The Big Lunch is an idea which has grown in popularity across the UK, but the London Borough of Lewisham is acknowledged as one of the hotspots.
The Big Lunch is a very simple idea originated by the Eden Project. The aim is to get as many people as possible across the whole of the UK to have lunch with their neighbours annually in June in a simple act of community, friendship and fun. Since starting in 2009, thousands of Big Lunches have taken place in all types of communities. In 2015, 7.29 million people took to their streets, gardens and community spaces for the seventh annual Big Lunch.
The Big Lunch has always been extremely popular with residents in the London Borough of Lewisham and in 2010 Lewisham had the largest amount of Big Lunch participants of any London borough. 2016 saw over 50 Big Lunches taking place. Despite the vagaries of the British weather, people usually set out large tables with chairs down the middle of the street and hope for the best.
Lewisham Council make it easy for people to hold Big Lunches. If neighbours wanted to hold one in their street and it is on a sensible road, the council waives all the usual costs. They only ask that there are proper road closure signs and advise that these can be home-made according to the right size and colour. They also offer support and advice on completing a road-closure application.
Lewisham has encouraged neighbours who meet through the Big Lunch to develop their relationships and to form local citizen committees and to take a role in the borough’s experiments in devolved and participatory budgeting.