“I actually heard about The Big Lunch through my sister, Georgia, who has organised a few Big Lunches on her street in Chelmsford. I thought, ‘if my teenage sister can do it, why can’t I!?’ and so we started planning our own street party on Summerside Place.
On the day, nobody was ready to head back inside so we ended up extending the afternoon longer than planned! One of the best things was seeing all the kids reclaiming their own street, being able to run around and play in between having their own ‘little lunch’. Because we knew they were safe, it gave the adults proper time to get to know each other.
Our neighbours really got into the spirit of everyone contributing something on the day. People brought food aplenty, one neighbour brought the party atmosphere with his sound system and another set-up an ice-cream station for the kids – a special but inexpensive treat. A tip I’d pass on to other Big Lunchers would be to get everyone involved in decorating. We had most neighbours put bunting up on gates or posters in their house windows and it really built up anticipation and added atmosphere on the day.
Before our lunch I knew the neighbours near our house to speak to, but not further up the street. Now we know more about each other and feel able to stop and say hello. We’ve also started an email chain to discuss any issues or further events and I’ve found myself popping in on neighbours to say hi or ask for advice on local services. Families with kids are now socialising together and friendships have formed – two German ladies living at opposite ends now know there’s someone nearby to speak German with!
It felt like a day from a bygone era. We actually compared some of our photos to old images of street parties and it was interesting to see similarities. That’s what appeals to me about The Big Lunch, making that good old-fashioned community spirit fashionable again!”
Thanks goes out to Lou from Edinburgh for having a chat with us! Share your story firstname.lastname@example.org
The egg and spoon race; one of the most simple but exciting games you can play at a street party. This year, one of the residents of Cranston Drive in Cheshire suggested this as an activity for their Big Lunch street party and found that no-body wanted to join in at first. That was until one of Barbara’s friends (who is a bit of a character) said, “Ooh I’ll have a go!” and the rest of the street wouldn’t stop after that!
It just takes one person to make the first move. This is something that residents of Cranston Drive are quite accustomed to, having rallied together on several occasions to tackle instances of antisocial behaviour and changes to their street.
A few years ago, there was a group of teenagers who rode noisy motorbikes up and down the lane behind their houses, dumped rubbish everywhere and there were a few instances of break-ins too. When enough was enough, Barbara’s neighbours got together and worked with the police to put an end to the troubles. Subsequently they created a Neighbourhood Watch Scheme and haven’t had any problems since.
Tackling the issues was, as Barbara comments, “only possible because the residents knew each other through a Big Lunch”. Before their first one in 2009, Barbara said she didn’t really know anyone other than her immediate neighbours – and Becky who lives at the other end of the road. They brought the two ends of the street together and now they know everyone. “We’re really lucky with our neighbourliness, people are more friendly and the new people who move to our street realise what an advantage it is to have something like The Big Lunch.”
Barbara’s daughter moved away a few years ago and Barbara said, “I was considering moving to be closer to her but now I know everyone I think I’ll stay here. I used to look after a lady in her eighties but since she passed away I now look after her husband. I like to think that I’ll be looked after when I need it.”
Community spirit is a term we hear a lot but its actually in short supply and that could be one of the reasons when you organise a Big Lunch folk get so much out of it.
It’s not that there isn’t a desire to be community spirited within most of us, it’s just that it’s easy to put our ideas on the back burner and leave it to other folk to do. So if you’ve been meaning to give a little back locally and have put it off perhaps you should make a pledge with our friends at the Halifax! You’ll get a little gift to get you started and could win £250 for your chosen charitable group.
At the Eden Project we run a Big Lunch Extras community camp, the next one is on the weekend of 19 – 22 September 2014 and there’s some places left for anyone interested in expanding community related ideas or getting an initiative off the ground where you live.
Individuals who came to a camp in the Autumn of 2013 shared their stories on film. Alison from Portstewart in Northern Ireland told us how when an elderly neighbours’ car was vandalised it became a catalyst for her street to come together. This is her street’s story:
This film was produced by Storyworks, an innovative research and consultancy centre at Falmouth University. Led by Professor Mike Wilson, it specialises in storytelling and narrative approaches, with a particular focus on the application of digital technology to facilitate story gathering and sharing.
