THE BIG Lunch initiative has been connecting people and communities in North Belfast since 2009, encouraging people to make positive change where they live.

Run by the Eden Project and the Big Lottery Fund, the Big Lunch is the perfect recipe for having fun with neighbours, feeding community spirit and helping to build stronger neighbourhoods.

People are the key ingredient, with those taking part creating friendlier communities in which they start to share more – from conversation and ideas to skills and resources.

Over the past eight years, Big Lunches of all sizes have happened in all kinds of communities – in streets, back gardens, parks and local community venues. Thousands of events have taken place each year, with a whopping 7.3 million people taking part in 2016 in over 90,000 events.

This year’s annual event takes place on Sunday, June 18 and one North Belfast resident is encouraging people to get involved in the community initiative.

Suzi Miller, who runs Peas Park Community garden at the junction of Skegoniell and Glandore Avenue, said community spirit thrives when people work together on an event like The Big Lunch and that is worth more than money can buy.

Suzi said the event made a big difference to her, the area now feels a friendlier, happier place to live and Peas Park feels like more of a community space.

“We held a Big Lunch in the summer, and the pouring rain on the day couldn’t dampen our spirits,” she said.

“It was really easy to put together – everyone pitches in and the difference it makes to the atmosphere around here is huge. Peas Park is a communal space for everyone in this area and the local community are starting to get involved more and more.

“When the whole community cares about a place at its centre, it thrives and the community thrives. We have all been working on this garden and it’s a space we can all be proud of. It’s a space we can all be happy in. It’s a great place for people, or families, to meet and chat, plant some vegetables, or play on the big soil heap – which was one great pile of muck based fun on the Big Lunch day.”

Eden Project Comm-unities Northern Ireland Manager, Grainne McCloskey, added: “The Big Lunch is a great first step that just about anyone can take towards bringing their community together and making it a better place to live. It starts with just knocking a neighbour’s door.

“We would love to see a Big Lunch on every street and in every town across Northern Ireland and we are here to help.

“If there are people in the Antrim area who are thinking about holding a Big Lunch, we are here to connect them with others who have already taken the leap.

“The vast majority of people who have held one say they would recommend the initiative to anyone and they are willing to offer their support. There is a great sense of camaraderie and welcome in our network.”

It is never too late to take part in The Big Lunch. Anyone can request a free planning pack, which contains invitations, posters, seeds and stickers, at www.edenproject or by calling 0845 850 8181 to speak to one of the Big Lunch team.

The Big Lunch can be found @edencommunities on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram.

If anyone would like more information on Eden Project Communities and The Big Lunch, please visit the website www.edenproject communities/thebiglunch or contact gmccloskey