​4 friends, 4 decades apart, 4 life-changing events: A heartening Big Lunch story

Emma had no idea that the simple act of reaching out to her neighbours would have such a profound effect on everyday life.

Since Emma’s first Big Lunch in 2010, firm friendships have formed between a group of women who found plenty to bond over despite their very different ages (their ages span four decades), circumstances, and stories. Six years on, Emma, Jill, Marie, and Karen have supported each other through life’s ups and downs, getting through bereavement, cancer, gender transition, and redundancy.

Something magical happens when people share a meal

Emma, the baby of the bunch, (then aged 43), decided to organise a Big Lunch in her street to get to know her neighbours better — she wanted more than a civil nod from across the street. The relationships that emerged from Emma’s first neighbourly get together have been life changing.

That first Big Lunch provided the spark: friendships began to blossom as polite smiles turned into conversations and people got to know each other and open up. The Big Lunch became a regular event that generated other neighbourly lunches, coffee mornings and suppers.

'Something magical happens when people share a meal,' says Karen.

Both Emma and Karen use the same words to describe their feelings:

'With these people, I feel like belong. I can just be me.'

For Jill and Marie, the friendship offers support and security as well as a lot of fun.

'There’s comfort in knowing that you have people all around you who you can call on if there’s an emergency, and we all have emergencies at some point in our lives. It’s so reassuring when you know your neighbours well enough to ring them and ask for their help,' explains Jill.

She’s absolutely right. Food is a basic human need and a universal pleasure. It unites us. And the act of sharing food and eating together is not only about physical nourishment but about reaching out and offering emotional sustenance too. Strong communities are built on this stuff. That’s why we love the Ely Ladies’ story of their Big Lunch journey.

Hold a Big Lunch

If you’d like to bring your neighbours together, see our tips on organising a Big Lunch for plenty of ideas and inspiration.