The townland of Glen joined in the Big Lunch last month – with locals taking part in the initiative that reaches millions of people across the UK every year.
Residents threw a party to raise money for the local primary school and also to bring the community closer together.
The lunch took place at St Patrick’s PS in Glen, near Maghera, with children able to enjoy “recycling” games – where everyday objects and waste are turned into fun creations – as well as face painting and other fun activities.
People of all ages were able to enjoy the fun – from two newborn babies up to a 90-year-old from the local community. Organiser Kate Clifford, from the Friends of St Patrick’s PS Glen, said: “Glen is what you would call a dispersed rural settlement, there’s no centre to where we live, and the settlement itself is either side of the Glenshane Pass.
“Our intention is to increase the sustainability of the school in the long term, and also to support the school in terms of raising money and support. However, the Big Lunch was also about building community spirit in this area, where the only community buildings are the primary school and the church.
“We had advertised this as a picnic and at the last minute we had to move everything inside because the weather was so bad, but we still had well over 100 people attend and raised nearly £500 for the school, so it was a great success. It was so good that at the end of the day we had to throw people out of the school hall.
“We would absolutely love to do a Big Lunch again next year. People really enjoyed having time to come in and sit and chat. For new parents to the school it was especially rewarding.”
The parents and teachers group has in recent times raised money to install whiteboards in the school, as well as getting access for the children to planting boxes, and school visits from bees and chickens.
Now in its eighth year, The Big Lunch is an idea from the Eden Project, made possible by the Big Lottery Fund, that aims to get as many people as possible to have lunch with their neighbours in a simple act of community, friendship and fun.
Big Lunches can be in your back garden, your street, or in a large public space. Some are barbecues, some picnics, they can involve a handful of people right up to huge gatherings.
The participation figures are remarkable - last year there were hundreds of Big Lunches across NI with tens of thousands of people taking part. Across the whole of the UK more than 7.3 million people were involved.
The important thing is gathering together to enjoy some food and getting to know your neighbours and community better.
Grainne McCloskey, partnership manager for The Big Lunch Northern Ireland, said: “It is great to see another year’s worth of Big Lunches taking place, bringing so many people together in fun and friendship. The benefits for our local communities are enormous and I want to congratulate everyone who helped organise a Big Lunch.”
Joanne McDowell, NI Director of The Big Lottery Fund, said: “We are delighted to continue our support of The Big Lunch. It has had a really positive impact on communities across Northern Ireland and we are looking forward to seeing the difference it will make to people once again.”