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Jenny Reeve, Beatroute Arts Big Lunch: Chatting community and how The Big Lunch can help open the doors of a local project

July 30, 2015
Author: Emma


Beatroute Arts is a music and arts project based in Balornock, north Glasgow, and we have occupied a community centre building for the past 8 years. We’re predominantly youth focused but are increasingly trying to run projects open to all ages. We thought The Big Lunch might be a good tie –in for us as a way to bring more people into the centre.

I think, especially in areas like this, people are more willing and more in need to come together than you might realise. Community is really important, and there’s not an awful lot of it around these days, so the more we can do to promote it the better.

Rather than seeing regular users of the centre on the day, we had people coming in that we hadn’t seen before and they have tended to come back, which is great.

We used the day as an opportunity to ask local people what they want to see happening in the community and what activities might encourage a wider spread of ages into the centre. We had quite a few older people come along and they highlighted things they used to attend but that no longer happen – all great ideas we’re now looking to put in place. It needs to come from on the ground rather than us implementing something and finding that no one wants to take part.

A challenge is, even if people are aware of local activities, they don’t always have the confidence to get involved. It takes a lot to walk through the doors somewhere for the first time, especially on your own. We are thinking hard about ways to communicate to those that are harder to reach. I see the regularity and the visibility of something like The Big Lunch as something that could really help us with this each year.

My advice would be – just do it! Even though we had a short amount of time we felt that it was better to do it and have a small number of people than not do it at all, because you can build on it. I don’t think it’s the kind of thing you can fail at, what’s important is bringing people together in whatever number that might be, and the quality of the interaction that they have. We were really surprised at the great response, having done very little planning and putting the word out casually. For a community event there’s a lot to be said of just going out and speaking to people, because that’s exactly what community is!”

Thanks to Jenny for her time! Share your story

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Case Study, Scotland, Scotland Case Study, Stories
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Creating vibrancy and safety in Lewisham

July 29, 2015
Author: Trudi Holden

We always love to hear stories from Big lunchers about how their day went, and what changes – big or small – they’ve noticed in their community as a result. It’s especially exciting to see how the small conversations on Big Lunch day can add up over the years to big impact on people’s lives.

So, we were extra touched recently to hear from long-standing luncher Bryan Pope from Tyrwhitt Road in Lewisham, who has been holding Big Lunches since its very inception in 2009.

Lewisham Big Lunch

Despite contending with personal health issues – which makes getting out and about often tricky – Bryan has worked tirelessly over the last 6 years to get his neighbours to have lunch and some fun together for an annual celebration. The event, which is fast becoming legendary in Lewisham, draws people – both young and old – from all areas of the community.


Every June, young children enjoy playing in a bouncy castle, or having their faces painted, while adults share street food with new and old friends from the local area.  There is always plenty of food donated by the local residents and the event is drawing more and more people in from the local area. In fact, this year, Bryan was happy to welcome 350 people to their street!


But the magic of the day isn’t just the buzz that’s created on the street; it’s also the impact it’s having on the area of Lewisham and its residents. Bryan notes that the crime rate has fallen drastically since his Big Lunch events, and continues to drop as more and more people connect with one another. Residents comment on a stronger feeling of community

Bryan says:It was wonderful seeing so many residents, volunteers and staff from our supporters Pinnacle PSG on the day.  The people that came along were a mix of both old and new residents that were  exactly what we wanted and everyone that came enjoyed themselves. I think this year’s event was the best yet, and I hope that the events like this will make the neighbourhood safer, more vibrant and more connected!”


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Case Study, Community, England, England Case Study, Stories
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Halifax gives extra with Big Lunches across the UK

July 15, 2015
Author: Fay

As a proud partner of The Big Lunch, this year a record number of Halifax colleagues across the UK organised Big Lunches to have fun and to help communities get to know each other. More than 2,500 Halifax colleagues volunteered their time to organise and take part in a whopping 117 Big Lunch events. Let’s find out a bit more about some of the amazing events that took place!

Halifax colleagues at Big Lunches


Halifax colleagues from across Wiltshire organised the Swindon Big Lunch as a Teddy Bears’ Picnic in aid of Children in Need. Activities included dance acts, baton twirlers, a giant inflatable Play Zone, face painting and glitter tattoos, as well as hair braiding and a colouring competition. TV presenter Michael Underwood, was also at the event to meet visitors, he said: “It is great to see the whole community getting together and having fun.”

