How to organise a neighbourhood get-together

Every year neighbourhoods across the UK and beyond get together to celebrate where they live, by throwing a Big Lunch. Kick-started by the Eden Project, the annual event is a great way to get to know new people, enjoy some good food and have fun together.

Kids eating off paper plates in the street at a community Big Lunch

A Big Lunch, usually held on the first Sunday in June, can be anything from a small gathering in a garden or allotment to a party with trestle tables down the middle of your street.

For those who already have a community growing scheme up and running, The Big Lunch is a good opportunity to invite others to see what you’re up to, to share gluts of summer veg, and to generally celebrate what you’ve achieved.

Here are 10 handy hints to help you get going:

  1. Settle on a venue
    Your Big Lunch can take place anywhere: in the road, back garden, park, allotment, school or community centre. Just make sure you get the relevant permission and if you want to close the road, it’s best to make enquiries several months in advance. Some councils need up to 12 weeks’ notice to process applications for road closures so it's best to check your local policy early. It's usually someone in the Highways or Events department that you need to speak to, but this depends on the country and area you live in.
  2. Find out who wants to come
    Try and find a few friendly neighbours to help you distribute leaflets and put up some posters. There are posters on The Big Lunch website, but don’t forget the art of conversation; try to personally invite as many people as you can and ask them to spread the word.
  3. Get local support
    Don't be afraid to get out and about to see what people can offer for your Big Lunch. Local cafes, shops and businesses may be able to lend you things such as tables and chairs, donate food and drink and even donate prizes for a raffle. You'll be amazed at how generous local people are if you just ask!
  4. Plan the food
    Keep it simple. A bring-your-own picnic is a good option as it requires little preparation in advance or you could ask everyone to bring one dish to share. That way you don’t necessarily need to know have confirmation of how many people are coming, as there is usually plenty of food to go round. There are some simple ‘crowd cooking recipes’ on The Big Lunch website.
  5. Make some decorations
    Make bunting out of scraps of old material, plastic bags or the contents of your recycling box. If you’re not up for sewing, you can staple or stick them together using iron-on hemming web. Ask others to make bits and link them all together. Give the kids some chalk to decorate the pavement. A few balloons, streamers and flowers and you’re away.
  6. Put on some music
    A simple way to get some background music going is to get a few households to tune in to the same radio station and opening the windows to get surround sound. See if anyone plays an instrument and fancies playing – there’s nothing better than some live entertainment
  7. Fundraise at your Big Lunch
    Lots of people use their Big Lunch to raise awareness or funds for a cause close to their heart, be it their own growing or community group or for a bigger, national charity.
  8. Grow your own
    If you are basing your Big Lunch around a growing group, why not:
    • Organise a plant or veg swap (all you need is a table with a sign on, and an optional donations pot)
    • Have a competition for the tallest sunflower
    • Offer a prize for the best tasting homegrown veg
    • Decorate tables with flowers from your plot
  9. Tips for the day itself
    • Try to make sure that your entertainment, games and activities are suitable for all ages.
    • If you have music, make sure it’s varied, not too loud and doesn’t go on too late!
    • Set a time for lunch – it really helps to get the party started
    • Take photos and most importantly, have fun!
  10. After the party
    Once the bunting is down and the tables folded away, don’t forget to share your story. We’d love to hear about it on the Seeds, Soup and Sarnies Facebook and Flickr group, or via The Big Lunch website.
Neighbours enjoying a community celebration in a garden

Faces that were barely recognisable are now friends, everyone has time to stop and chat and the kids all play together.

Big Lunch participant