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HRH The Duchess of Cornwall visits cross-community Big Lunch in East Belfast

May 22, 2015
Author: Lorna Whitton

Yesterday, we were lucky enough to have a very special guest at a Big Lunch in East Belfast. Patron of The Big Lunch, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, joined a group of Big Lunchers from all over Northern Ireland and community minded people from East Belfast. The day was spent sharing stories and chatting about local neighbourhoods and reducing loneliness. The event was held at the Skainos Centre, part of the East Belfast Mission and close to a Big Lunch taking place this year by two ladies from either side of the East Belfast interface.


The Duchess prepared a nutritious quinoa salad for the guests with local ambassador, Jane McClenaghan and also helped to paint a chair in a restoration demo, with Refurb manager Nick Cave.  Both wonderful examples of Big Lunch activities!


The Duchess herself told the crowds of people at Skainos:

“It is three years ago I came to my first Big Lunch in Northern Ireland and you can really see how the idea has grown. It’s getting bigger and bigger, with more and more people getting involved.

People from every section of society, every religion, we are getting people talking to each other and that’s what its all about. There are also a lot of lonely people out there, who probably never say anything to anyone for 24 hours, but with The Big Lunch there is a way to get people talking and sharing and saying hello to their neighbours.

I hope you get thousands of people together, and get the whole country involved.”

A number of Big Lunchers in Northern Ireland got the chance to meet with the Duchess and shared their thoughts too:

Diana Miller, who is organising a lunch in Benburb, Co. Tyrone, said: “It was lovely to meet the Duchess, I don’t know what I was expecting but it was a great pleasure, and she was very down to earth.”

Jackie Upton who is busy organising a cross-community Big Lunch in her local area with Jacqueline O’Donnell, from the other side of the interface. Jackie Upton said: “The Duchess is very down to earth, she gave us a lot of time and listened to what people had to say around the table. She was very interested in the Big Lunch we are organising.” The Duchess was particularly pleased to meet Jackie and presented her with a plate, that Jackie said she will be using it at her event.



The day ended with a great cheer and people left on a high, looking forward to their own Big Lunch!

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Celebrities, Charity, Community, News, Northern Ireland
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PR 101: How to let local media know about your Big Lunch

May 20, 2015
Author: Fay

If you read your local paper or listen to your local radio station, you might be wondering how you can get them to cover your Big Lunch. It’s definitely worth letting a few journalists know about your event, especially if you’re going to be raising money for charity or if you’d like more people to attend.

To help you, The Big Lunch PR team has put together a few tips and created a press release template that you can personalise for your event. We look forward to seeing how you spread the word!

Promote Your Big Lunch

  • Think local


Decide who is going to look after PR activity for your Big Lunch and think about why local people will be interested in hearing about your event: Do you have an interesting story to tell about your street? Are you raising money for charity? Does your event have a quirky theme?


  • Print, Web, broadcast…


You might have already thought about contacting your local newspaper, but don’t forget about local blogs, radio and TV too. Perhaps you could tell your story on a phone-in to your favourite local radio station, for example?


  • Email is best


Journalists are busy people so the best way to contact them is by email. Look for the ‘Contact us’ section on their website and send your press release to the news desk email address (copy and paste it into your email rather than sending as an attachment).


  • Make the most of social media


Set up a Facebook page or Twitter profile to publicise your event and also post about it on your local media’s social media channels. Please include #thebiglunch in your messages!


  • A picture is worth a thousand words


Take lots of photos and videos at your Big Lunch and send them to your local media on the same day – some of them might have a ‘Send us your photos’ form on their website.


Don’t forget to let us know about your Big Lunch too by emailing

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How to, News, Spreading the word, Top tips
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Make your own Bottle Flower Bunting & Vinyl Flower Decorations for your Big Lunch!

May 20, 2015
Author: Laura Mitchell

Dawn from Manchester is holding her first Big Lunch on Sunday 7 June. She’s part of volunteer environmental group Envirolution which teaches people how to live more sustainably in a fun and informal way.

“At Envirolution, we don’t like to throw anything away so we’re always thinking of creative new uses for everyday items or how to upcycle junk into something useful. Some of our favourite upcycled decorations are Bottle Flower Bunting and Vinyl Flowers and we’ve been making some for our upcoming Big Lunch. They’re easy to make but make a big impression! Why not get together with some neighbours and have a go at creating your own? Not only do they look great, they’re great for the planet too!”