Big Lunch with Michael Underwood

Meanwhile, Halifax colleagues across North London hosted a Big Lunch at Lanchester Community Free School, with special guests including the Mayor, a fire engine and Pudsey Bear. Activities included a choir, face painting, a bouncy castle, giant Jenga – and a group of Halifax mortgage advisors selling Indian snacks. Roshini Melwani, Halifax Branch Manager in Watford and Community Ambassador, said “The Big Lunch provides a great opportunity for us to talk to people on a more personal level and really helps strengthen relationships in the community.”

Children's choir at a Big Lunch

Halifax colleagues also supported some of your events. Across Cornwall, Halifax colleagues teamed up to help out at the Par Community Association Big Lunch. Over 1,000 people from the local community attended the event and broke the World Record for the biggest number of people eating cream teas at the same time. Halifax Branch Manager & community ambassador Trish Henderson said “our Halifax colleagues were there from start to finish and everyone who supported the event worked tirelessly to make it an amazing day.”


Big thanks to The Halifax and all the colleagues for their continued support of The Big Lunch and all they do for communities across the UK!


To find out more and to watch a short clip showing highlights from the day please visit:

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Halifax, News, Sharing, Spreading the word
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Happiest street in Hove; Big Luncher Hannah explains all!

July 14, 2015
Author: Lorna Whitton

Hannah Charnock explains her second Big Lunch success as Shakespeare Street comes to life for Summer and Winter events!


“I moved to the street almost 3 years ago and I knew my neighbours either side but nobody else. There had been street parties in a street close to where I used to live, but I lived in a block of flats on a main road where it wasn’t possible to have a street party. The street we live on now has 65 houses and is in an area of Hove called Poets Corner. The roads are all named after poets and we’re Shakespeare Street. Last year, I couldn’t do the Big Lunch on Big Lunch day so we did it in July but it fitted nicely as it was Shakespeare’s 450th birthday so we themed it for his birthday.

Some of us got together to make homemade bunting a few weeks before the event and that helped us get to know one another before the main event!

The day was a roaring success, with neighbours getting together not only to share a lunch, but also pooling their talents to entertain each other with various activities during the day. The party totally transformed the nature of the street; barely anyone knew anyone else before the party, but afterwards there was such a community spirit – it went without saying that it would not be the last party on the street!

A Shakespeare Street Facebook group was subsequently formed and is used regularly to share news and ideas (including currently looking at getting trees planted on the street), and to organise future events. A Shakespeare Street Christmas party was then held at the local pub, including a raffle which raised over £800 for the Rockinghorse Appeal and Oxfam. Having the Facebook group also made the Big Lunch 2015 a whole lot easier to coordinate the second time around! (a great Big Luncher tip!)


Among many activities at this year’s party we had laughter yoga, Bollywood dancing and a Street Bake Off. Even the street’s canine residents were catered for with a dog show, ‘Ruffs’. The party was again sponsored by our generous local estate agent Whitlock & Heaps, who helped contribute towards the cost of a bouncy castle, childrens’ entertainer and live local band, The Real Decoys. The Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Councillor Lynda Hyde was also present with her entourage to cut our cake and join us for lunch.


Shakespeare Streeters are convinced it’s the happiest street in Hove!”

Have you got a story to tell? Share yours at:

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Case Study, Community
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Calling all budding Big Lunch artists!

July 9, 2015
Author: Trudi Holden

Here at The Big Lunch, we’re big fans of street art. From chalk pavement drawings, colourful bunting and street lamp yarn bombing, to good old fashioned landscape drawings of your street; anything that adds colour and celebration to where you live!

Now – thanks to our friends Its Our World – your Big Lunch artwork could be added to the UK’s largest online collection of artwork mapping the British Isles!!

7.6.2015_BL__Long Benton_Newcastle 39

It’s Our World are calling on anyone aged 4-19 years old to upload a piece of artwork which reflects their local environment; whether that’s a drawing of their street, or a collage of their favourite local landmark. Like a Big Lunch, the artwork can be as big or small as you like, and be urban, rural or coastal in location.

Upload in 3 easy steps:

  1. Go exploring where you live and pick something to draw or paint. Why not hold an neighbourhood art day and get all the young budding artists together?
  2. Next, simply email to get your exclusive Big Lunch pin code for the upload form (remember to mention us!)
  3. Go to and use the upload form to add your artwork to the map!



