Connect with your local community this Sunday at Big Lunch

Published: Friday 16th June 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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The Big Lunch is a nationwide campaign hosted by Eden Project Communities. The idea is to bring local people together through good food and fun.

Eden aims to improve the happiness and wellbeing of British people by helping them to build strong, supportive communities. They do this through a number of projects, including The Great Big Walk, community gardens, and The Big Lunch.

This weekend, hundreds of groups across the country will indulge in homemade nibbles, enjoy the outdoors and make meaningful connections.

We spoke to Kathryn Garnett, Community Network Developer for Eden Project Communities, to find out some tips and tricks for organising a Big Lunch.

“I recently organised a big city centre event in Leeds that aimed to help office workers reclaim their lunch break. It was a large-scale do, but Big Lunches come in all shapes and sizes,” Kathryn explains. “People host them wherever and whenever suits them.”

The Big Lunch, Castle Upton Templepatrick - Northern Ireland 2014
The Big Lunch, Castle Upton Templepatrick – Northern Ireland 2014

The first step is to pick a venue, and Kathryn has seen all sorts of spaces used for Big Lunches:

“Some people choose to close off their streets, whilst others opt for their back gardens. A mother used her son’s rugby club to demonstrate that the building could be used for other events. I also know a lady who is organising a Big Lunch to take place at a hospital,” she tells us.

Eden encourages people to use whatever they have and to embrace what’s strong rather than what’s wrong. It’s all about making it work for you.

“The official date for The Big Lunch is Sunday 18 June, but you can have one at any time. We only select a date because many people like to feel like they are part of something bigger,” Kathryn explains. “People can share their photos online using the hashtag #TheBigLunch.”

As you can imagine, food is quite a central focus at any Big Lunch. Often, everyone involved brings something to the table to share. Eden has some fantastic recipes on its website if you’re stuck for ideas.

The Big Lunch in Ketley, Shropshire. From left - Krista Ball and Catherine Antonio, 2014
The Big Lunch in Ketley, Shropshire. From left – Krista Ball and Catherine Antonio, 2014

“Some people will focus on a theme or choose food that will highlight an issue,” says Kathryn. For example, her event in Leeds made use of the surplus food that supermarkets would have otherwise sent to landfill.

“Others will use the day to celebrate the differences in their neighbourhoods. They will showcase their backgrounds and culture through an array of cuisines.”

For decoration, Eden recommends a similar attitude of making the most of what you have. On their website, they have several how-to guides, such as making bunting out of scraps of material. They also provide suggestions on how kids can get involved with the festivities.

“The nicest thing to see is the children playing outside, especially when a street has been shut off for the day,” Kathryn enthuses, “Once, I saw some people tie strings between two posts and hang apples and doughnuts from it. The aim of the game was to eat the treats without using your hands.”

The Big Lunch - City Church Belfast 2016
The Big Lunch – City Church Belfast 2016

For the day itself, many worry what the weather is going to be like and if anyone will actually turn up.

“In terms of the weather, it is worth considering a wet day option. It could be a bit of tarpaulin or a local indoor venue, like a library,” she advises. “The great thing about organising a Big Lunch is that you will make new connections, so you have a group of people to ask for help.”

The Big Lunch packs include tons of useful information on factors such as how many attendees you’ll have:

“It’s good to keep in mind that it’s not about numbers,” Kathryn assures us. “It’s about the quality relationships you make.”

For more information about The Big Lunch, visit the Eden Project Communities website.

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Published: Friday 16th June 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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