Monday, May 25, 2015 - 10:45

On May 21 The Duchess of Cornwall attended a cross-community lunch in East Belfast, organised by a UK-wide project of which she is the patron.

The Big Lunch is an initiative from the Eden Project, funded by Big Lottery, to encourage friendlier more sustainable communities.

The Duchess and scheme organisers wanted to visit the Skainos Centre on the Newtownards Road because some of the events that cross interfaces in Northern Ireland are brilliant examples of what The Big Lunch is about.

She took part in a live cooking demonstration with chef Jane McClenaghan and also helped paint a chair in a restoration demo.

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.

Organisers of a number of events in NI were in East Belfast today to meet the Duchess as well as speak with other Big Lunchers

Jackie Upton, who is helping to organise a Big Lunch across the Short Strand and Newtownards Road interface, said: “The Duchess is very down to earth, she gave us a lot of time and listened to what people had to say around the table. She was very interested in the Big Lunch we are organising – and she even presented me with a plate that I will use in our event.”

Diana Millar, who is organising a lunch in Benburb, Co. Tyrone, said: “It was lovely to meet the Duchess, I don’t know what I was expecting but it was a great pleasure, and she was very down to earth.”

Peter Stewart, Director at the Eden Project, was also in Belfast for the visit. He said: “What is really heartwarming is to see the growth of these lunches that are taking place across the divide, which is credit to a whole bunch of people in this room. Sometimes it is the simplest things that are amazing ideas and that have the biggest impact.”

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 or by calling 0845 850 8181.