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Top tips for running a community event or celebration

18 August 2016

As we start to make awards through our Celebrate programme, the Community Outreach team at The Big Lunch share some of their top tips for running and promoting a community event.

Jocelyn’s tips on contacting the local media
Jocelyn, Junior PR Executive

“Speaking to the local media is a great way to get the word out about your event or celebrate your achievements. Decide what outlet you would like to speak to or search for British media contacts online.

Make sure you give journalists plenty of notice—aim for at least a week before the event for local newspapers and radio—and explain clearly and concisely why your event is noteworthy. If you’re using a press release template, copy the text into the body of the email and make the subject line eye-catching so it stands out in a journalist’s busy inbox! And don’t be afraid to chase them up if you don’t receive a response—one email may not be enough!”

Grainne’s tips on social media
Grainne, Northern Ireland Country Manager

“While I don’t rely on social media alone, it’s helpful to raise awareness by creating a Facebook event or Eventbrite page, and inviting people you know (make it public so they can invite their friends) and sharing the event on other organisations’ walls. Create a hashtag for the event so people can easily follow discussions and photos from the day.

Invite local organisations to participate in your event and get them to use their social media to reach their audience too. Also, respectfully ask local VIPs to also talk about it (online and in person)—especially if they are going. I find this more useful in advance.”


Big Lunch staff from top left and clockwise: Emily, Peter, Gwion, Sam, Jocelyn, Grainne

Peter’s tips on safety and insurance
Peter, England Country Manager

“Health and safety sounds scary, but it doesn’t have to be. We all risk-assess situations unconsciously, as the vast majority of it is common sense, so writing it down doesn’t need to take long. In fact there are loads of templates online you can use.

According to national government policies, small street parties should not require fees, insurance or complex forms, and most councils understand the need for simple and sensible application processes. Some local authorities may ask for insurance or other fees due to their existing systems. If this is the case in your area, it is always worth talking to the council staff responsible and explaining the situation, including the national policies mentioned above.”

Gwion’s tips on film and photography
Gwion, Wales Country Manager

“The most important thing to remember about your event is to enjoy it! But it’s always nice to capture a few memories with a couple of photos or a little film. A picture tells a thousand words as they say! These days if you’ve got a camera phone you’ve got all the kit you need and by following a few basic rules you can end up with some lovely images—my 4-year old daughter shared her photo top tips for the last Big Lunch.

Think about scenes that capture the essence of the day, and of people in the thick of having a good time. You can send your best high resolution pics to local media. If you’re planning on sharing the photos/videos on social media it’s a good idea to use a hashtag as Grainne explains above, and tag people you know in the images. For Celebrate projects, use #BigCelebration.”

Emily’s tips on inviting you MP and other VIPs
Emily, Scotland Country Manager

“Community events are a great way to create or boost local pride so if you’re proud of what you’ve all achieved and want to invite a local MP or other VIP, go ahead! You can find out who your MPs are at The best way to approach them is to drop off a friendly invite at their constituency office or place of work and follow up with a phone call.

Treat them just like another neighbour because MPs and VIPs are people too and if they live locally, they may well be your neighbours! Try to give them at least six weeks’ notice if you can as diaries get very busy!”

Sam’s tips on getting your local community involved
Samantha, Wales Community Network Developer

“The best events are those that feel owned by its community; involving people means there will be a greater variety of activities and ideas on offer, tasks and responsibilities will feel shared and the event will be really well supported.

Start a conversation with the members of your community, either online through email/Facebook/Twitter or local websites (e.g. councils, Eventbrite), or face-to-face at informal public meetings. Explain what you’re hoping to achieve and actively encourage input. You’ll find people who have all sorts of skills or resources to offer; like producing posters, face painting skills, running a stall or performing music.

Give as much notice of your event as possible by sharing your posters/flyers online, on town notice boards, in local shops and in the local newspaper. Let people know where to get in touch if they can help. This will help you keep up momentum, get new ideas and inspire people to spread the message.”

If you’ve had an award from our Celebrate programme, check out this resources page to help make your celebration a success.

If you want more general support on publicising your project, visit our grant holder resources page.

Fighting to support Rochdale’s young people

12 August 2016

We are proud to fund thousands of incredible youth projects each year, that do vital work with young people in communities across the UK.

On International Youth Day, we take a look Rochdale Thai Boxing Club, whose Fighting Fit project has changed the lives, not just of local young people, but their families and community too by providing healthy living and exercise education.