Not only will your neighbourhoods’ artwork be added to the Its Our World website map, the entire collection will be handed over to the UK Web Archives in December, to be stored for the whole nation! You can view a selection of artwork examples so far here

Free Big Lunch Art Kits

To celebrate this exciting project, we’re giving away limited edition Big Lunch art kits – including street art chalk, Big Lunch pencils and an eden project notepad – to the first 20 artists to upload onto the website! Simply let us know once your artwork has been uploaded by emailing with the title “Big Lunch art“.

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Competitions, Decorations, Friends, Ideas, News
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This idea is right up your alley!

July 6, 2015
Author: Grainne McCloskey

The streets just behind Queen’s University in Belfast have often made the headlines for all the wrong reasons but a group of local people have been determined to make their environment a shining example of what can be done with vision, community spirit and green fingers!

People living in College Park Avenue, University Avenue and Rugby Road persuaded Belfast City Council to gate their alleyway and transform it with flowers, wall murals, brightly painted gates and fences, cobblestones, relaxed seating, bird feeders, hopscotch and more, including plans for mosaics created by University of Ulster art students.

neighbours having fun at a big lunch party in the alley behind their houses which together they have brightened up with wild flowers and art work.

Big Lunch day seemed like a perfect opportunity to launch Wildflower Alley as the first community led regeneration project in an area that has been in serious decline for the past twenty years. Without any statutory support, the residents of the alley gated area combined and up-cycled resources for a series of voluntary clean up days to develop a new shared space.

Bríd Ruddy, Chair of the College Park, Residents Association said: “We had a great Big Lunch day together and hope that Wildflower Alley will ‘sow the seeds’ for the social and economic regeneration that is so badly needed in this area and promote the need for mutual respect within a shared neighbourhood. I also welcome the strong partnership with Queen’s University who supported the project and we very much welcome Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tony Gallagher, launching our initiative.

The enhanced community spirit in these three streets has enabled us to reach out to the wider community and the multi ethnic groups who live in the neighbourhood. We also developed new partnerships with agencies such as Conservation Volunteers, Grow Wild, Belfast City Council and students from the two universities.”

Professor Gallagher said: “Queen’s support for this project further enforces our commitment to the local community and highlights the importance of making a positive impact on society.”


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Big Lunch Extras, Community, Environment, Northern Ireland Case Study
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Big Lunching from the beginning in Edinburgh

July 3, 2015
Author: Emma

Elaine from Edinburgh shares her street’s Big Lunch journey over the past 7 years!


“We decided to give The Big Lunch a go from the very first year, back in 2009, when we realised we didn’t know everyone in our stair of 8 flats – we’ve now held one every year since! It has been a real icebreaker for us, bringing our community closer together, breaking down barriers and providing a chance to socialise.

We started off small for the first 3 years and had a BBQ in the communal garden to rear of our flats. This has now expanded to the whole of street and takes place in a previously locked and unused, council owned and managed shared green space. All the neighbours were delighted that we had negotiated having the shared greenspace opened for general use again.


We’ve ended up meeting people who had lived in the street for over 40 years but who I had never even seen before as they rarely come out. They had seen previous year’s events through their window and decided to come down to join us one year. Ahead of our Big Lunch this year, I bumped into the daughter of one of our more elderly neighbours who said how much her mum was looking forward to this year’s event. Feedback like that makes all the hours posting invites through doors hugely worthwhile!

We have set up a Facebook page, which we advertised on lampposts and fences in the street, which has also helped in planning events and keeping in touch. For example, the page was recently used to raise awareness of a new development that some neighbours felt was negative, and consequently the local community council got involved.


Personally, it’s been great as there’s now more people that I can say ‘hi’ to on a day to day basis and that I could call on if a problem arose. It’s been really interesting to find out about what talents, resources and contacts people have locally too. Who knew we had a designer (who does our poster each year), a local market worker who could provide our marquees, folk talented with children’s activities and so many great cooks and bakers on our doorstep!

My top tip would be to get as many people to bring their skills and talents to the table as possible and, before you know it, you have the makings of your streets very own, unique Big Lunch!”

