Ordinary people, extraordinary communities 

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AUTHOR: TRACEY ROBBINS, HEAD OF UK DELIVERY AT EDEN PROJECT COMMUNITIES


After nearly two years of Lockdowns and restrictions and in the face of multiple global crises, local councils will know all too well that community spirit and resilience are needed now more than ever before. And yet, research carried out before The Big Lunch 2021 (the UK’s annual date to celebrate neighbours and community) showed that over half the population felt anxious, apprehensive, or scared about socialising without restrictions. 10 million people thought they’d forgotten how to have a proper conversation. Our communities needed coaxing out and permission and a reason to connect – and I’m pleased to say that The Big Lunch provided the perfect tonic.

Despite the apprehension, an amazing nine million people took some time to get to know their neighbours, be that online, on their doorstep or through socially distanced street parties, making it one of the biggest years in our 13-year history.

Our research shows that The Big Lunch once again made a huge difference to the communities that took part - and on multiple levels. It brought some much-needed joy after the testing and turbulent times that we’ve endured, prompting 77% of attendees to say that it was just what was needed after more than a year of Covid - and 80% said that it helped cheer people up.

As with previous years, it created a sense of togetherness by increasing community spirit and reducing isolation; a massive seven million people said that The Big Lunch helped them feel less lonely.

But it also made a difference on a more meaningful level, in that it empowers communities to have agency and take further action; 75% of attendees said they're more likely to get involved in community activities, and 72% said they would get more involved in voluntary work - so the impact is felt long after the bunting is packed away.

Mobilising communities to take action will undoubtedly already be on your agenda, but should you need more reasons to do so, a recent report from thinktank New Local argues that this is the vital missing link in tackling the climate crisis.

The report, published in partnership with GroundworkGrosvenor and ourselves at Eden Project Communitiesprovides a road map for how local councils and communities can tackle the global environmental crisis on a local level from the ground up. It argues that we need to look at the challenge, not as one big problem but the culmination of many local issues that need addressing individually.

It looks at what climate change means for specific places and groups of people – which helps turn that overwhelming big problem into something more tangible to those of us wanting to make a difference where we live. The idea is that various small actions can culminate in significant change overall.

The report is interesting and insightful, with practical ideas for councils as mobilisers, facilitators and convenors of local action and is well worth a read. It includes The Big Lunch as a case study as our seemingly simple community initiative provides the perfect recipe for kickstarting the small actions it describes.

Next year, we are looking forward to an extra special occasion. The Big Jubilee Lunch will be part of the official celebrations for Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – over the extended four-day Bank Holiday Weekend - 2 to 5 June 2022.

But this is just one part of our work at Eden Project CommunitiesWe also run a wider programme that takes this work much further – with opportunities for individuals to learn, boost their skills and confidence, connect and become part of a social ‘movement’ – empowering ordinary people to make extraordinary, positive changes in their communities.

The programme includes: 

  1. The Big Lunch to bring people together annually, build social capital and fundraise for local causes.
  2. The annual Festival of Discovery to explore our relationship with the planet and tackle the climate emergency.
  3. Community Camps are held 2-4 times a year to help build the skills and confidence to make ideas a reality.
  4. The Network - year-round support, with regular learning and engagement opportunities – regionally and nationally.

To learn more about how your local council can get involved, join our workshop at the Future Communities Conference on 2 December, visit our virtual exhibit or email at .

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