Omar Ghalib, founder and lead on the Fighting Fit project tells us more about why and how it got started:

“A couple of us lads used to train in the old church hall, as we wanted to keep fit and sharpen up our skills in Thai Boxing. We would leave the door open to let the air in and some of the kids would walk past and see us punching and kicking pads. They would peep their head in and say ‘give us a go!’ They kept returning and they were soon asking if could they have classes.

“It made us think – should we open it up to the wider community? We had a look around at what was available and realised there were no Thai Boxing facilities nearby, or a more affordable form of exercise for kids to train in the area.”

“We researched more and found a study which indicated rising obesity and unhealthy lifestyles, along with ADHD and cyber bullying, were on the increase, and this was visible in our community too. The evidence told us there was a need for a project like this. We all had Thai Boxing experience and different business skills to bring to this potential project – so we decided to set it up officially for the community”.

“We formalised the project and put a plan together, gave people appointed roles and then began to look for potential funding sources. To begin with we were using tattered equipment and invested some of our own money to make improvements. We also gained some financial support from local community investors to buy some basic equipment, until we received more funding. As numbers grew we realised, we were going to need better equipment to provide a safe exercise environment to meet demand. Then, just by word of mouth we heard about Big Lottery Funding”.

“Once we found out we were successful, we received the funding and used it to buy essential equipment and freshened up the space – it really made a difference! Parents were coming down with their kids, dropping them off and staying on to see how the classes ran. Some of the kids just needed to burn off extra energy, others needed to learn self-defense to boost their self-esteem and confidence.”


“Every child had different reasons for coming along, but their parents could see the benefits of it – it’s challenging these days competing with computer games and X-Boxes.  In the classes, we teach the kids discipline and self-defense. Thai Boxing is an ancient sport and we want them to also understand why they need to do it properly.  We also teach them about healthy eating so they can make better nutritional choices”.

“Parents were feeding back to us that the kids’ behaviour and grades had improved at school. Then some parents asked about classes for themselves, which has led to us putting on classes for them. Parents and children can train together here now, which is also helping to build their relationships. We also haven’t overlooked the older generation in our community and we’re looking at putting a programme of activity for them and for women in the community to train in a safe environment.”

“The increasing numbers and feedback has been really encouraging – as we can see how health and lives are improving all the time and see the passion growing in some of the kids.  We even have a few students who are going on now to train professionally and compete on an international level –my younger brother, Adil, will be competing for the UK Thai Boxing team in Pakistan”

Rochdale Thai Boxing Club received £10,000 from Awards for All.  To find out more about the club, visit their website.

We’re changing our online community – to make it your online community!

2 August 2016

In this blog Steve Keene, our digital manager, talks us through the improvements we will be making to our Online Community.

Changes-are-comingBringing people together

Every year we award millions of pounds of the National Lottery’s good cause money across the UK. We know that money makes a huge difference, but we also think there is a real opportunity to do even more to support those we have funded.

I hear lots of stories about groups delivering really valuable work who would like to speak to other groups. They would like to learn from them, pick their brains, share knowledge, problems and opportunities. Sometimes that happens through existing networks. Sometimes it is hard to reach the right people.

Our aim to improve the online community

We think we’re really well placed to bring those groups together, so they can help each other. We’ve begun a project to make major improvements to our online community to do this.

We’ve spoken to groups we’ve funded, we’ve spoken to our staff who work with groups we’ve funded every day and we’ve looked at the stats and evidence we already have. From all that evidence, it’s clear that there is one clear and simple purpose for our online community:

The online community will be a peer to peer networking tool for groups that we’ve funded.

How do we want you to be involved in this?

Over the next few months we’ll be keeping you up to date and telling you the story of how we are making these improvements. We’ll explain why we’re making changes, and why now. We’ll explain how we’ve tried to understand what you, our users, want. And we’ll talk about how we’re going to approach this work in a new way for the Big Lottery Fund.

Most importantly we’ll be speaking with you! We want your input on our online community. Your comments will help shape what we do and how we do it. The online community is for groups we’ve funded, so we want those same people at the heart of the process of improving it.

A few questions to get things started:

  • Does our purpose The online community will be a peer to peer networking tool for groups that we’ve funded sound good to you?
  • What communities or networks are you already involved in, online or in the real world? And how do they help?
  • What sort of discussions would you like to take place on the online community? What would help you?

Thank you!




Being involved with HeadStart has taken me on an unexpected route

25 July 2016

Maddie Springett, 19, has been involved with HeadStart Kent from its beginning in 2014 and has shaped the programme which gives young people the support they need to prevent and cope with mental health problems. Maddie, who has trained as a peer mentor, talks about how HeadStart inspired her to take a new direction with her career.