Bottle Flower Bunting

For this you can use a variety of bottles of all shapes and sizes.

You will need

  • A decent pair of scissors
  • Paint or spray paint
  • String               
  • Using the neck end of the bottle, pierce a hole about a third of the way up before cutting all the way around so you’re only left with the bottle’s neck end.
  • Now, it’s time to get creative! Think about what shapes you’d like your flower petals to be- you could curve them or cut them straight downwards into strips.
  • Once you’ve cut strips all the way around, begin to bend each strip down to create your petals. You can choose whether to paint them, spray them or leave them plain. We painted some of ours with gloss or acrylic paint. You can also use child friendly paint if running this as a workshop with children or you have help from tiny hands.
  • Either loop some string around the bottle neck or pierce a small hole and thread through.
  • Continue this process until you have a long line of flower bunting.

 decs resize blog


Vinyl Flowers

Firstly, make sure you’re only using old or unwanted records, not someone’s prized possessions! You can use any record size, we prefer 12″ as they are easier to handle.

You will need

  • Oven, oven tray and ceramic bowl
  • Paint or spray paint
  • Gloves                        
  • Heat the oven to no higher than 200 degrees. Remember to keep your oven door open when baking the vinyl and also ventilate the room – it’s a good idea to open your back door!
  • Place the bowl upside down on a baking tray and place the vinyl flat on top.
  • Place your tray and vinyl into the oven, leaving the oven door open. You will soon see the record start to bend. You should only need to keep the record in the oven for 1-2 minutes.
  • Remove carefully from the oven using gloves and remove the record off the bowl. Quickly mould your record into the shape you’d like, you’ll have about a minute before it starts to harden again.
  • Once moulded into shape, set aside to cool. Once cooled, you can paint your record or leave unpainted. You can also thread it onto string if you wish.

We chose to paint ours with vibrant gloss paint as it’s hard wearing and long lasting. We’ve used ours outside for years with no issues, apart from people wanting to take them home from our events!

 Dawn vinyl flower resize blog



Feeling inspired? We’d love to see your upcycled decorations. Share them below!

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Case Study, Community, Decorations, England, England Case Study, Environment, How to, Ideas, News, Planning, Sharing
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Busting your Big Lunch worries!

May 19, 2015
Author: Lorna Whitton

As we approach Sunday 7 June many of you will have a few last minute worries! But, do not fret, we are here to help bust those oh so familiar worries and get you ready to enjoy a day of fun, socialising and community bonding!

So, here are a few of the most common panics for every Big Luncher:

1. What if it rains?

We live in the UK, so there is a possibility you may experience a bit of wet weather! But, this is nothing to stop your Big Lunch going ahead. Make sure to have a wet weather plan a week in advance of your Big Lunch. Ask neighbours if they could host it in their lounge or kitchen, or what about a local community hall, church or local space. Be brave and ask around, you might be able to borrow a marquee - that way you can still be outside!


2. What if the children aren’t entertained?

This can easily be resolved with a little imagination and forward planning. A few games and props can create hours of amusement, explore our Games page for ideas. How about an old-fashioned egg and spoon race? Tug of war? Skipping? Or how about a coconut-shy? – using coconuts or other round vegetables, with hula-hoops or buckets for them to be thrown into.



3. Will there be enough food for everyone?

A few days before your Big Lunch day, it is worth doing a little round up of what everyone will be bringing to the table. This doesn’t necessarily mean, what exact dish, but asking if neighbours are bringing sweet or savoury; this will help to see if you need more of one or the other. Similarly, asking all attendees to RSVP to your day is helpful as it will give you an idea of numbers and therefore make food planning a little easier.




4. What’s everyone going to sit on?

At first, it is worth asking everyone who is attending if they have any chairs or benches that they could bring along. Make sure to ask for a reply, so you are able to tally up the numbers. If you are still in need, approach your local schools, community groups (like Scouts or Brownies) or religious centres if they have any you could loan for the day. You can also get creative – up turned buckets make nifty stools!


5. What if no one turns up?

Whatever size your Big Lunch is, it will still be a worthy event in your local community! Even if you meet just 1 new person, you will have achieved something by growing your neighbourly links.


