Last month The Big Lunch patron HRH The Duchess of Cornwall hosted the launch of The Great Get-Together at Clarence House, announcing a weekend of community celebration to be held on 17 and 18 June 2017.
This was a significant moment for The Eden Project's Big Lottery funded initiative The Big Lunch, which co-founded The Great Get-Together weekend with the Jo Cox Foundation, formed in memory of the much loved MP, murdered in her constituency last June.
Brendan Cox feels that this is about creating a fitting tribute to his wife, where we all come together to celebrate 'what we have in common' and that our The Big Lunch know-how will give support to the millions of people who will want to join this magnificent adventure in large scale connection.
In January, the urgency with which we need to drive social change was revealed by new research commissioned by The Big Lunch, from the Centre of Economics Business Research. It revealed that disconnected communities currently cost the UK £32bn a year. The Eden Project's answer is to champion The Big Lunch, the annual neighbours get-together designed to get people everywhere to sit down together one Sunday in June to share food, fun and conversation.
It's a simple idea that we've seen grow from 700,000 participants in 2009 to 7.3million in 2016. 94% of people who take part feel a stronger sense of community and feel better about where they live. That's why we're so enthusiastic about wrapping The Big Lunch into The Great-Get-Together weekend. Partnering with the Jo Cox Foundation gives a voice to all those who want to reaffirm their commitment to belonging to the communities where they live and to a deeper involvement and care for it, building happier, healthier and friendlier places.
Nageena Khan, a Big Lunch and Lunar Lunch organiser from Bradford who I met at the Clarence House launch said: "The impact of The Big Lunch on me and my community has been transformational. It has connected us with people from all cultures, faiths and backgrounds living in our neighbourhood. We've since founded a Muslim women's group, who now meet regularly, helping to reduce their feelings of social isolation."
Why so popular? We all love food and a bit of a chat, so lunar lunches, street parties, picnics, barbecues and bake-offs are all regular features. The Great Get-Together is a great excuse for a concert, to play football, hold a park run: whatever - anything goes, but people always eat together and talk.
The Great Get-Together has inspired support from charities, faith groups and other organisations including the Women's Institute, RSPB, the Countryside Alliance, Mumsnet, the Premier League, Hope Not Hate, Amnesty International, Oxfam, the Scouts Association and numerous others, all of whom want to do something wonderfully powerful together - only collaboration can make seismic social change happen.
We have been deeply moved by the overwhelmingly positive response to the launch of The Great Get-Together weekend. Many people in the UK today deal with complex problems, but we say to them all - you're not alone. The future remains ours to make if we accept the responsibility. It's time to put aside the politics, get together, and celebrate what we have in common.
To take part in The Great Get-Together with The Big Lunch, go to www.thebiglunch.com for a free pack full of handy resources like posters, invites, stickers, recipes, games and decorations -- as well as all the practical information you need to make your event happen.