It is just over two weeks until The Big Lunch! Get involved with street parties happening across the whole of the UK and host your own! There’s still time to plan, invite and get lunching – read The Big Lunch’s 5 steps to get cracking! [Source: The Big Lunch]
In this guest post Emma Smith describes how people around the country are finding that organising a Big Lunch ends up helping them get other things going in their community too.
The Big Lunch is the UK’s annual get-together for neighbours, an idea from the Eden Project made possible by The Big Lottery Fund. The event is becoming part of the annual calendar for communities across the UK. The first Sunday each June is Big Lunch day – Sunday June 7th June 2015.
Big Lunch events can be big or small and they don’t need to cost much when everyone brings something to the table. There is also a free resource to help communities get started – The Big Lunch pack – available at www.thebiglunch.com or by calling 0845 850 8181. It contains posters, invitations, stickers, speedy salad seeds and lots of tips and extra info.
Over the past six years Big Lunches of all sizes have happened in all kinds of communities, in streets, back gardens, parks and community venues. Thousands of events have taken place each year, with a whopping 4.83 million people taking part in 2014.
Last year, when Lara’s next door neighbour mentioned The Big Lunch, they agreed to see if there was an appetite for holding a street party in their Edinburgh neighbourhood. After an initial planning meet-up with some neighbours, the answer was a resounding ‘yes!’
I think it just took a couple of us to take the initiative and get the ball rolling
As Lara explains, “I think it just took a couple of us to take the initiative and get the ball rolling.
“It seems to be a common theme that neighbours have fewer opportunities to meet informally. In our neighbourhood, we’ve seen the closure of the baker, post office, pub and chemist. Some of us lead such busy lives that unless we make an effort, chances are we won’t see or speak to our neighbours. But it turned out everyone was really keen to get-together once the idea was put out there.”
“The real benefits we’ve felt since include a greater sense of community and in building trust. It reduces the anonymity of some of your neighbours. Once you’ve chatted to someone over cake (or chocolate strawberries, or green smoothie, or home made pakora!) what you’ve actually done, without noticing it, is broken down some imaginary barriers.”
Post Big Lunch 2014 research (carried out by Havas UK) demonstrated the positive impact Big Lunch events are having across the UK. 86% of those that took part said they felt closer to their neighbours afterwards, with 8 out of 10 people having kept in touch with people they met at Big Lunches in previous years.
It’s not just the day itself but what can happen after that really makes a difference too, with 64% of Big Lunch 2014 participants saying they went on to do more in their community following Big Lunch events in previous years.
Onkar from London is one example. He wanted to get more involved in his community and to help support the local allotment which he could see from his bedroom. He held his first Big Lunch in 2013 which was an amazing success, with many residents visiting the allotments for the first time. Generosity from the community and local business’ was overwhelming and it raised awareness of the fantastic allotment association in Northolt. Onkar is now planning to set up ‘grow your own’ classes and has recently taken part in Big Lunch Extras program at the Eden Project to help community spirit grow even further.
Our first street party in 2008 seemed to instantly create something special that needed to be built on and we started Home Watch for the estate the following year
In Manchester, Brooklands resident, Paul, also explains; “Our first street party in 2008 seemed to instantly create something special that needed to be built on and we started Home Watch for the estate the following year. The Big Lunch has assisted with our Home Watch scheme and neighbours actively look after each other’s houses when they are away – or even on holiday together!”
And Jo, from a fairly established, yet under -funded rural village near Belfast, helped organise her villages Big Jubilee Lunch in 2012. With many hidden social issues, Jo found that The Big Lunch was a great way to bring people of all ages together and help connect the many different local membership groups. Since their first Big Lunch, Jo has continued to promote community interactions, and has gone on to do lots of innovative things to support local young people including converting a garage into a drop in centre for local youths who had nowhere else to go.
The act of spending a few hours with those we live beside is helping to encourage communities to go on to do much more, become more sustainable and to celebrating local living and sharing – from ideas and conversation to skills and resources.