If you have something to tell us about your Big Lunch we’d love you to get in touch.
When members of staff from Belfast Council said they wanted to organise a Healthy Belfast Big Lunch, there was plenty to get excited about.
By hosting a Big Lunch at City Hall, Belfast Council made all citizens feel welcome, opening the doors to the folk who live and work nearby to give a taste of what’s available locally and encourage a healthier Belfast.
Una Lappin and Lucy Magee from the Council were instrumental in making the day happen; there was plenty of colour and activity with Salsa dancing, cookery demos, food-growing tips and face-painting. Cllr Steven Corr, Chair of the Health and Environmental Services Committee in Belfast City Council said:
“Belfast City Council planned this Big Lunch Event to help bring the community together for food, friendship and fun. We thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to spread important health messages and help local people improve their overall physical and mental health.
The event also coincided with the recent launch of the Belfast Strategic Partnership’s Emotional Resilience consultation and Take 5 campaign aimed at improving Belfast’s mental health and we felt this could be a friendly way to illustrate how to incorporate the Take 5 Campaign into your life.
We also wanted to use The Big Lunch’s emphasis on community to create a ‘working community’ where local people and workers from all organisations surrounding Belfast City Hall could come along, make new friends, share knowledge, pick up tips and have some fun!”
This Healthy Big Lunch event was made possible through the generous support of local people like Jane McClenaghan from Vital Nutrition who gave folk the chance to watch and taste and learn healthy lunch creation, Caroline and Tony who brought the music and the moves and a huge range of local groups who shared skills, knowledge and time. Local staff from Big Lunch sponsors Halifax and Asda volunteered and brought treats to share around.
Belfast is now one of our Star Councils, this event follows on from their annual Big Lunch at Belfast Castle and their encouragement of residents to have Big Lunch street parties and build stronger community relations.
We would love to hear if your local council did anything with The Big Lunch this year.
So far this summer we’ve been out and about at events, networking with those who have similar interests in building community.
Recently we attended HACT’s ‘HouseParty’ – a two-day event which was designed to break the boundaries of convention and bring a more ‘disruptive’ element of networking to the table. If you haven’t heard of HACT before, it stands for the Housing Association’s Charitable Trust and is a body that works with the housing sector, government and local communities to find a way of meeting everybody’s needs together.
It was for ‘anyone who cares about where and how we live in the UK’.
Gwion, our Welsh rep, snuggled in with a few others for a fireside chat with HouseParty’s resident smart urbanist, Julian Dobson, which followed with discussions on maverick community-led housing initiatives. The conversations were wide ranging but the one thing that linked them all together was the importance of relationships and that no amount of policy, strategy or design can create a neighbourhood – it’s the people that make the place. We were able to show the impact The Big Lunch has had in fostering happy communities across the UK. Gwion met some inspiring people and projects, including One Ark, Origin Housing, Shared Lives Plus and the UK Cohousing Network who we hope we can collaborate with in the future.
Myself and Fay from the London team got to stitch with craftivitists (and say “Yes to Homes!”), dress up as Comms Hero to promote #HousingDay and pose questions to the Housing Question Time panel. In the afternoon we attended a session that was not just about the art of conversation, but the art of decorating cakes. So we put on our aprons and broke bread with people from a range of organisations such as Social Change Agency, Public Health England and Bolton at Home who all wanted to discuss the ever-prominent topic of health and well-being. The wide range of professional backgrounds meant it was a genuine platform for how we felt about our own experiences, personal and professional. Perhaps decorating cakes is the right medium for the nitty-gritty?
With many shared aims of connectivity, engagement and innovation within the industry, it was a great space for sharing ideas.
We’re very much looking forward to working with housing associations over the next year as we work towards achieving shared goals of creating stronger communities. We’ll be out and about at various conferences and events over the next few months so look out for us on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re at any of the events do pop along and say hi!
The Giro D’italia came to Northern Ireland in early May, and when the competitors whizzed up the Ballyhackamore Road, Ruth and her family were in the crowd embracing the community spirit and sense of unified enjoyment. So when a few weeks later she opened the local paper and read an article about The Big Lunch Ruth thought it could be the perfect way to bring the inclusive community vibe from the Giro right on to her street.