6. How do I make my Big Lunch look like a street party?

A little bit of décor can turn any street into one that looks ready for a party! How about using recycled materials to make your own bunting? Or, decorating an old bed sheet to use as a personalised table cloth? Get the kids to do chalk drawings along the pavement and pop a few flowers in some old jam jars. Easy to do, cheap and quick!


7. How do I make the most of the day?

The main aim of Big Lunch day is to enjoy yourself! Although you may worry about everyone else having a good time, it is key to relax a little and go with the flow! Things will fall into place and sometimes the most fun events are the ones that don’t run the smoothest!


Got any other worries our Agony Aunt can help with? Email us at

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Roll up, Roll up! Promoting your Big Lunch

May 19, 2015
Author: Laura Mitchell

Michelle from Bebington is organising her second Big Lunch on Sunday 7 June. Here she shares her top tips for promoting The Big Lunch ahead of the big day.

“Organising an event doesn’t always seem like an easy thing to do. Thankfully, The Big Lunch has a national date and provides lots of guidance and advice but there are still decisions to make on the date, venue and activities, helpers to recruit and important work to do to promote your Big Lunch plans to neighbours and community members.

I’m very excited about our Big Lunch in Meyer Park.

BL Michelle Peters blog

There have been so many positive developments that I know it’s likely to be a big success, but now I’m in the process of promoting our event, I wanted to share my top five resources for getting your Big Lunch plans out there:

1. Facebook – ( – Why not use Facebook to create a Big Lunch event which you can share with your friends and groups? Post event updates at least once a week and generate excitement with a countdown just before the Big Lunch day. Check out my Facebook event here –

2. Twitter – ( Use Twitter to share your Facebook event link and utilise hashtags such as #Wirral so local people who search for that term will see your tweets. Tag any      accounts that promote local events like @whatsgoodtodo1 (A UK wide account for fun and entertainment) and tweet me – @blueybaloo for a retweet!

3. Streetlife – ( –Register for a Streetlife account and create an event that can be shared with anyone in your local area, even if you’re not connected with them. After creating your event, keep people up to date with your latest plans by regularly commenting on the event wall in the lead up to the big day.

 4. Netmums – ( – If you want to spread the word more publicly, you can add an event to Netmums event page, explain what The Big Lunch involves and link to The Big Lunch website; You can also include contact details but be mindful these are available for public view so you might want to consider creating a special Big Lunch email address.

 5. Mumsnet-( Search ‘Add event listing’ and find your local area’s page. Promote your Big Lunch on there to let your community know exactly what’s happening in case they want to get involved.

Minnie and Mickey Blog


What are your top tips for promoting your own Big Lunch? Share them in the comments section below; we’d love to hear them!


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Case Study, Community, England Case Study, How to, News, Planning, Spreading the word, Top tips
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Guest Post: Georgina Jones explains her first Big Lunch hopes and fears

May 15, 2015
Author: Lorna Whitton

Georgina Jones is founder of TLO – Turn Lights On – a movement that’s all about creating connections between people and doing something positive to help others.  She’s passionate about human connection – that wonderful experience that you get when you’re connected to someone, or something.  This year Georgina is organising her first ever Big Lunch on her street in Cardiff Bay and here she shares her hopes, fears and honesty about taking that first step! 


“Had my first meeting at The Deck today about our Big Lunch. If you are unaware of The Big Lunch,  have a gander at the site. In a nutshell it’s about connecting with the people that live around you and coming together and having a lunch on your street. Everyone brings a dish and you enjoy connecting! This is such a lovely link with Turn Lights On so I’m very happy to be getting involved.

Getting a whole street together takes some organising so naturally I need a partner in crime and lucky for me I have a rather wonderful one. Deborah owns The Deck, an award winning coffee shop which is one of my favourite places in the world. Deb and I are going to see if we can get two streets together to do a lunch in the Cardiff Bay area where we both live, Hunter Street and Harrowby Street. The date for this is 21st June and the time is yet to be decided.

Gwion from The Big Lunch joined us today and told us wonderful stories of people connecting in Big Lunches all over Wales, some places even close all the streets in the village! Getting to know the people around you can make such a difference to the way that you feel – as I say all the time we are better together.

