eden Project shop voucher. Go on, have a peek at some of the lovely goodies you could get your hands on!

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All you have to do is set aside 10 minutes, make yourself a cuppa and answer the questions in the link below. And if you have any Big Luncher pals, please pass the link along — the more the merrier!

We say it all the time, but it’s really all of you who hold an event that makes The Big Lunch the amazing, fun and vibrant thing that it is. Your thoughts are essential to keeping it this way and will help us to make it even better next year.

Thank you for your continued participation in The Big Lunch and for filling out the survey.

Fill out the survey here:

Please read The Big Lunch Annual Survey Competition Terms and Conditions. The closing date for the competition is 22nd July 2016.

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Competitions, News, Spreading the word

Big Lunchers: making the ordinary extraordinary

June 20, 2016
Author: Elyse Clarke

This is an excerpt from an email we received from Michael, a Big Luncher who took part in his eighth Big Lunch this year on Coddington Estate, Newark. Michael’s email began like this: “You might like an account of our Big Lunch. It was very ordinary, nothing special, but not withstanding the rain, very enjoyable and worthwhile.”

“This was our 8th Big Lunch and followed the same pattern as before. When our estate was built in 2000-1 a grass area surrounded by a yew hedge was left undeveloped – and we meet there.

The organisation is beautifully anarchic.  I do little more than get the date from the Big Lunch website, put out the notices and provide a few bottles. Unasked, Paul cut the grass beforehand and trimmed one of the overhanging trees, Dave and Ellen put up a gazebo (just as well), Prem put up some bunting (made 8 years ago), and Lewis carried out tables and chairs.

There was a table with bottles of rosé, orange juice and plastic glasses, a scattering of deck chairs, a table labelled “Bring and Share” and folk covered it with plates of a variety of appetising foods – savoury and sweet, hot and cold – but held onto their own bottles of wine or beer or fruit juice!  A display of the history of the site was hung from one of the trees: the grass area had been in the grounds of long demolished Coddington Hall – home of the local squire – and then during the war was an air force camp linked to a nearby airfield.  A map showed that one of today’s houses is built on the site of the sergeants’ latrine! There was an explanation of how our roads got their names.

It was planned to start at 1 pm.  The weather forecast was heavy rain at around three but actually that came at one.  Alone I waited sheltering under the gazebo.  But after about 20 minutes the weather settled for a gentle drizzle and folk began to arrive – under umbrellas.  Most of the time (it was after six when the last revellers left) the rain held off.  There are 41 houses on the estate and about 30 adults and 10 children came – inevitably some were away on holiday. The children ran around playing their own games and the adults just talked.  At four o’clock, exhausted, I went home (just round the corner) for a sleep and when I returned just after six the last few were preparing to leave.  An hour later every trace of a party had gone.

As before, it was a happy, convivial event. As the website says, we gathered “in an open place to meet, greet, eat and drink together for no other reason than it’s fun.”

Very ordinary, nothing special. Well, Michael, we beg to differ. This story captures what The Big Lunch is all about: a simple act of community, friendship and fun. We hope that one day, neighbours across the UK will be like Paul, Dave, Ellen and Prem, who, unasked, set about preparing for The Big Lunch, and did not let the weather stop them from bringing people together. Michael and his neighbours, just like so many of you, made the ordinary extraordinary.

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

15 ways to keep community spirit soaring after The Big Lunch

June 15, 2016
Author: Elyse Clarke

The Big Lunch weekend is over but that doesn’t mean your neighbourly interaction should be too! Here are 15 ideas to keep your community spirit soaring high all year round.

1. Start a private Facebook group for your street

Share ideas, have discussions and stay in the loop with each other. If you don’t know everyone’s names yet, ask all members to ask their neighbours left and right so that eventually everyone’s been invited.

2. Start a Monthly Meet Up

This can be in a format that suits your neighbourhood. Perhaps it’s in the church hall at the end of the street, or maybe you take it in turns to host – with a different theme each time! It could be potluck dinners, wine and cheese nights or even Sunday brunch! From here you can discuss further projects, clubs and fun activities.

3. Create a Babysitters Club

For free and trusted babysitters, start a club for mothers and fathers based on points rather than cash. Earn a point by babysitting a neighbour’s kids, spend a point by having a neighbour babysit yours. Instructions and tips here.

The Big Lunch 7th June 2015 Edinburgh Summarised Place street party.

4. Have a Street Swap day

One neighbour’s trash is another one’s treasure. Organise a morning where people can put out good quality items they no longer want, free to go to a good neighbour’s home!

5. Sign up to Streetbank

Streetbank is a website that lets groups create a bank of handy items—think ladders, backpacks, trailers etc. where people can borrow items easily, and also request items to easily ask if one exists in their community.

6. Start a community project

Think of something your group can take ownership of and be proud of: maybe a communal veggie garden, an art project, a walking school bus, or a phone booth book swap!

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7. Look after the elderly

Ask elderly neighbours on regular driving dates to help them with shopping and appointments, and check if they need help with cleaning, bills and home maintenance etc.

8. Have a street working bee

Get together and have a street clean up and guerrilla gardening day—pick up litter, weed hedges and footpath edges, remove or paint over graffiti—then celebrate your sparkling clean street with a shared meal.

Pacemaker Press INTL 05/06/2016: Biglunch Sunday 05 June 2016 Miracle Way Belfast. Picture By: Arthur Allison/ Pacemaker Press

9. Arrange a play day for the kids

Plan some fun activities—maybe the ‘Fun Olympics’ in a local park or hall so that children of the neighbourhood get to know each other and make new friends.

10. Create a ‘Street scrapbook’

Gather stories, photos, clippings, drawings and quotes etc. from all neighbours and create a scrapbook that captures the community’s spirit—add to it or create a new one each year to reminisce over in future years.

11. Walk together

Getting active is easier when there’s a group waiting for you. Start a group for regular walking, whether it’s a pre-work power walk, a mid-morning march or a sun-down saunter!

walking resized

12. Volunteer together
Identify a cause you’re passionate about and get to know each other while giving back!

13. Fundraise for community improvement
Organise a weekly raffle, mow lawns, clean cars, sell cakes—you get the idea—to raise money for a community initiative that will make you all happier. Maybe a neighbourhood picnic table, a children’s playground area, a neighbourhood marquee or BBQ, or a base kitty so you’re sorted when a need arises.

14. Look for community funding opportunities

Keep your eyes peeled for pots of community funding to help you with your projects. Start with Funding Central and your local council, and make sure to keep an eye on social media too.

15. Go on a street holiday!
It might be something to aspire to for now, but we’ve had reports of great success from streets that organise annual getaways for the ultimate community bonding experience!

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