Ordering her Big Lunch pack Ruth spoke to the neighbours she was already friends with. Having their buy in, she knew that even if no one else came Martinez Avenue Big Lunch would go ahead.
Ruth printed invites with details of what was happening and when: “to keep it simple I just invited everyone to come bringing a chair and something to share” she said.
Several folk Ruth hadn’t met before sent texts offering to help and so they held a pre-event planning meeting. One lady was a teacher so she was able to borrow a rope for tug of war and some hula hoops and other items. “It became obvious very quickly that we wouldn’t need funding to do this if we all shared and kept it simple.”
Ruth said “because we really didn’t know how many would come and because we wanted everyone to feel it was their event, we didn’t PLAN too heavily, we organised a few activities and as an ice breaker we set everyone 10 challenges, things like…
It was very surprising to find that out of 150 people no one had been to a street party before!
“Fairhaven residential home is at the end of the street and until our Big Lunch it has always been very separate, I thought it was a retirement care home but it in fact supports people with mental health and learning needs. On the day about 30 residents and caring staff joined us and brought a big box of sandwiches and food to share, my son is only one and he was showered with kisses and made to feel very special. Since our event we have received flyers about fundraising activity and events planned by Fairhaven and we never did before so I feel our Big Lunch helped bridge a gap that perhaps went unnoticed before.
“Our street was never an unfriendly place but The Big Lunch certainly helped strengthen our sense of neighbourhood. Watching everyone meet and enjoy the liberation of being able to relax and have their kids all play together safely on the street, I felt we had broken barriers that hadn’t needed to exist.
“Being part of The Big Lunch gave the permission I felt I needed, it sanctioned knocking on unknown neighbours doors and had I not had the pack and official materials, folk might have thought I was planning something unwelcome. We will certainly be doing it again and lots of people have said they love the idea and who knows they might give it a go too!
“Getting your road closed for something is not straight forward here in Northern Ireland I suppose because our regulations are set to handle conflict but our community policing team helped me in the end by providing cones to close off the road and collecting them afterwards.
“We had a super day and a few folk have dropped cards in the door, one card read…
We have lived here 48 years and never had a street party I hope we don’t have to wait another 48 years for another!”
“We hosted a Big Lunch on 13th June at Kibble Campus in Paisley, Scotland. Kibble is Scotland’s specialist provider of services for at risk children and young people. We got some of the young people involved, creating a zero waste buffet, feeding 31 people – and some goats too!
The intention was to teach the pupils about reducing, reusing, recycling and to be able to plan and prepare a zero waste buffet Big Lunch. The end result was: happy, well-fed attendees 31, waste 0!
Lots of research was undertaken by the young people beforehand and they wanted to pass on what they have learned in the process – hopefully inspiring other Big Lunchers to aim for zero waste at their next event too!
We decided our venue should be the Home Economics classroom, to enable those invited to walk to the event and reduce need for further transport. Staff members were asked to the buffet in person by the young people, so physical invitations weren’t necessary.
Flowers were picked from volunteers’ gardens and jam jars were covered in paper and used as vases. Newspaper was used as a table cover. Real crockery and cutlery was utilised rather than plastic or paper.
The Education department at Kibble were due to finish for the summer holidays, therefore all Home Economics fridges were emptied to use up all the produce.
With reference to air miles, any additional food was purchased locally. We visited the local supermarket and reduced produce was purchased as the ‘sell buy’ date was approaching.
Vegetables were provided by Kibble’s own garden, leading us to contemplate that we were now measuring ‘food steps’ rather than food miles! Herbs were provided from a volunteer’s home garden.
When the lunch was over, guests were encouraged to take leftovers away with them in reusable tubs. One guest asked if he could take the remainder of the lettuce for his goats!”
Karen, Kibble Scotland.
More tips on low cost, low waste lunching can be found in The Big Lunch & Love Food Hate Waste’s planning guide here.
