Invite your neighbours to The Big Lunch in Scotland
After a huge weekend for Royal watchers and football fans, and then the scorching sunshine of the Bank Holiday weekend, we might all be feeling a wee bit deflated now.
But if you’re looking for something to celebrate this June, we have the answer...
Take a bite out of this year’s Big Lunch on Sunday, June 3 – and celebrate being a good neighbour.
An idea dreamed up the Eden Project in Cornwall and funded by the National Lottery, The Big Lunch was launched in 2009.
Its aim is simple – to bring people together in the belief that, as a society, we are better equipped to tackle the challenges we all face when we face them together.
Last year, a whopping 9.3 million people across the UK came together in streets, parks and gardens to celebrate their community.
And this year, it is hoped The Big Lunch will break the 10 million barrier.
In Scotland alone, some 376 packs have already been registered for events, from the Borders all the way up to Stornoway.
But the message from community campaign manager Caishlan Sweeney is that it’s never too late to organise a Big Lunch – and it needn’t be too big either.
She explained: “People don’t have to organise a huge street party. It doesn’t have to be too elaborate.
“In fact, we find the smaller events often have the biggest impact because people really get a chance to get to know each other.
“Just grab a blanket, a few sandwiches and do it!”
According to Caishlan, the impact of these events being staged across the country in June is felt throughout the year, as neighbours who are often usually only on greeting terms become firm friends.
She said: “It’s all about building more meaningful relationships with people we may see on a daily basis but might not know very well.
“These events are simply about sharing some time with your neighbours and getting to know them better.
“Often people strike up close friendships or discover that they have far more in common than they would ever realise, had they not shared a sandwich and a chat at The Big Lunch.
“It’s my job to try to raise awareness of these events across Scotland and encourage as many local communities as possible to take part.
“Numbers have gone down in Scotland in the last few years and we are keen to get more people involved.
“We have lottery funding now until 2021 so it’s our aim to make sure everyone in Scotland can join in the fun.”
The Big Lunch team have made it easy for people to participate, with packs on its website which people can download providing all the know-how you need to set up your own event.
Everyone who attends is invited to take something to the party, providing the perfect recipe to have fun while also feeding more community spirit.
Here in Scotland, almost 400 events have now been planned but it is hoped even more will sign up before The Big Lunch on June 3.
Among those taking part is Jan Kerr from Lundin Links in Fife, who hosted her first Big Picnic last year. Along with four of her friends, she leafleted 1200 households in Lundin Links and Lower and Upper Largo last year – with exceptional results.
Jan said: “We weren’t sure whether to expect two or 200 people – more than 200 turned up for our first event!
“We had all ages taking part, from babes in prams to people in mobility scooters.
“The response was incredible with eight community groups signing up to help out.
“People kept on asking if we were going to be doing it again – so no pressure!”
However, this year’s event is shaping up to be even bigger and better.
Jan’s team of volunteers swelled this year, with the community Facebook page helping to attract more willing helpers.
And 12 community groups are now also on board for the event at Lundin Links Common on Sunday, June 10.
It’s being held a week later than other events but the appetite for The Big Picnic only seems to be growing.
Jan said: “The feedback we’ve received for the event has been phenomenal.
“We lost our village gala seven or eight years ago and nothing replaced it.
“I think The Big Picnic is helping to fill that void.
“We had 15 people out leafleting every household in each of the three villages this year – so that alone made the task a lot easier.
“It’s an urban myth that people don’t know their neighbours anymore.
“I think people do know each other but perhaps, it’s fair to say, maybe not as much as we once did.
“Our Big Picnic gives people a chance to get together and find out more about their neighbours, the local community and what’s going on within it.
“Often people find out they’ve got a bit more in common than they realised just by saying hello to each other in passing.
“It’s a lovely way to build community spirit and strike up friendships in your local community.”
A Trustee with the Homelands Trust, a charity which runs wheelchair and disability accessible luxury self-catering holiday lodges in Fife, Jan has discovered that news of the village’s Big Picnic is already spreading.
She said: “We’ve had people in from Kirkcaldy asking if they can come along to our event.
“The more the merrier as far as we’re concerned – we won’t turn people away!”
But perhaps the most heartening thing for Jan is seeing all ages enjoying spending time together.
She added: “I was quite amazed at how many elderly people came along last year.
“We also put seating out on the common for residents of the nearby care home so that they could come too – and several of them did.
“But we had all ages turning out for The Big Picnic and that’s the beauty of it – it’s helping to build real community spirit.”
Eden Project and Big Lottery Fund join forces to reduce social isolation
The Big Lunch – www.thebiglunch.com – is the UK’s annual get-together for neighbours.
Developed by the Eden Project, it is made possible by the National Lottery’s Big Lottery Fund.
Bringing communities together, reducing loneliness and isolation and helping to make a difference locally is at the heart of the National Lottery’s mission – so The Big Lunch is an ideal fit.
The Eden Project started the initiative in 2009 with the belief that we’re better equipped to tackle the challenges we all face when we face them together.
The initiative is run by the Eden Project Communities team who connect people and communities across the UK, encouraging everyday people to make positive change where they live.
Over the past nine years, Big Lunches of all sizes have taken place in communities – big and small – across the UK.
Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cornwall, is patron of The Big Lunch which last year saw 9.3 million people taking part in more than 96,000 events across the UK.
This year the annual event takes place on Sunday, June 3.
Free starter packs, tips and ideas can be found at www.thebiglunch.com or call 0845 850 8181 to speak to the team.
Or for more information visit @edencommunities on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.