“In early 2014 when I was 17 I was at an event about community safety as a youth councillor and two ladies spoke to me about a new thing that sounded cool. At the time I was looking to get involved in more senior activities.  This was the beginning of the HeadStart Kent pilot and it gave me the opportunity to step up to an adult role and support the younger ones when I turned 18.

Maddie Springett

Maddie Springett

“Through HeadStart I’ve been heavily involved with projects in Thanet, Canterbury and North West Kent. At the time it just seemed to be about helping others but as the project has grown and I’ve become more and more involved I’ve been able to see and inform the strategic side of why this type of support for young people is needed and how it can help us all in the future.

“As part of the main steering group I’ve been active in evaluating what works and what doesn’t at both a local and national level and have been very active in developing materials that have been used for reaching out to pupils at schools across Kent where we’ve been running the pilots. You can hear me in this video that around seven of us work on to explain to others what we were doing.

“It’s been amazing seeing how the trialling and testing has turned into a massive strategy that everyone is talking about. People are chatting about HeadStart in everyday conversations, young people know about it and know where to go and get support before small things become big issues.

“One of the best things I’ve witnessed is training many of us as peer mentors and active listeners. We’ve become the first point of contact for young people who are more comfortable talking to us about worries such as exam stress before talking to adults. By talking to a peer mentor or active listener we can help them diffuse a situation before it becomes a big issue and give them the confidence they need now and in the future.

“I continue to be involved with the HeadStart steering group and as an older young person I hope that I can be a role model for those still at school. There have been loads of standout moments over the past two years including seeing the change in someone who didn’t have the confidence to use public transport to get to school but now can through to another who couldn’t speak in a room with more than five or six others in it who now has the strength to address a room full of people.

“Originally I’d not had a plan to work within youth work – I was keen on getting involved in law and politics. Now through the different experiences that I have been a part of, I’m looking to study criminology and youth work at university in a few years with the aim of working in youth justice. Being involved with HeadStart has taken me on an unexpected route as I’m now very excited about focusing on a career as a youth worker. I have completed a level 2 apprenticeship in youth work and have just joined Catch 22 as a Lead Mentor supporting the delivery of the National Citizen Service Programme and this summer I’m on a four week programme with a group of young people supporting different residential course’s and social action projects in the Swale local community.”

Six areas in the UK, including Kent, will receive almost £54 million to improve the mental well-being of at-risk young people, aged between 10 and 16, through early intervention and a local approach that partners teachers, GPs, charities, health commissioners and local authorities.

Read more about the £54 million funding

Working with disability

22 July 2016

IT and business student Adeel Ramzan joined our Newcastle office on a work placement as part of a Percy Hedley Foundation employability project, funded by a Reaching Communities grant.

In this blog, Adeel, Big Lottery Fund corporate assistant Jill Patterson and funding manager Keith Moyle discuss the valuable learning opportunities for all parties.

Adeel-Ramzan“Hi, I am Adeel Ramzan and I am 21-years-old.  I am currently doing a Business Administration course at Percy Hedley College, and at Newcastle College I’m studying a computer skills course (ECDL) and working towards a GCSE in English.

“I have cerebral palsy and I am a wheelchair user, but that does not define me. I am a normal, regular lad who likes socialising with friends, football, banter and girls!

Adeel adds: “I use a communication aid to help me talk. It works by infrared, so I need to wear a silver dot on my forehead so the signal bounces back and forward to the camera. I control the mouse on my communication aid by moving my head where needed. I can use a regular computer by connecting it to my communication aid via a USB Bluetooth cable.

Making ‘small adjustments’

“On my work placement at Big Lottery Fund my work includes archiving and the post. I really enjoy my time here because the staff are so lovely and easy to get along with.

“I work closely with Jill Patterson. She knows how I work and treats me like everyone else, which I appreciate very much. I love the way she has a joke with me sometimes, too.

“I am hopeful that my time spent here at Big Lottery Fund will teach me new things and give me better understanding of the working world.”

Adeel’s placement has been a valuable one for his mentor, Jill, who had this to say:

“I think I have learnt and gained as much from this experience as Adeel has, says Jill.

“I have found Adeel to be really good company and very funny, but we have also managed to work as well. I have learnt about considering alternative methods of working and learning, and how small adjustments to work stations can have a big effect on abilities to work.”