Those who would like to boost community spirit in their area can get involved by registering for a free planning pack at www.thebiglunch.com or calling 0845 850 8181.
Emma Smith is part of The Big Lunch team.
Thursday 12 March 2015, 10.30 – 16.00, Barnsley, South Yorkshire
The Scottish referendum has put devolution firmly back on the national political agenda. Should neighbourhood activists and managers be rejoicing?
The renewed interest in devolution across the United Kingdom is partly because of the promises that Westminster politicians made to the Scottish people in order to secure a ‘No’ vote, and the expectations that they have raised of similar deals with the other areas. But it is also a reflection of the stellar levels of engagement that the referendum achieved. With election turnout in general decline, and distrust of politicians growing, the 85% turnout was both a boost for advocates of greater devolution and a challenge to those who say that disengagement with politics is an unstoppable trend. In reality the Scottish referendum was not the start of the debate about greater regional devolution. Greater Manchester and Sheffield City Region have both recently agreed devolution deals with the national government, and other City regions are seeking to take on similar devolved powers.
But what will this sort of devolution mean for neighbourhoods? Will it reinvigorate arguments for ‘double-devolution’ and neighbourhood power? Or could it end up diverting attention away from community empowerment?
These are the sorts of questions we intend to explore in the latest NANM share and learn event, on 12 March.
We are delighted to be holding this event in Barnsley where the approach of the council is placing it firmly at the heart of the devolution debate.
Content and approach
Councillor Sir Stephen Houghton, Leader of Barnsley Council, has agreed to start discussions off by explaining how Barnsley is radically devolving real spending power beyond the Tower Hall to community level. Councillor Houghton also chairs the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority which has secured one of the Government’s recent devolution funding deals.
During the rest of the day there will be a variety of opportunities to discuss issues with a range of other contributors, each of whom is a champion for devolution in a different way. Most of these discussions will be in smaller parallel sessions.
The confirmed list of contributors includes:
- Councillor Sir Stephen Houghton, Leader of Barnsley MBC and Chair of Sheffield City Region Combined Authority
- Kate Faulkes, South Area Council Manager, Barnsley MBC
- Michaela Howell, Service Development Manager, Bradford Trident
- Michael Dixon, Chair of Airedale Neighbourhood Management Board, Wakefield
- Big Local partnerships, Lottery-funded groups based in Yorkshire working towards community-led change
As with all NANM events, a major focus of the day is the opportunity it provides to mix with, get to know and share experience with other colleagues. So the programme includes a mix of plenary presentations, smaller group discussions and time to network.
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Who should attend?
In short anyone who is interested in neighbourhoods and devolution. We hope that it will attract a mix of practitioners and policy makers, people working at a local level as well as people working at the national and regional levels. If it piques your interest it is for you.
What does it cost?
The event is free to attend, although we are asking for a voluntary contribution towards catering and logistics (the guide is £10). If payment is a problem do not let it put you off. The contribution is a genuinely voluntary one. If you are already a paid up member of NANM simply choose the ticket for NANM members.
How to book your place
There is an Eventbrite page for this event. This is the easiest way for us to take bookings. You will be offered the opportunity to make a voluntary contribution towards refreshments and logistics (and get 2 year NANM membership) as part of the booking process. Payment can be online using a credit card and PayPal or in cash at the event.
[This event is now in the past, but we have left the the Eventbtrite page up in case it is still of interest.]
After 30 years of neglect and failed regeneration plans, the few remaining residents of the Granby Four Streets (in Toxteth, Liverpool) have taken the future of their neighbourhood into their own hands: they’ve established a community land trust, taken ownership of the derelict properties from the council, and will have the first 10 homes refurbished by March.
Read more in The Guardian, 27 November 2014
Over the last two years great strides have been made in putting community-led self-help housing back on the map. Jon Fitzmaurice, who set up self-help-housing.org, writes about some of the new housing organisations that are taking on empty properties and helping re-build communities. The article includes plenty of examples. Read more in New Start, 6 November 2014