Derek Harper, 55, and from Brechin, Angus has had quite the career. He has worked as a greenkeeper, an architectural technician, and has even run a pub. None of these however compared to his time as a volunteer.
He said,“But it wasn’t till I pulled on a volunteer high viz vest for my own community that I truly felt the giving back buzz, I was hooked and I knew I was doing something meaningful”. Since that day, Derek hasn’t looked back and has continued to work on projects within his community ever since.
It was the summer of 2012 that Derek first received his community calling when 250 Harley Davidson Motorbikes roared into his local town. This was due to the home of the Davidson family being turned into a museum to celebrate the iconic bike. Derek said, “At that time I’d never seen so many people on the streets in my 49 years. I knew after the Harleys that I wanted to do more for my community. That spark in 2012 unlocked the community gene in me and I’ve never looked back.”
This Eureka moment led to a series of changes for Derek, including becoming chair of the community council and also becoming a member of the newly formed Brechin Retailers and Voluntary Organisations (BRAVO) and voted onto the executive committee, who were responsible for designing, planning and delivering community events.
As well as this, Derek also was on the committee and volunteered for Brechin Community Cinema, but it was with the BRAVO executive committee where he felt part of something special for his home town and as a member of the team helped to deliver five events throughout the next few years. These included an Easter event, a pageant, the Harley Davidson in the City event, a Halloween Cartie/Soapbox event, and a Christmas light switch on. These events saw a combined attendance of almost 30,000 people across the two years, a great achievement for Derek and the team.
Derek first heard of Eden Project Communities and The Big Lunch during a workshop event in Perth in 2014. As a result, Derek decided to apply for Community Camp. Derek said, “The Harley event and the Eden Community Camp changed my life and gave me a focus and purpose. I felt part of something bigger and found where I belonged and I share my learning and experience any chance I get.”
This year, Derek joins a team of fellow community activists for The Big Lunch community walk. For Derek, The Big Lunch community walk is the perfect opportunity to advocate for something close to his heart. He said, “I want to do what I can to share as widely as possible The Big Lunch idea and encourage other communities to hold one, how food can be that catalyst to connect so much in a place, community and spark so much positive change.”
Derek will be representing Scotland for this year’s Big Lunch community walk, an honour he is very much looking forward to. He said, “I’ve not represented Scotland at anything, to do so now and for communities across the country at a time of a crisis of disconnection, to be part of The Big Lunch community walk, to play my part in reconnecting people with each other, their place and to nature would be an absolute honour.”