Good Causes

How Laura’s Big Lunch hunch transformed her street

Laura Graham has organised a string of Big Lunches in her street in central Northampton. But this year’s event – on 4th June, 2021 – has got her and her neighbours more excited than ever before.

It isn’t hard to see why. The Big Lunch ‐ a community event organised by The Eden Project and supported by The National Lottery ‐ usually takes place in the first week of June. In 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, it was re-named The Virtual Big Lunch and neighbours were encouraged to meet up online rather than face-to-face.

Spencer Road, where Laura, 37, has been organising Big Lunches since 2017, was ultimately deprived of its annual get together. She said, “We talked about holding a Big Lunch on zoom, but my neighbours were all zoomed out at that point.”

The absence of a Big Lunch in 2020 has raised the stakes for the 2021 event. Laura said, “Everyone is so excited about this year. People are looking to celebrate the fact that we’ve got through something horrendous and while it may not be the end [of the pandemic] it feels like things are looking better.

“We’ve all realised that what’s really important in life is human connection ‐ everything else doesn’t really matter. It’s the people in your life that are fundamental to our happiness. That’s why the Big Lunch will be even bigger this year because people need it.”

In recognition of unprecedented times, the Eden Project has extended the Big Lunch weekend into a Month of Community starting on 5th June, 2021. Spencer Road has scheduled its celebration for the end of that month on Thank You Day.

If all goes to plan, the 2021 event will be bigger than ever. Spencer Road will be closed to traffic and residents will enjoy a BBQ, a DJ and street games for the kids. People in neighbouring streets have also been invited.

Laura says several people have moved into the street since the last Big Lunch in 2019. One of them ‐ a woman who moved to Northampton for work and lives alone ‐ is particularly excited about the Big Lunch. Her circumstances remind Laura of her own journey and the importance of community.

The loss of her mum to cancer in 2009 plunged Laura into a depression that lasted several years. By 2014 she had bought her own place in Northampton, but living alone in an unfamiliar town meant she often felt isolated and lonely.

She said, “After 3 years, I still didn’t know any of my neighbours. Living through Covid-19, I think a lot of people now understand that feeling of loneliness and social isolation.”

In May 2017, Laura attended an Eden Project Community Camp where she learned about the Big Lunch. But on the day she decided to send Big Lunch invitations to her neighbours the world learned of the Manchester Arena terrorist attack.

After much soul searching, Laura decided to send the invitations because “we needed more than ever to stand together”. She was convinced no one would reply. But within half an hour 2 people had knocked on her door and said a Big Lunch was exactly what the street needed.

Spencer Road’s first Big Lunch in 2017 was a huge success and has made the street a more friendly, supportive place. Laura said, “People now know each other. They talk to each other and help each other out. It’s lovely being invited around for dinner or seeing people I know in the local pub and having a chat. It makes me feel connected to something bigger than me.”

Find out how to organise a Big Lunch.

Please note: Images used all taken in 2019, prior to Covid-19.

3rd June 2021

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