Emily Watts from The Big Lunch says stronger communities are being built - and community spirit regained - through a simple yet effective concept which is bringing people together across Scotland
I’m a pragmatic optimist. I can see all too clearly that our current systems are far from perfect, but I also believe we have the power to change things. And I’m grateful to work day to day for a campaign that restores my faith in human beings.
I work for The Big Lunch. It’s a simple campaign from the Eden Project which aims to build community spirit. It’s funded by the Big Lottery, and encourages people to sit down with their neighbours annually on the first Sunday in June, and have lunch together.
And I’m not embarrassed to say - that’s it.
Except of course, that isn’t it. That’s just the start. What The Big Lunch actually does is offer people an excuse to get together, to break through any reserve they might have about approaching their neighbours.
And that enables people to start having conversations – or connecting with one another and building local networks.
When I started working for The Big Lunch, the optimistic side of me saw the potential in this idea, just as my pragmatist was wondering how on earth such a fluffy idea would ever take off in Scotland.
Luckily, the optimist won out, and three years later as the campaign manager up here I’m seeing the impact start to spread.
Every year, a reliable 89% tell us they feel better about where they live. Not only that, but fully two thirds want to go on to do more in their community.
Of those who didn’t feel confident in community action before a Big Lunch, 80% say they not only feel more confident about getting involved but also actively want to get involved.
And it’s not just a middle class idea either, in Scotland nearly a half of our Big Lunch pack requests come from households in the bottom two quintiles of the Scottish Multiple Deprivation Indices.
Reflected in the positivity that comes from Big Lunch participants I hear stronger communities being shaped, with small, simple actions that make us feel more connected and kinder towards one another.
I’m not claiming The Big Lunch is a panacea - the answer - but it is a starting point.
Although the challenges are significant, I believe that the changes that are needed to create the fairer, more equitable Scotland that could be are in our hands – we just need the impetus and the support to take the first steps.
And for me, there’s no better way to start than by working on how we treat one another.
Emily Watts is The Big Lunch's country manager for Scotland