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Can having a Big Lunch change the world?

2 June 2014

Yesterday was the annual Big Lottery-funded Big Lunch, organised by the Eden Project in Cornwall. By coincidence it was also ten years since the Big Lottery Fund launched in 2004.  Eden Project Executive Director Peter Stewart MVO talks about helping to organise a Big Lunch in his street in Truro in Cornwall and how Big lunchers might be helping to change the world

Well the answer is probably not on its own, but there again it might depend on how big the lunch is and who with.

Preparing for the sixth Big Lunch on Sunday 1 June, I thought back to 2009 in the weeks before the very first one.

Peter StewartI live in a street in Truro, a street I knew well as a child, but I’m more familiar with the buildings and ‘who used to live where’ than the make-up of the current residents.

We put a note out into people’s houses (using the children as posties), asking for them to come to our garden on a Sunday evening to discuss the Big Lunch.  We had lemonade and a drop of Pimms on tap and waited for people to arrive.  We had no idea how many would come.  About 30 people turned up and from that point every year we have held a Big Lunch with some 60 to 80 people attending each year.

In that first year we had three meetings in our house before the big day.  At the third meeting, a week before the lunch, we discussed what all British people do and talked about the weather – what will happen if it rains?  Shall we approach the scouts for a tent?  After agreeing that we would hope for the best and, if it rained, dive into each other’s houses, Daphne, an elderly lady sitting quietly, piped up, “If for whatever reason it doesn’t happen, the last three weeks have been enough…”

I knew then that we had potentially stumbled upon something very special, and this was before the lunch even happened!

It is talking which is what makes The Big Lunch special. People talking, sharing food, chatting to neighbours are strong foundations for changing things in a big way.

Our Big Lunch happened, and has happened every year since. And yesterday, 3 million people did the same.

The research experts say that after the Big Lunch people feel happier in their neighbourhoods.  Many go on to do other things more regularly.  People feel safer and less alone.

So after the sixth Big Lunch on Sunday 1 June, does the world feel different – have we changed it in any way?

Well behind the cupcakes and the bunting, the millions of people who sat down for lunch went to bed last night on the whole feeling happier, safer, less lonely and more connected.  And that has got to be a good place on which to try and change the world.

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