Sunday, June 5, 2011 - 17:14

More than a million people are expected to be sitting down for The Big Lunch today (Sunday June 5) to enjoy a few hours of friendship and fun with their neighbours.

The third annual Big Lunch, say organisers the Eden Project, is expected to be the biggest yet as all corners of the country break out the bunting in a simple act of community.

In the South West, neighbours are getting together and creating their very own Big Lunches, which includes a picnic for residents of five rows of cottages in Truro, a village get-together for up to 300 people in Noss Mayo, near Plymouth, a party in the park in Heavitree Pleasure Ground, Exeter, and a street party for hundreds of residents in Wadebridge.

The Big Lunch is a very simple idea from the Eden Project. Its aim is to get as many of the 61 million people in the UK as possible to have lunch with their neighbours. This year a record number of people were due to take part in the one-day event, with more than double the number of registered lunches than last year. Since starting in 2009, thousands of Big Lunches have taken place in all kinds of communities and the best part of a million people get involved each year.

Ian Jones, from Rosewin Row, Truro, said: “It’s wonderful that all our neighbours turned up and brought food and drink. This is the third year we’ve had a Big Lunch and every year it gets better.”

Kath Hadden, who organised a Big Lunch in Heavitree, said: “It’s a really good way for people in the community to meet each other, especially if you don’t know many people or you’ve just moved into the area. This is such a great event.”

Michael Leonard-Williams, who organised the Noss Mayo Big Lunch, said: “It’s been great fun and one of the best village events ever.”

Tim Smit, chief executive of the Eden Project, said: “It looks like more than a million people are taking part in today’s Big Lunch. From small neighbourhood barbeques, to street parties with bouncy castles and bands, Big Lunches are being held right across the country, bringing neighbours closer together and creating a spark of community spirit. We have had fantastic support throughout our campaign and we would like to thank all those making today possible.”

The Big Lunch is led by the Eden Project, funded by the Big Lottery Fund and supported by MasterCard and EDF Energy.

Mark Cotton, Big Lottery Fund Head of Region for the South West, said: “The Big Lottery Fund is delighted to help The Big Lunch bring even more local communities together this year. The Big Lunch is firmly establishing itself as a simple way to bring people together who might otherwise not have had the chance to.”

The Big Lunch team is already looking forward to next year’s event – on June 3, 2012, which promises to be much bigger again. It was announced last week by Buckingham Palace that the 2012 event will be part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, one of a number of celebratory events over a four-day Bank Holiday weekend.