Lunch Legends – The Big Lunch Community Spirit shines throughout Northern Ireland

Lunch Legends – The Big Lunch Community Spirit shines throughout Northern Ireland
L-R Sanjay Ghosh, Founder ImageNationNI, Lord Mayor of Belfast, Cllr Kate Nicholl and Eileen Chan-Hu, CRAIC NI celebrate a Big Lunch

As lockdown restrictions ease  people all over Northern Ireland have been busy celebrating Big Lunch activities in a variety of inspiring ways.

The Big Lunch is an idea from the Eden project, made possible by the National Lottery, supported by Iceland and Food Warehouse. The idea is that, for a few hours folk come together to meet, greet, share food and fun.  It is all about connecting with people in our communities, creating a sense of belonging, a celebration of positivity and pride in our areas.

The Big Lunch kicked off in early June with fun, food and celebrating community spirit top of the menu.  People came together, socially distanced and hand sanitized to enjoy each other’s company.

Celebrations got under way in East Belfast when a group of residents enjoyed their launch and Big Lunch of Reid Street’s Rainbow Alley.  This urban garden alleyway which runs between two streets was created, with the help of neighbours, by two local ladies, Joanne Boal and Caroline Turkington.  The area is now filled with apple trees, fruit bushes, vegetables and plants and is the perfect green space for local people to enjoy this community garden.

Kathy and Tim Black at Unit T Big Lunch in Newcastle – spomsored by the National Lottery

Caroline said:

“During lockdown it has proven to be a great place for people to sit and socialise safely outdoors especially as a lot of us don’t have gardens we are able to use. We’ve created planters where people can grow their own fruit and veg, along with flowers and plants and today was a lovely way to share and benefit from everyone’s involvement “

Joanne added “Our Big Lunch has been a day of fun and surprises.  We were confused when a car stopped right beside the food table and the driver started to offload large pots – it was an unexpected donation of some amazing Indian food from a young man who had recently moved into the street –  Shojol Ahmed, who also happens to be a chef in a local Indian restaurant ! People are so kind from neighbours to local businesses and we’ve all really loved the opportunity to meet each other and spend time together especially after the recent months which were tough on everyone.”

Community kitchen 

Kathy Black runs a community kitchen at Unit T in Newcastle and said:

“I thought the easiest way for people to connect with the community was through food.   We have been doing community lunches, talking about the things we would like for the area, getting inspiration and finding solutions – so our Big Lunch today really was a lunch with a purpose as we enjoyed cleaning up the beach beforehand and making it look so much better.”

While local resident, Wenda Gray from Carrickfergus said: “I thought I would take the bull by the horns and host a Big Lunch myself.  I invited ‘all the single ladies’ in the area to come along to my back garden.  I just took the dog out for a walk and knocked on their door to tell them what I was doing and a bit about the Eden Project and asked if they would be interested.   They all said yes!  I then issued an invitation with the date and time – it was that easy!”

Lunch time legends

Grainne McCloskey, NI Manager, The Big Lunch added “After more than a year in lockdown The Big Lunch is the perfect opportunity to celebrate within our local areas and to get to know more of our neighbours.   This year there is an appetite not just to reconnect where we live but also the desire to do something to hold onto the community spirit that many of us experienced during lockdown.  Throughout June and into July  as part of #MonthofCommunity we have been encouraging people to do something, no matter how small and to enjoy sharing food al fresco whilst being mindful of covid safety.”

The Big Lunch is an official partner of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in 2022 so find out how you can make plans for next year  to celebrate community spirit locally at

Nandini Italiya,Papal Dadhania and Jiana Patel pictured at Ormeau bowling club in Belfast taking part in the Eden Project’s The Big Lunch that celebrates community connections.
Picture By: Arthur Allison Pacemaker.