Want to tell your Big Lunch story? Get in touch on

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Case Study, Scotland Case Study, Stories
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A family affair; Big Lunches from Essex to Edinburgh

July 2, 2015
Author: Lorna Whitton

The Kiddiers have spread The Big Lunch love from Essex all the way up to Edinburgh. Step mum Debbie, daughter Lou and sister Georgia, have enhanced their family bond through hosting lunches for their neighbours at other ends of the country.

Debbie Kiddier explains all:

My daughter Lou encouraged me to organise a Big Lunch as we have the perfect spot being a cul-de-sac. I approached our neighbours by knocking on doors and speaking to them about the idea, and leaving invites. Everyone seemed keen to get involved.

We had a meeting at my house, to ensure everybody could have a say in what was going to happen on the day, and we had a good turnout. People had clearly given it some thought and there was a lot of excitement as ideas were discussed.

On the day everybody came out to decorate the road and the tree in the centre. It all looked beautiful. Around 60 people turned out, including families that like ours were now three and four generations. People who had been in the road for forty years, and one family who had only just recently moved in.

The sharing table was a great success, with foods ranging from cupcakes to Sri Lankan fish balls. We had permission to close the road from 1-4pm, but people were still outside at 7pm and reluctant to leave even then. I was very pleased Lou encouraged us to organise the street party.


I did have apprehensions as I was not sure if anybody would be interested or who would turn up but we have all agreed that we will definitely do it again next year. A truly fabulous experience which has brought the neighbourhood together.

I had heard of the Big Lunch, but had never really thought about it seriously until Lou encouraged us to get involved ourselves. I probably wouldn’t have instigated it myself if Lou hadn’t encouraged me.

Lou Kiddier shares her side:

We had a lovely connection between Edinburgh and Essex this year. One of my neighbours mentioned that their friend had moved to Chelmsford and didn’t know anyone. I found out she was really close to Georgia. I managed to connect them so that she was able to join in Georgia’s big lunch and meet new people. Small world!

Knowing the great effects which The Big Lunch can have on a street and the community, I suggested that my step mum Debbie Kiddier organise one in her street in Perry Hill, Essex. She was apprehensive at first, but I told her she wouldn’t regret it and she too held a really successful Big Lunch.

What’s nice about my family holding Big Lunches on the same day is that we can talk about it in the run up and share our stories after. It brings us closer together even though we’re 400 miles apart. Next we hope to persuade my brother to hold one in his village pub beer garden!


Last year we had a chat with Lou about her Big Lunch experience, read the full story here.

We absolutely love hearing your unique Big Lunch stories, share yours at:

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Case Study, Community
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My Community

July 1, 2015
Author: admin

What would make your community a better place: a vibrant high street, more jobs, improved services, green spaces and a thriving local pub?

hands in a circle


The government has introduced the Community Rights including neighbourhood planning laws and the Community Right to Bid giving you more of a say in your local area, and there are many more ways you can get involved…

The My Community advice service and network run by Locality and partners has been set up to help you:

  • Decide what happens to local buildings, land, services and the economy
  • Have an influence over the future development of your area
  • Connect with like-minded people

Neighbourhood Planning and Community Buildings If you want to have a say over where new homes, shops and offices are built or what new buildings should look like – you need a neighbourhood plan…

A neighbourhood plan is written by local people who know and love the area and includes planning policies – watch this short neighbourhood planning film to get started.

Ferring Parish Council started a neighbourhood plan so that they could help decide the location of new houses and keep their only green space. They used Community Right to Build Orders within their Neighbourhood Plan.

Community Right to Build Orders can also be used independently for example if your neighbourhood needs affordable housing or other community buildings – it’s a straightforward process, you won’t need to seek permission from your local planning authority.

Find out more about support available.

Community Ownership and Management of Assets

The Community Ownership and Management of Assets programme supports partnerships between local public bodies (such as local authorities) and community groups (including parish councils) to develop multiple asset transfer or single, ground breaking asset projects.

Projects accepted onto the programme include a bowling green, swimming pool, playing fields, market house and Grade II listed castle with 200+ acres of land!

There are other ways of bringing local land and buildings into community ownership including through the Community Right to Bid. The Community Right to Bid allows communities to nominate land or buildings to be added to a local list of Assets of Community Value by their local authority. If the listed asset comes up for sale, local community groups can ‘pause’ the sale for a period of time in order to raise the finance to make a bid to buy it.