Big thanks to Karen at Kibble, also Volunteer Coordinator at Zero Waste Renfrewshire, for sharing the Kibble pupil’s tips. Get in touch with tales of your 2014 Big Lunch at email@example.com
Over a month has passed now since the big day, but there are plenty of ways to keep the community spirit alive after your Big Lunch. From starting a street association, to simply sharing your story; check out these 5 things to do after your Big Lunch.
Lots of you tell us that the spirit of The Big Lunch continues well after the day has passed and it’s often a conversation starter to reminisce about how the day went. Continuing that Big Lunch spirit is easy, when you keep those conversations flowing. From popping around for a cup of tea, or simply saying hello as you pass on the street; small talk can really make all the difference!
Have you got a taste for creating a community buzz and would you like to get ideas, skills and inspiration to do more? Building on the success of The Big Lunch, Big Lunch Extras is a programme to help individuals across the UK to create positive change within their communities. Providing participants with inspirational events, free web resources and online community chat area; Big Lunch extras kick-starts with a weekend long boot camp at Eden Project in Cornwall!
Starting up your own Street Association is a great way to get together with your neighbours – from once a week to once to a month – to help shape your community and create lasting relationships locally. Street Associations offer free starter packs to get your group off the ground; as well as giving advice and tips for anything from collaborating on local issues, to planning your next knees up!
You don’t have to be involved in a group to help keep community spirit alive. Simply sharing your story with us can help to inspire others to take the plunge and organise their own Big Lunch! You may not think your lunch was particularly quirky or different but for every type of lunch there is someone who will see that lunches happen in places just like where they live. Send a few paragraphs (or a whole essay if you like!) to firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s nothing like planning your next Big Lunch to keep community spirit alive! We are already hearing of summer, and even Christmas, Big Lunches being planned across the UK, so why not get planning for your next community event? We are also working on our packs for next year ready for the New Year; Big Lunch 2015 is just around the corner!
Did you know that the UK is getting ever closer to half of all primary aged school children now being driven to school, an average journey that is less than two miles or a 15 minute bike ride? The Big Lunch has been talking to Sustrans, the leading UK charity enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys we make every day, about their new campaign for safer streets.
When you invest in creating space that’s fit for children and focus on reconnecting them to places they go every day – like school – a local journey can become a walk, a bike or a scoot! The school journey, usually short and local, is the perfect way to make your child’s weekly routine more active.
With investment in slowing traffic speeds, and creating more walking and cycling networks to schools and beyond, a huge number of short car journeys could be replaced by trips on foot and by bike. More than ever there is the opportunity to redesign our communities and streets, and make them better places to live, work, shop or play rather than to drive through. And designing with children in mind benefits us all!
Sustrans are campaigning so children can run, walk, scoot or bike the school run again. To make this a reality the UK needs safer streets. Join the debate; take a look at the Safer Streets campaign.
Our Big Gig is the UK’s biggest community music festival. Similar to The Big Lunch, this fun annual event aims to bring communities together and is a great opportunity to get to know your neighbours – but through music instead! This weekend, 11-13 July, 174 free music events will take place – with more than 7,000 musicians and 2,000 volunteers helping to host gigs.
Over the course of the weekend there will be an exciting and diverse array of music ranging from local choirs to steel drums, orchestras, open mic, beat boxing and performers singing and playing in talent competitions. All the events are free to attend and anyone can take part either as an active participant or merely a member of the audience. If you’re an aspiring musician or would like to be involved in any way you can, register here.
Aside from musical entertainment many events have activities such as face painting, dance and song writing workshops and food and drink stalls added into the bargain so there’s something for everyone. Each event is individual and offers something different musically so that all tastes are catered for.
Fancy popping along to your nearest Our Big Gig? Locations and line ups can be found here: http://www.superact.org.uk/ourbiggig/events/all-events
Our Big Gig is an ‘Inspired by 2012’ project and last summer saw over 200,000 people attend free concerts. Superact, who created the initiative, has given grants to 150 Community Organisations and this year also oversaw a crowdfunding campaign, via Spacehive, which allowed a further 14 events to take place. Many of the events are being held in social spaces such as youth centres, cafés and record stores, which in turn could also help boost local businesses.