I have been buzzed about the Big Lunch since I met Gwion at Creative Mornings in February and I wanted to get the ball rolling but I felt a little scared about knocking on people’s doors and asking them to join me! Me…. Mrs Turn Lights On that encourages people to do this all the time! I’m not sure why I felt scared as I’m sure the majority of people I will speak to will be interested in a day of making new friends and yes maybe a few may not be, however that is their choice. I think it’s the knocking on the door bit that concerns me. I have always said that I could never do a door to door job and hats off to people that do.  This will be a great TLO experiment for me. A time to leave my ego at the door and be present and passionate about this truly wonderful idea. This is not about me (my ego), it’s about the cause and connection so I need to get knocking those knockers!

We may have two streets worth of people coming to the Big Lunch or it may be Deb and I sitting outside The Deck enjoying a cuppa with one of her amazing cakes! Regardless, I will get to know Deb more and that will be a worthwhile use of my day. We may even attract a crowd as we both love a natter to people so the end result will be the same.

I will update you on how my canvassing goes and what people say.  The first connection is always the tricky one and I may need a little bit of a push and a surge of puppy power to do it, but when the connection is made wonderful things happen. In our communities we have to face the fear to make things better.

Fear will keep us lonely, fear will keep us not knowing our neighbours, fear is creating this magnolia living where we don’t connect and engage and Turn Lights On and The Big Lunch is about creating colourful connections which start with a question and a great intention.

Right I’m going to put my best smile on and get knocking on those doors!

We always love to hear your Big Lunch plans are coming along; if you would like to share you story, please email us at:

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Case Study, Community, Planning, Spreading the word
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Anyone for a cuppa… or a lawnmower?

May 14, 2015
Author: Lorna Whitton

The Big Lunch is all about getting to know your neighbours. So, we thought we should find out how well you already know them!

We commissioned a nationwide survey recently and it’s been really interesting to see how people up and down the country build relationships with their neighbours.

In the East of England and the South West, for example, getting together over a nice cup of tea is particularly popular while in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the South East, neighbours often lend each other things. In Wales, the North East and the West Midlands, more than one in 10 people have taken a meal to a neighbour when they were ill.

From lending lawnmowers and having a meal together to giving your neighbour a spare key, neighbourliness is clearly alive and kicking across the UK. And of course, bringing a Big Lunch to your street can help even more!


Here are the key findings of our survey:

Sharing is caring

38% of UK adults have borrowed something from, or lent something to, their neighbours and a third (33%) have asked them for, or given them, advice. 9% have taken their neighbour’s children to or from school and 8% say their kids have had a play date with other children who live nearby.

Food and drink brings people together

More than a third (34%) of adults in the UK have had a cup of tea with a neighbour, a quarter (25%) have gone to each other’s house for lunch, dinner or drinks and 16% have spent time together at the local pub. 10% have taken a meal to a neighbour when they were ill.


Who has the spare key?

Despite these examples of neighbourliness, only one in 10 adults (13%) in the UK have given their main spare key to their neighbour. The majority of people (45%) leave their spare key with a relative, 10% have given it to a friend who lives nearby and 5% keep it hidden in a secret place. A third (33%) of people who have not given their neighbour a spare key say that they simply have not thought of doing so and 17% say they do not know them well enough.

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Community, Friends, Housing, Spreading the word
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Five Ways to Wellbeing with a Big Lunch

May 13, 2015
Author: Laura Mitchell

Natalie is a social worker who works for Stockport and District Mind, a charity that supports people experiencing mental health distress. Here she explains how The Big Lunch helps people with mental health distress by covering the Five Ways to Wellbeing that have been researched and developed by the New Economics Foundation.

“This year is our second Big Lunch. Last year, we decided to hold a Big Lunch because the first step in the Five Ways to Wellbeing is to connect and this is really important to us because when people become unwell they lose connection with others. We’re passionate about peer support and people coming together and Sunday is a great day to hold The Big Lunch, as people can feel isolated on Sunday as there are usually no services. In fact, The Big Lunch covers all Five Ways to Wellbeing as it allows people to:

  1. Connect – The Big Lunch brings us all together and means that we are socialising and making connections with each other. Volunteers also help at our Big Lunch, going round and facilitating conversations with people who struggle at first.

  2. Be Active – We have lots of activities which gets everyone up on their feet!

  3. Take notice - People are aware of their surroundings. We hold our Big Lunch in Stockport Progress and Recovery Centre’s grounds. This is a lovely spot, where many benefit from talking to others and use as a place to relax.

