How food brought a city together

Bradford is home to people from many different cultural and economic backgrounds and encouraging inclusion is vitally important across such diverse communities. The council wanted to increase opportunities for residents from different areas to meet and spend time getting to know each other – to celebrate and communicate, and then they heard about The Big Lunch...

Amria tells us about the Council's involvement last year

‘It's such a simple idea - neighbours getting together to share food. And it can be adapted for different places and different audiences. It's immediately accessible, food brings everyone together, and you can eat whatever you want. The idea of encouraging lots of little things, rather than one big one, felt like the right way for truly resident-led change.’ Amria Khatun from Bradford City Council

Making it happen

The team at Bradford council came up with the idea of a small grant scheme to help stimulate more Big Lunches to happen across the city. They secured £25,000 from the Safer and Stronger Communities partnership and offered grants of £100-£200 to voluntary groups across the district to hold Big Lunches in their communities. They also planned two large events in the city centre to help raise awareness.

The Big Day

97 Big Lunches, Lunar Lunches, Big Iftar and Great Get Together events were held across Bradford.  Some were organised by existing groups and some by new groups of people or communities, but all were open to anyone in their locality, helping to build relationships and understanding across different faiths, backgrounds and ages.

The Best Bits

Amria tells us ‘The best moments were the small moments. After our big event in the city centre, when people started leaving, groups of women were still chatting with each other, meeting new people, reclaiming a public space and doing something out of the ordinary. It was hugely impactful watching them sharing a magical experience, and feeling safe in their city.’

With support from the Safer and Stronger Communities Partnership and the Area Committees, they're hoping to bring whole streets together for Big Lunches, encouraging people to get to know their neighbours better.

Amria's top tips for councils

  1. Seize the opportunity to bring communities together around food!
  2. Share information amongst your networks and existing channels e.g. wardens, area teams, social media, websites, voluntary and community sector contacts
  3. Road closures – help if you can by offering free or reduced cost road closures for the weekend of The Big Lunch. If it’s not possible to close a road, can you offer an alternative council venue, or suggest parks or green spaces nearby?
  4. Allocate an officer if possible, to undertake a co-ordinating role, and to be a contact point. It's a few hours a week for a couple of months – perfect for Engagement or Safer and Stronger teams
  5. A small grant scheme might help but people didn't need as much as we expected – Big Lunches don't have to cost much at all, encourage people to use what they have and share resources as much as possible. After all, it's the conversations and connections that count most.

If you'd like to get your council involved in The Big Lunch and support your community you can find everything you need to know, here.