Big Lunch Extra – Elaine Hawkins

When I was accepted onto the Big Lunch Extra (BLE) camp held in November at the Eden Project in Cornwall, I had little idea what to expect from the 4 day weekend.   As I write this blog in late December 2014, I still feel that I am processing my experience of the event.   The organisers were intent on creating an event that inspired us to go back to our different corners of the UK as disciples for the pleasures of community collaboration, committed to community activism (as opposed to ‘volunteerism’),  accessing our creativity to build and strengthen our communities.   BLE events can be so many different things to different people and the November camp was 80 strong.

A good proportion of the participants had already had experience of organising a ‘Big Lunch’ in their street although others were, like myself, much newer to the ‘big lunch’ idea but brought experiences of developing initiatives such as friendship networks, community gardening and food schemes, gay and lesbian projects, home education networks, to name just a few.   Some were there simply to look for ideas about what they might do to build a stronger sense of ‘community’ in their own neighbourhood.    At different sittings my colleague and I introduced the concept of cohousing to our various audiences.  The concept went down well as cohousing principles have, at its heart, aims of encouraging collaboration, stimulating exploration of more creative and sustainable ways of living, and working towards the reduction of isolation and loneliness.

BLE participants at the Eden Project
BLE participants walk the labyrinth-walk at the Eden Project

What the staging of the Big Lunch Extra ‘boot camp’ and the passion and enthusiasm it generated amongst organisers and participants alike conveyed to me was the existence of a wider-held, cross-generational and urgent desire to address feelings of fragmentation, lack of creativity and wastefulness in 21st century urban living.  I was ‘expelled’ from ‘Eden’ with some ideas for activities that might work well for Cohousing Woodside’s group building efforts.   Perhaps my most enduring reflection was of the way in which the gradual evolution of cohousing seems to be coming into alignment with a newer ‘energy of the moment’,  an energy inspired by past environmental and political campaigns but which urgently seeks to translate into contemporary practice for more satisfying ways of living in our multi-cultural society.

For anyone interested in attending a Big Lunch Extra Camp, details can be found at: