Reducing isolation and encouraging inclusivity in North Yorkshire

Burn is a small village in North Yorkshire, with 190 houses and scattered farms, which straddle the busy A19.

In 2009, a group of concerned residents joined together with the parish council, starting an action group to fight the ever-increasing volume of heavy traffic cutting the village in half. Hearing about The Big Lunch, they decided to use this community event as a way to get the whole village more engaged and involved in local matters.

Parish Councillor, Sonia Hearld, explains:

“The village straddles a busy road and doesn’t really have a ‘centre’ as such, other than the pub and the Methodist chapel, so there’s no communal meeting point.

Many residents and families have been here all their lives, but unless they make specific plans or bumped into each other, they barely see one another. The Big Lunch gives us a fantastic reason to connect, which is why it’s become such a hit!”

Since then, Burn’s Big Lunch has happened every year, making it one of the longest-running Big Lunches in the country. The event has been led by Parish councillors, but is very much a group effort, with volunteers coming forward every year to help with its organisation.

Growing Big Lunch success

Despite the small population, Burn regularly welcomed more than 100 residents to its Big Lunch in the first few years and the numbers have increased year-on-year.

Burn has rung the changes with a Big Jubilee Lunch in 2012, a 1940s inspired experience with wartime-based musical hits, games and quizzes and patriotic decorations in 2015 and a ‘Happy 90th, Ma’am’ event in 2016.

The council supports The Big Lunch through donations, use of the village marquee and promoting the event on its website and through a leaflet drop, to make sure everyone is invited. As ex-journalists, councillors Sonia and Bill Hearld take responsibility for all the photography and contacting the local media too.

The big day

All of Burn’s events have been held at the one and only pub in the village, where the landlords have generously provided a barbecue for free and local Selby supermarkets have also donated food over the years too.

Each Big Lunch in Burn supports the village’s annual charity and in 2017, the village expanded The Big Lunch into a Big Events Weekend, with a free concert at the pub on the Saturday night and musical entertainment at the lunch itself on the Sunday.

The big impact

Local residents have been hugely positive about The Big Lunch, saying how great it is to connect with friends and neighbours they’d not seen for a while and to have the opportunity to meet newcomers to the village in a relaxed, sociable and friendly environment.

The council also believes it is hugely beneficial, as Sonia Hearld comments:

“The Big Lunch gives people a reason to get together, reducing isolation and encouraging inclusivity as it reaches everyone - not just those that go to the pub or go to church. In the age of people not knowing their neighbours, encouraging this interaction is so important.”

Burn’s top tips for local councils:

  1. Get a small organising group together – involve practical people and give them roles and tasks!
  2. Start planning and find a venue as early as possible
  3. Don’t be shy about asking local businesses for support; you may be surprised at their generosity! 

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.