The Churches Conservation Trust is an award-winning national charity working with local communities to make best of their local assets. They have a track record in adapting historic church buildings to new uses that support the local need, whether that’s as a mental health and wellbeing centre, an arts centre, or by providing work spaces to local businesses. All the while, these irreplaceable buildings come to life and continue to tell stories of place and ancestry across the country.
In 2018, we worked closely with the Churches Conservation Trust on The Commonwealth Big Lunches project to celebrate the UK hosting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. This brought communities together to enjoy feasts in celebration of the Commonwealth. The Churches Conservation Trust were delighted to support the initiative by hosting 53 events in beautiful historic buildings in the heart of communities across the country.
Flying the flag of India at All Souls' Bolton
They kicked things off with a fantastic event at All Souls' Bolton. Inayat Omarji, the community leader who helped to organise the busy lunch, explains why it was such a success.
"A call from The Churches Conservation Trust’s chief executive, Peter Aiers, and the opportunity to fly the flag for India, where I have my roots, was all that was needed to get behind the project. Soon after hearing about the Commonwealth Big Lunches, I got out my phone book and started encouraging local people to come together and celebrate the community, friendships and food at All Souls' Bolton community hub.
"Who could resist the temptation of a free spread of East-meets-West food, provided by the in-house social enterprise HuddleUp Café? It was great to see the bunting go up, and Indian flags waving around alongside those of other countries. This unique community space brought together the students from the neighbouring Eden boys school, the local residents and many other new faces from in and around Bolton. It was a privilege to have an opportunity to fly the flag of my motherland in Bolton, and to be the first of the 53 Commonwealth Big Lunches planned in CCT churches.
"Not only did we enjoy a delicious free lunch, but many relationships were formed as a result of the conversation. This should kick-start some opportunities and activities within the community, strengthening the "All Souls' for all souls (everyone)" ethos. I am looking forward to seeing some of these relationships grow and prosper over the coming weeks and months."