Warm up Winter with The Big Lunch at Christmas
Author: Tracey Robbins, head of UK Delivery at Eden Project Communities
The Big Lunch, an Eden Project initiative, has been bringing neighbours together annually each June since 2009. This year was exceptional, as The Big Jubilee Lunch 2022 was part of the official Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
A massive 17.2 million people took part – one in four of the UK population – making it the biggest Big Lunch in our 14-year history. The celebrations varied from small get-togethers in gardens and driveways to huge, traditional street parties and festivals bringing whole villages and towns together.
Local councils pull out all the stops
As with previous years, many events were organised or supported by local (parish and town) councils, such as the Burn Parish Council Big Lunch, which has been a firm fixture in the North Yorkshire village’s calendar since The Big Lunch started.
Parish Cllr Sonia Hearld describes its success: “I’m proud to say that 2022 was our biggest Big Lunch yet! More than half of the village’s 400 residents packed into marquees and gazebos bedecked with balloons and bunting to celebrate and support our nominated charity for 2022.
"We raised more than £800 for NHS staff, and one local organisation, Selby Community Fridge, also benefitted as spare burger buns and other items were donated after the event.
"From 2009 to 2019, the village had an unbroken run of the lunch every summer, and people have missed it over lockdown. We certainly came back with a bang!”
This year also saw many more people, organisations and councils getting involved in marking the late Queen’s 70 year-reign. South Willesborough and Newtown Community Council (SWAN), a new organisation that formally came into being in 2019, organised a Big Jubilee Lunch to help build a sense of community.
As chair, Cllr Sue Mullan explains: “Six months ago, SWAN Council got a very clear message from residents that they wanted to see more social events and a revival of community spirit in this unique part of Ashford. The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee gave us our first real opportunity to organise a large-scale event for them. It turned out to be a triumph of celebration and community!”
“Around 550 adults and children formed the shape of a swan (on the green), which was filmed from above. It was a special moment that featured on Meridian TV news.”
The event also contributed to five of the seven themes included in SWAN’s Community Plan. Read more about it and their top tips for other councils here.
The Big Impact: 2022
As always, we carried out research after this year’s Big Lunch. The results were incredibly positive, with 79% of attendees saying it made them feel closer to their neighbours and 73% more likely to go on to further community activities.
Another 77% agreed that The Big Lunch is essential to connect communities during the cost-of-living crisis and 11.7 million people said it made them feel less lonely.
These last two statistics, and the increasingly tough times we’re living in, have spurred us to launch The Big Lunch at Christmas this year, working closely with the London Borough of Newham.
Get your Big Lunch at Christmas communications kit
As with the annual event in June, The Big Lunch at Christmas is about communities coming together to share food and friendship – but also the festive cheer that is so needed this year. It’s a busy time for many, but for some, it can feel quite lonely, so taking the time to say hello to a neighbour over mince pies or a shared meal is an excellent way for people to keep connected or forge new community ties.
It could be as simple as inviting the neighbours in for tea or setting an extra place at the dinner table for someone living alone, through to larger community or council-led events providing food and warm spaces.
Anyone interested in holding a Big Lunch at Christmas can get a free guide and resources, and local councils are being urged to promote the campaign using this simple comms kit.