Organise a Big Lunch

Photo by Barry Pells

The Big Lunch is the UK's annual get together for neighbours. Every year in June since the idea began in 2009, millions of people stop what they're doing and get together with neighbours in a nationwide act of community and friendship. 

Get your free Big Lunch pack!

A Big Lunch can be anything from a small gathering in a garden, park or driveway, to a larger party with trestle tables down the middle of your street. The official Big Lunch date isn't practical for every community so you can run one at any time you fancy. 

The idea is that by starting simple, all sorts of friendships, ideas and projects can come out of a Big Lunch. It gets people together and talking — and with a few inspired folk, it can lead to people doing more within their community, and tackling the issues that matter to them most.

Organising a Big Lunch shouldn't be overly complicated, or require a lot of resources or money: it can be as big or as small as you like. By making use of what you already have and doing a little research to see what others can share, you'd be surprised at what you can all bring to the table! To get you going, here are our top tips to organising your Big Lunch:

Settle on a venue

Your Big Lunch can take place anywhere: in the road, back garden, park, allotment, school or community centre. Just make sure you get the relevant permissions. Here's our handy guide to closing your road  — make sure you get in early! 

Pick a date

Most people hold their Big Lunch in the first weekend in June - the official Big Lunch dates, but if that doesn't work for you and your community, you can join in the fun on a different date.

Or why not hold a Lunar Lunch? If you or your neighbours are fasting during Ramadan, or working irregular shift patterns, the Lunar Lunch will bring people together after dark and you can feast your way into the night! 

Find out who wants to come

Determine whether you want to keep it to residents in your street; people within a certain area like a postcode, or all users of a certain bus stop; or to a group linked by cause, such as a sports club or worship group. 

Create some bright and friendly posters and post them around your community. Make invites and add an RSVP or put a link up to an event page on Facebook Events or EventBrite so you get an idea of numbers, but don’t forget the art of conversation. Try to personally invite as many people as you can, and ask them to spread the word. By doing this you'll likely find people who want to get involved with the organising too!

You could also try creating your own Big Lunch Patchwork - an online tool to help you share the planning with your neighbours!

Plan the food

Keep it simple. A bring-your-own picnic is a good option as it requires little preparation in advance, or you could ask everyone to bring one dish to share. That way you don’t necessarily need to have confirmation of how many people are coming, as there is usually plenty of food to go round. Take a look at some simple crowd-pleasing recipes that some regular Big Lunchers have kindly shared for you.

Make some decorations

Make bunting out of scraps of old material, plastic bags or the contents of your recycling box. Ask others to make bits and link them all together, or better yet, get together before your Big Lunch for a decoration making session. On the day, give the kids some chalk to decorate the pavement. Take a look at a few of our simple ideas for decorations and if you'd like to customise your event, you can download our logos here.

Put on some music

A simple way to get some background music going is to get a few households to tune in to the same radio station and open the windows to get surround sound. See if anyone plays an instrument and fancies playing a few tunes — there’s nothing better than live entertainment. Worried about licencing? We've got you covered in our FAQs.

Get local support

Don't be afraid to get out and about to see what people can offer for your Big Lunch. Local cafes, shops and businesses may be able to lend you things such as tables and chairs, donate food and drink and even donate prizes for a raffle. You'll be amazed at how generous local people are if you just ask! Take a look at our business support letter to get you started. 

TOP TIP: Don't forget to let your local media know what fun you're up to so they can help spread the word.

Grow your own

Basing your Big Lunch around a group of keen gardeners is a great way to get things rolling. You could:

  • Organise a plant or veg swap (all you need is a table with a sign on, and an optional donations pot)
  • Have a competition for the tallest sunflower
  • Offer a prize for the best tasting homegrown veg
  • Decorate tables with flowers from your plot

Here's our guide to brightening up your street by planting flowers.

Fundraise at your Big Lunch

Lots of people use their Big Lunch to raise awareness or funds for a cause close to their heart, be it for their own community group or a local asset such as a children's play area,  or for a bigger, national charity. In 2019 a whopping £8.2million pounds was raised at Big Lunches across the UK, and the majority of that was for local charities and causes.

Tips for the day itself
  • Try to make sure that your entertainment, games and activities are suitable for all. Here are some great ideas for street party games for all ages and abilities
  • Set a time for lunch — it really helps to get the party started
  • Have plenty of bins and recycling stations around to make your clean up easier and more effective
  • Worried about the weather? Here's our guide to battling the elements on Big Lunch day

Take plenty photos and, most importantly, have fun!

After the party

Once the bunting is down and the tables folded away, don’t forget to share your story. We'd love to hear all about it, so hashtag it #TheBigLunch and share on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Keep your eyes on your inbox for our annual Big Lunch survey too!

Find out what inspired Laura to take action and see what impact a Big Lunch could have where you live.  So, what's stopping you taking your first steps to being part of a happier community? Get your free Big Lunch starter pack today.