Organise a Big Lunch

Photo by Barry Pells

The Big Lunch is the UK's annual big date to celebrate and give thanks to our neighbours and communities. 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. 

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 - this year, you just have to make sure what you plan fits with the government coronavirus guidelines. 

There are more reasons than ever to get together in 2021 as The Big Lunch kicks off a whole Month of Community from 5 June, so plan a one off event or even make it a weekly affair, but make it work for you!

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.

Here's what happened in 2020...

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. You could simply hold one on your doorstep, ask people to come out at the same time, and bring your own snack or beverage! 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 and it fits within government guidance.  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 over the summer. This year, The Big Lunch kicks off a whole Month of Community from 5 June!

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

You'll probably have to keep a face to face Big Lunch to a small number (remember - smaller Lunches often lead to bigger outcomes!) but if you want to go larger, you could consider setting up an online event. There's more information and ideas on online events in our free Big Lunch pack.

Use our bright and friendly posters and post them around your community or neighbourhood. 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 people. 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 and safe, this year we'd recommend people bring their own food to eat.  If you have the time, take a look at some simple recipes shared by our ambassadors and Big Lunchers.. And check out our Top Tips for a Safe Big Lunch too. 

Decorate the your house, balcony or front door!

Make bunting out of scraps of old material, plastic bags or the contents of your recycling box. You could ask others to make bits and link them all together. 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. You could have a prize for the 'best dressed' house!

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 and safe for all. Here are some great ideas for street party games for all ages and abilities
  • Set a time for lunch — so that everyone comes out at the right moment
  • 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.