Find out what support is on offer – visit the website.

Our Place and First Steps

Following a successful first year of Our Place connecting local people and public service providers in the design and delivery of public services, the new programme introduces First Steps (delivered by CDF). First Steps helps small community groups develop action plans to improve their neighbourhoods.

Our Place is supporting even more areas to set out their vision and priorities, including the potential cost benefits and efficiency savings.

Find out more about how you can get involved – visit the website.

Community Economic Development

The new Community Economic Development programme helps communities work together to shape their economy for the benefit of local people. This could be focusing on food, housing, finance, energy or other local opportunities.

Some ideas of what could be achieved:

  • Set up a co-operative programme on energy efficiency to save money
  • develop a rural broadband co-operative
  • promote community-led housing and local spending

Work together with key organisations, residents, local business and public sector organisations to develop the best ideas.

Find out more with resources, tips and guidance – visit the website.

What to do next?

If you’re passionate about your community – look through our free resources, get advice and learn from others who have achieved great things.

Work together to make your area a better place to live!

Visit the My Community website and find out how you can join the My Community Network to meet others including the Champions and even become a Champion yourself.

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Community, Sharing, Spreading the word
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Eat strawberries in summer; shovel snow in winter

June 29, 2015
Author: Gwion Thorpe
Indycube Big Lunch, Cardiff

Indycube Big Lunch, Cardiff

WARNING: This post contains ‘selfies’!

June is normally the month that lots of people frantically start toning up their ‘beach body’ in preparation for the summer hols, but for me it’s a month of serious, unashamed gluttony.  As the proud coordinator of The Big Lunch in Wales I get to spend the majority of June eating large quantities of party food. So, I was thrilled when Mark Hooper, founder of Indycube CIC, sent me a text to say that he’d set himself (and his members) the challenge of hosting a Big Lunch at a different IndyCube location every day for the first 2 weeks in June.  Excellent!

So on Monday the 1st of June I found myself sharing a picnic halfway up a hill in the Rhondda Valley with an architect, a musician, a yoga teacher and an accountant, and 11 days later, after a culinary tour of the south Wales network, I’m tucking into a beast of a buffet in central Cardiff with my fellow Trade Street cubers – from Dermatologists and filmmakers to writers, publishers and designers.  That’s the beauty of co-working spaces (and Big Lunches for that matter), you never know who you’re going to be sitting next to and what potential collaborations or connections you might make.  But…as with any work environment, it’s easy to slip into the routine of walking straight to the computer, slipping the headphones on and getting our head down, which is why Mark saw The Big Lunch as a worthwhile business investment and, more importantly, as a way of (re)connecting people.

Indycube Big Lunch, Rhondda Valley

Mark is very passionate about the fact that Indycube isn’t about renting out desk space, it’s about connecting people and communities and fostering collaboration right across Wales, which is exactly what The Big Lunch is about.  In Mark’s own words he wants to “change the way Wales does business.  We’re a hugely connected Country; our communities are our strength; and I want Indycube to prove that you don’t need to go to the ‘big cities’ to succeed.  It’s easy to co-work in cities, but it’s important to do it elsewhere”.  Each Indycube Big Lunch reflected what’s great about the Big Lunch as a whole – each event was different, reflecting the particular culture, identity and ideas of the people and places we visited.  Similarly, the smaller the event the better, because whilst large gatherings are often great fun, it’s the smaller, often simpler events where you get the chance to make real connections and have proper conversations with people – conversations that may lead to something.  Accelerated Serendipity Mark calls it.  Or as the title of this blog suggests, putting the time into building relationships during the good times leads to people being more likely to help and support each other during the challenging times.  That’s as true for co-working spaces as it is society in general, as our Big Lunch research reveals each year.  PS. Did you have or attend a Big Lunch this year? If so PLEASE fill in our simple survey.

Indycube Big Lunch, Bridgend

Whilst each Indycube Big Lunch was different, there was one common theme – that everyone felt it should be something they do more often.  To take a break from our computer screens and share lunch together.  Simple really.  It’s a great way to welcome new people into the fold and cultivating more opportunities for accelerated serendipity!  Thank you to everyone who made the time to enjoy an Indycube Big Lunch. I really hope it’s something that continues to happen and helps the network grow.

Did you have or attend a Big Lunch this year? If so PLEASE fill in our simple surveyThanks!

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