The Big Lunch 19 July 2009

The green community event initiated by the Eden Project seemed a well timed positive focus in the middle of so much bad news; climate change, economic instability and swine flu.

Being a pro-active person I chatted to husband, Ian, about organisi

ng one. With a certain amount of trepidation we set off taking spare lettuce and tomato plants and knocked on doors to test out the people’s reaction. We had never spoken to these neighbours before.

We were met with such warmth and enthusiasm, not the British reserve we had been expecting. Eight people agreed to come to our house for drinks and flapjack to discuss how we would proceed. The Big Lunch website produced leaflets at a reasonable cost, so we divided these up so everyone had a few to deliver.

Due to the strict policy of the local council on road closures we decided to use four, fairly flat, driveways close to each other with gazebos for protection against the changeable English summer weather.

The day was bright, with hints of sun, and windy. Gazebos were erected on drives and pegged down into grass. The men had just completed the task when a huge gust of wind blew them over! A quick decision was made to use wind breaks and make a sheltered place on a large drive with grassy garden. This area was given a party atmosphere using balloons, bunting made by some of the children, bubbles and music.

We had decided to have a finger food lunch with as much sourced and prepared locally. People brought delicious home-made food; there was

pizza, quiche, sandwiches and home grown salad, fruit including strawberries dipped in chocolate (a big hit), colourful desserts with some very creative beetroot and carrot cakes. There was a good mix of alcoholic and soft drinks. No-one needed to worry about driving as we all lived there!

There was such a good mix of people; the youngest was one and the oldest well past retirement. A quick count showed that 64 people had turned up.

One man had lived in the road for 39 years and said there had never been a community event; he was thrilled that people were chatting together. Another older lady had moved into the road five years previously from a Welsh village and said she had been very lonely; she was delighted to be speaking to people who live around her for the first time. Many people said they had never had the opportunity to meet their neighbours. Our event was from 1.0-3.0pm. People were reluctant to leave but as a black cloud approached we began to pack up, dividing the rubbish into recycling and refuse. The rain held off until we had completed the dismantling. Everyone said they want this to continue with perhaps more opportunities to get together.

My memory of the day is full of chatter, laughter, music and bubbles and everyone doing their bit to make the occasion special.

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