Sasha Barnes moved into her new-build community in the summer of 2018.
A New-Build Community
The Quarry is an eco-development in Erith, Kent with ‘sustainability at its heart’. Like the Eden Project, the development has been built on a disused quarry, and created with residents in mind.
Developers said,“We want to ensure that it’s an environment where families and communities can grow, and we’re confident it’s a place people will love living in now and well in into the future."
But, like many new build projects, all of the neighbours were complete strangers - Sasha was passionate about changing that, ”I grew up on an estate, everyone knew everyone, especially in London. That doesn’t happen anymore."
The spark of an idea
Sasha first heard about The Big Lunch whilst watching breakfast TV, and was immediately interested in bringing this to her new neighbourhood. She said “I was watching This Morning, with Jo Brand speaking about The Big Lunch. Right away, I thought it was a great idea and ticked all the boxes surrounding things like community, neighbourhoods, and mental health. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of it before.”
Someone had formed a Whatsapp group for the neighbours and Sasha posted ‘I’ve heard about this idea, let's hold a Big Lunch'. “It was amazing, straight away four of my neighbours messaged me saying they’d love to help. It started, and just grew and grew!”
Once dates were confirmed, Sasha reached out to L&Q, the developers of their new homes, for support - they were keen to help out. Sasha said, “They offered locally sourced food, just to reinforce that community-based aspect – it was lovely”. The developers provided a photographer for the event, as well as eco-friendly workshops for children and face painting!
The event saw over 150 of the new residents come together, share food, and get to know their new neighbours. For Sasha, The Big Lunch helped build friendships, she said, “We're all-new, nobody knows each other. We’ve got so many different cultures and ethnicities. It’s amazing what we have in common when we all come together”.
A newly built community!
In the days after their Big Lunch, neighbours were already planning for next year. They sent a survey round asking for feedback, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Sasha said, “We were worried it might not go to plan, but it was a great day. The sense of communities getting together, with the kids, being together and being happy, is just like an old school community”.
For Sasha, the importance of forming a community for the future is the most beneficial outcome of The Big Lunch. “It’s great to have a community developed already for new residents who’ve not yet moved in. As an eco-community we’re going against the norm, we are part of something a lot bigger. We’re creating a safe place for our children to grow up.”