Adeel’s funding manager, Keith Moyle, says it was important that Adeel’s work placement was “meaningful” despite the challenges presented.

“We wanted to be sure we could provide a placement that both met Adeel’s expectations and offered him a real taste of the world of work – as well as a learning opportunity for ourselves. I think it has gone really well, and look forward to feedback from Adeel and the team whom he worked with at the end of his placement.”

Look out for Adeel’s reflections on working for Big Lottery Fund after his placement finishes in July.










HeadStart changed my life

19 July 2016

By Taylor Morrison-Eaves

Throughout the country emotional health and wellbeing within young people is becoming a focus. This is because, compared to five years ago, the statistics show a frightening rise in self-harm, depression, and anxiety with a 50 per cent rise in self-harm admissions for under-18’s.*

In 2014/15 in the Blackpool area, 175 10-16 year olds were admitted to hospital because they self-harmed and/or self-poisoned. This is triple the national average.

This means a lot more services are being put in place to support young people, but it isn’t fixing the problem. A lot, not all, services are looking for a quick fix, a plaster, to put over the issues and hope they go away. What is needed is early intervention, support before the problems occur, measures put in place to ensure everyone knows how to handle the majority of challenges they may face throughout their lives.

I have been battling depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, and in May 2012 I became the worst I had been. I was primarily being supported by my high school counsellor, but when this low-level support didn’t seem to work, I began seeking other services.

I was referred to weekly counselling. Soon into this I realised it wasn’t working because as soon as I had created a bond with my counsellor they left, and I had to start from square one. After being through several counsellors and services, I felt that nothing was helping, I still felt lost, I was still self-harming and ultimately I felt like there was no point in living. I was then diagnosed with Adolescent Psychosis, this meant that while I had symptoms that suggested Schizophrenia I was too young to be officially diagnosed. I was placed onto medication called Quetiapine, and it took me a while to learn how to say and spell it!

In June 2012 I took a substantial overdose of my Quetiapine and Co-codamol, and because of that I was referred to the Early Intervention Service.

A lot more happened after that: I was in an inpatient unit; I had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy CBT sessions, I was given Sertraline, an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drug, and I still self-harmed.

In January 2014, I began to feel better, so much so that my youth worker asked if I wanted to go to a workshop. I didn’t really know much about it but I said yes. Little did I know that a project called HeadStart would change my life.

HeadStart is a project funded by the Big Lottery Fund to help support young people, aged between 10 and 16 years old with their emotional health and wellbeing, and to build their resilience. As of this moment, we have been through a lot. We’ve bid for money, started our pilot projects, travelled to many places in England and even been to Canada; worked with amazing people who have taught us so much, and now, we’ve been awarded £10 million to begin the five-year project in Blackpool.

Now that we have the money we can officially begin our project, focusing on four areas; online, family, community and school. I would say my favourite thing we are doing is the universal whole-town approach. This means that we can support every single 10 to 16-year-old in the whole of Blackpool. This is so important because Blackpool has a lot of transience issues, with families moving around and out of Blackpool.

While it is an ambitious dream, it is possible. Blackpool has seven mainstream secondary schools, 34 primary schools, three special educational needs schools and one pupil referral unit (PRU). Granted our PRU is the largest in England, but it is possible to build the resilience and support every single 10 to 16-year-old in Blackpool.

In five years’ time, I hope that HeadStart is still here, and I hope it is still supporting every 10 to 16-year-old and the biggest thing I hope is that it isn’t seen as just another project, I want it to be the way Blackpool is.

As I mentioned earlier, right now we need services that are helping young people face the challenges in their lives, whether it is self-harm or low self-esteem, or concerns about sexuality, gender, religion or whatever it is.

However I hope that one day these services aren’t needed at all. I hope everyone, regardless of their background is resilient and can face whatever life throws at them. I know that seems impossible but anything is possible, it just takes someone to get the ball rolling.

If you, or someone you know is struggling to get out of bed in the morning, or dreads going home, or prefers to stay inside then the best thing I can suggest is to talk to someone, whether it’s a teacher, your parents, a youth worker, a social worker, a friend. Talk to them, let them know what you’re feeling, because I know from experience that bottling your emotions up isn’t healthy.

Taylor Morrison-Eaves is 18-years-old and was involved in the pilot phase and development of HeadStart Blackpool.

