Good Causes

Youth worker plans King-sized Big Lunch to mark Coronation

When youth worker Steve Barnabis met the then Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall at a Big Lunch event celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022, he seized the opportunity to invite the royal couple to Project Zero, his project in north-east London. The Walthamstow-based organisation – which is supported by National Lottery funding – is dedicated to helping vulnerable young people stay away from knife crime by engaging them in positive activities and building a sense of community.

Steve said, “Camilla told me to write to them and we did. They came down to Walthamstow and it was amazing. The young people were really chuffed.”

Now, Steve is planning another right royal occasion: a Coronation Big Lunch marking the ascension of King Charles III to the throne on Saturday 6th May 2023. Held at Project Zero’s headquarters – The Outset Centre in Walthamstow – it will see more than 200 people enjoying food, live music and a bouncy castle.

Other aspects of the event will be shaped entirely by Project Zero’s young people. Steve said, “We’re really encouraging them to think for themselves about what they want; we’re not pushing any agenda. We see [the Coronation] as a significant event and we want to mark it.”

The Big Lunch – an event supported by National Lottery players who raise over £30Million a week for good causes – brings millions of people together every year to share friendship, fun and food with their neighbours. Her Majesty The Queen Consort has been Patron of The Big Lunch since 2013 and over the Coronation long weekend people across the country will mark the occasion by hosting special Coronation Big Lunches.

For Steve, Project Zero’s Coronation Big Lunch is yet another milestone on a long journey to improve the lives of young people, tackle youth violence and create safe spaces. While living in America, the former child actor from Hackney used his drama skills to help young people caught up in gangs.

After returning to the UK, he began working with Newham Social Services’ Youth Offending Team and later started a youth organisation called The Soul Project.

His efforts to help young people steer clear of violence took a deeply personal turn in 2004 when his second cousin, Robert, was killed as a result of a knife attack. In 2019, Steve lost another second cousin, Alex, the same way.

Steve admits the tragic deaths of his cousins triggered difficult emotions at a time when he was working with young perpetrators of knife crime as part of the Youth Offending Team. He said, “I was going into prisons, working with young offenders that had stabbed somebody or who had been involved with that sort of violence themselves. It was a very challenging time.”

But Steve’s response – launching Project Zero in 2019 in an effort to engage young people in positive activities, promote social inclusion and reduce anti-social and offending behaviour – is testament to his enduring determination to make a difference. That commitment was acknowledged in September 2020, when a large mural of Steve by artist Gabriel Pitcher was unveiled on a house in Walthamstow.

Find out how to organise your own Big Lunch here.

28th April 2023

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