  4. Learn – It provides us with an opportunity to show people our services and what we do.

  5. Give – As we’re a charity we rely on giving, whether it’s money or time. If you can give five minutes to someone who you’ve not spoken to before, it can be a really big thing. Chatting can be daunting for some people so it’s nice to give someone the chance to be heard.



A lot of people who access our services feel isolated and recognise this as a cause of mental distress, as it can promote feelings of vulnerability and loneliness when they need support, acceptance and inclusion. The Big Lunch gives people the opportunity to be involved and feel connected to those around them in a fun way. Often in society we take people for granted and don’t acknowledge how important people are in our lives until there is no one there.

The Big Lunch focuses on all the positive aspects of community, enables friendships to form and allows people to realise that often they are not the only one feeling isolated. There are friends out there; you just need to meet them.”

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Case Study, Charity, Community, News, Spreading the word, Stories
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Top tips to invite your neighbours to Big Lunch!

May 12, 2015
Author: Lorna Whitton

Here, brand new Big Luncher, Joan from Cheshire gives her 5 top tips for getting over your door knocking nerves.

“I’m very new to The Big Lunch and have been inspired to give it a go with my street by my niece, who has helped organise hers for the last 3 years. Being a “newbie” to my street having only lived there for 2 years, I was rather nervous about knocking on my neighbours doors in the cul-de-sac. The first door knock was the hardest but the people I spoke to were friendly and positive which encouraged me. Here’s my top door knocking tips for other first time Big Lunchers who might be nervous about approaching their neighbours.”



1. Choose a sunny day to door-knock

People can visualise a happy street party and don’t mind standing at the door to talk when it’s good weather!


2. Introduce yourself by your first name and house number

I introduce myself straight away to allay any fears that I am trying to get money from my neighbours or sell something.


3. Allow yourself plenty of time

You’re not in a rush and can give those people who need it, time to listen to everything you have to say.


4. Ask your neighbours if they’ve heard of The Big Lunch

Conversation flows easily after that!


5. Take a printed letter about The Big Lunch to leave with your neighbours

It’s great to refer to while talking if you get a bit nervous and you can also post through the letter boxes of the houses when no one is in.


Remember every Big Lunch journey begins with the first step so take the plunge and knock on that door!  A big thank you to Joan for sharing her advice.

Want to share yours too? Send it to

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Community, How to, Planning, Sharing, Spreading the word, Stories
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Terms and conditions for Radio Times Eden Project hamper draw

May 8, 2015
Author: Trudi Holden

FULL TERMS AND CONDITIONS – Eden project Hamper draw

deckchair-2 (2)

  1. Entry is free and NO PURCHASE IS NECESSARY. One entry per household.
  2. No bulk, third party or organised group entries will be accepted. All entries must be made directly by the person entering the promotion.
  3. Automatic entry to draw applies to any Big Lunch pack order which has been successfully received by 5pm on Monday 1st June only and include a full name, valid UK address, email address and phone number. Entrants must be 18 years of age or over
  4. The prize is a handpicked Eden Project hamper – contents subject to availability – plus two Eden Project director chairs
  5. No alternative prize will be offered and there is no cash alternative. The prize is non-transferable and non-refundable
  6. The draw will be independently witnessed and the first name drawn at random after the closing date will receive the prize as detailed above. If the winner cannot be reached the Eden Project reserves the right to award the prize to a reserve winner drawn at random
  7. The draw is not open to employees of The Eden Project, The Cornwall, their families, agents or anyone professionally connected with the prize draw
  8. All entries must be received by 5pm on Monday 1st June 2015. The winner will be notified by email or phone on Wednesday 3rd June 2015.
  9. By entering this competition you are giving the Eden Project and The Cornwall permission to contact you at a future date.
  10. Entries not complying with these terms and conditions or which provide insufficient information on the online entry form will not be accepted by the Promoter
  11. By entering all participants will be deemed to have accepted and be bound by these Terms and Conditions
  12. The Promoter reserves the right to hold, void, cancel, suspend or amend the competition or terms and conditions where it becomes necessary to do so
  13. The Promoter accepts no responsibility for entries that are not received for any reason
  14. The Promoter’s decision on any aspect of the competition is final and binding and no correspondence will be entered into.
  15. The Promoter is The Eden Project.

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