Sonia Hearld’s community journey started in 2009 when she and her neighbours joined forces to campaign against increasing volumes and speed of traffic through their village. Despite being brought together in challenging circumstances, Sonia, 69, from Selby was keen to celebrate the connections made and, working closely with Burn’s Parish Council and other volunteers, organised her very first Big Lunch that year!
After a successful first event with over 70 attendees, Sonia and a core group of villagers have kept the tradition going and, over a decade later, The Big Lunch is now a key fixture in the community’s calendar, with everyone gathering in the pub car park annually to enjoy a barbeque, live music and plenty of time to catch up with neighbours old and new. The Big Jubilee Lunch in 2012 was a particular highlight, with the whole community celebrating together with crowns and royal-themed bakes!
Sonia said: “We live in a spread-out village with fewer than 300 houses and only a pub and chapel. There’s not really a centre where people meet, so The Big Lunch is a great basis for getting people together who wouldn’t necessarily meet up otherwise.”
The strong connections built at The Big Lunch have been particularly important during the last year, when the community has taken action to address the increase in loneliness and isolation experienced during the pandemic. By encouraging everyone to stay in touch with their elderly neighbours to provide emotional support, and by organising practical help such as fetching shopping and assisting people to use the Internet, Sonia and the rest of the community have been able to rally around people in need of support.
Sonia said: “As our village has evolved from a farming community, we have quite a high percentage of the population who have lived here for up to 70 years. They’re all getting older and need people to help them out sometimes.”
Forming a key part of integrating people of all ages into the community is The Big Lunch, which Sonia says is always a highlight of the year: “I love seeing people relax and spending time with people they might not have seen for a while. It’s the spirit of it all – we had an elderly lady who found walking difficult but would always travel over half a mile on foot to The Big Lunch. It would take her forever but she’d be the first one there. She’d look forward to it every year.”
Sonia is now looking forward to a big celebration to remember in 2022, when the village will get together for their second Big Jubilee Lunch!