A Derry woman met the Duchess of Cornwall last week at a lunch in East Belfast, organised by a UK-wide project of which she is the patron.
Margaret Cunningham, from Habinteg, is organising a Big Lunch in Farland Way on July 1. The Big Lunch is an initiative from the Eden Project, funded by Big Lottery, to encourage friendlier more sustainable communities.
Margaret said: “I was a wee bit nervous before I met her, because I realised she was going to be sat beside me – but she was actually very easy to be with.
“She gave everybody a great amount of time and she seemed to be very comfortable in her own skin as well. We spoke about my events with the Big Lunch and what other voluntary work I was doing.
“I’m doing an Alice in Wonderland Big Lunch this year, working with local clergy and aiming it at people who are isolated and harder to reach – especially off the back of a survey about isolation in Derry. In fact it was the parish priest who contacted me, so he had obviously heard about it.
“We are doing it with the COSY Club as well, which is ideal as there are some older people who live on their own and would be quite isolated, and that’s a great way to get them involved in the event which itself is for people of all ages. The whole thing helps build a sense of social conscience.”
The Duchess told the crowds of people at Skainos: “It was three years ago I came to my first Big Lunch in Northern Ireland and you can see how it’s grown. It’s getting bigger and bigger, with more and more people getting involved.
“People from every section of society, every religion, we are getting people talking to each other. There are also a lot of lonely people out there, who probably never say anything to anyone for 24 hours, but with this there is a way to get people talking to say hello to their neighbours.
“It is about getting people together and making people happier. I’m delighted to be involved with the Big Lunch and wish all of you and your projects the very best. I hope you get thousands of people together, and get the whole country involved.”
The Big Lunch – the UK’s annual get-together for neighbours – is encouraging millions of people to come together in streets, gardens, parks and community venues across the country on Sunday 7 June.
Joanne McDowell, Northern Ireland Director of the Big Lottery Fund said: “We are delighted to continue our support for The Big Lunch. Lots of people told us that it has changed how they feel about their local community, and it shows just how powerful a simple idea can be.”
The Big Lunch is the UK’s annual get-together for neighbours, an idea from the Eden Project made possible by the Big Lottery Fund and supported by Halifax and Asda. It is the perfect recipe for having fun with neighbours, feeding community spirit and helping to build stronger neighbourhoods. 8 out of 10 people who have taken part have kept in touch with people they met at Big Lunches in previous years. Anyone who would like to host a Big Lunch event on Sunday 7 June 2015 can request a free planning pack from www.thebiglunch.com or by calling 0845 850 8181.