A Whitehead resident who holds a ‘Big Lunch’ every year to welcome newcomers to the area and to strengthen the community’s bonds says the event’s effect on community spirit is beyond measure.
Disconnected communities cost Northern Ireland £1.69 billion per year, according to a new study commissioned by Eden Project Communities and The Big Lunch.
According to the research carried out by economics consultancy the Centre of Economics and Business Research, neighbourliness has substantial economic benefits to UK society, representing an annual saving of £1.73 billion per year. The research also shows that neighbourliness benefits the Northern Irish economy with an annual saving of £1.73 billion.
Noel McKee from Whitehead brings his community together every year for a day of celebration and forging new connections.
He said: “Whitehead is a very community spirited town, especially since we have held a Big Lunch every year 2011.
“I had heard about the Big Lunch and I got it started, but then it just took off. At our first Big Lunch day people had loads of questions and worries, but after it all went off so well and created such a buzz in the town, those worries melted away. Every single year it has rained on our Big Lunch day, but it has still grown every year and we had about 120 people last year, and about 50 of those pitched in to organise it.
“Everyone brings something to share so it’s a big collaboration. Our Big Lunch day is a great opportunity for people and organisations to come together just to say hello and talk to each other.
“Our Big lunch is always in the centre of the town in an open green space and it’s accessible to everyone in the town, and family friendly. Because our Big Lunch is open to anyone walking past, it gets people talking. Our Big Lunch was so diverse too. We had people from Poland, Uganda, Philippines, America, Canada, Republic of Ireland and the UK.”
Noel is a member of The Wombles, a community group that takes on town clean-ups, guerrilla gardening, and other civic activities. He is also a member of the Eden project Communities network - a collection of people working to make positive social chance where they live.
Eden Project Communities country Manager Grainne McCloskey said: “The Big Lunch is a great first step that just about anyone can take towards bringing their community together and making it a better place to live. It starts with just knocking a neighbour’s door.” Find out more at www.edenprojectcommunities/thebiglunch.