Six areas in the UK, including Blackpool, will receive almost £54 million to improve the mental well-being of at-risk young people, aged between 10 and 16, through early intervention and a local approach that partners teachers, GPs, charities, health commissioners and local authorities. Find out more about the funding

*On average, three children in every classroom have a clinically diagnosable mental health condition, 90 per cent of head teachers have reported an increase in such problems over the last five years and hospital admissions for self-harm among the under-18s are up 50 per cent. IPPR, May 2016

What do you want to celebrate?

6 July 2016

Up to £10,000 in new funding is available for local communities to celebrate.

In a recent Big Lottery Fund survey, six out of ten people* said they have never or cannot remember ever coming together to celebrate with their community. Big Lottery Fund wants to help change this with a new funding programme, Celebrate, which launches today.

With £5 million available across the UK we’re calling on local groups and organisations of all shapes and sizes to apply for funding to hold events or activities that will bring people together and celebrate what makes their local community special.

Celebrate-blog-picIt could be to celebrate something in their local history or a local community hero, to mark something important to their community like Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday, or simply to get to know their neighbours better.

Applications for funding open today, 6 July 2016. To be eligible, applicants must be part of a constituted group which has its own bank account. We welcome applications from voluntary or community organisations, schools and statutory bodies, particularly those who have never considered the Big Lottery Fund as a potential source of funding.

Organisations are encouraged to submit their applications early to avoid disappointment as once funds have been allocated, Celebrate will close to new applications.

What would you celebrate in your local area?

For more information and to apply for a Celebrate grant please visit our website.

You can also follow us on Twitter @BigLotteryFund and join the conversation at #BigCelebration or Facebook.

*YouGov poll on behalf of the Big Lottery Fund with 2109 respondents, June 2016



LEAP celebrates Fathers’ Day!

20 June 2016

The Lambeth Early Action Partnership (LEAP) had a great time celebrating Fathers’ Day at Larkhall 1 o’ Clock Club and the Liz Atkinson Children’s Centre with special events for dads, male carers, and their families. The sun peeked out briefly to shine on the many activities on offer, from face painting to cake decorating and even some kite-making. 

Jennifer Robson, Programme Manager for LEAP, spoke to Mark James, outreach worker at Larkhall, about why events like this are so important.

LEAP-Fathers'-Day-blog“Dads and male carers are part of families – whether parents are together or not – but they often need encouragement to take part in children’s services”, Mark explains. “This might be for various reasons such as dads working in the week, or not feeling comfortable coming along to services mainly attended by women.”

Mark also noted that there tends to be fewer men working in children’s centres, but seeing other male faces really helps dads feel comfortable. One of the dads we spoke to said he often felt activities weren’t for him, until he attended and felt welcomed by staff and other parents.

So how do we help make dads feel more comfortable? Mark said his approach has always been to think about dads from the start: “When mum comes into the centre for the first time, we always ask about Dad, and we register the whole family. We want everyone to know from the start how important their role is.”

The Partnership spoke to several dads who reiterated how important it was to think about more ways to involve fathers. One dad said: “When my partner was pregnant, I went to all the appointments and really wanted to be involved, but nobody asked me how I was feeling. After our baby was born, we both suffered separately with post-natal depression. My partner had support but I felt overwhelmed and alone and had to get through it myself.”

Another dad told us that when his first child was born, he felt very isolated and unprepared. “Hearing about Family Foundations, which LEAP is offering to first-time parents, I thought if I’d had this I would have felt more ready to be a dad.”

LEAP-Fathers'-Day-blog-2The Partnership will be working with some of these dads, and other male carers across the four wards, to design services for the whole family. This will help us understand the particular experience of dads and ensure they are involved, and if they need it, offered support.

Mark says it’s crucial that when organising services and activities, we think specifically about dads – everything from what time they can come along to how to keep the networks dads have built going. It’s also important to ensure there’s ongoing contact after the service has finished.

Another worker at the Larkhall event told us: “There’s a tendency when we see dads at events like this to say “aren’t they engaging well with their children’. These dads aren’t engaging, they’re just being dads, and we need to see it the same way.”

Mark sees LEAP as a fantastic opportunity to promote and celebrate the important role of dads and other male carers in children’s lives, and encourage them to take part in the services on offer.

Thanks to Larkhall and Liz Atkinson for such fantastic Fathers’ Day events, and to all the marvellous dads and male carers who spoke to us. We can’t wait to work more closely with you in future!

To find out more about LEAP Lambeth, you can follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook or visit their website.


LEAP is supported from the Big Lottery Funds A Better Start Programme with the aim to improve outcomes for children in three key areas of development: social and emotional development, communication and language development, and diet and nutrition.