After a weekend of inspiration at Cornwall’s Eden Project, one Ballymoney man has returned home with plans to hold Big Lunches to connect diverse communities.
Between March 17 and 20, Richard John, Secretary of the Causeway Multicultural Forum, was one of just 60 individuals, drawn from across the UK, to be invited to attend Eden’s Community Camp.
Run by the Eden Project Communities team, the sessions are designed to help local activists tackle disconnected communities, an issue that costs the UK £32 billion every year, according to recent research[i] commissioned by Eden Project initiative The Big Lunch[ii]and funded by the Big Lottery Fund.
Richard John and his group organise several events every year to highlight and celebrate the diversity of the Causeway area and to build connections across the local community.
He explained: “I went to the Eden project for the opportunity to meet other people, to learn from them and to share my experiences. I wanted to get new ideas and be inspired to work with other groups, to engage and to build bridges between the various groups and projects. What I got out of the weekend was beyond all my expectations. I came home a completely different person. To say I enjoyed it would be a massive understatement. I had some plans in the back of my mind and it brought those to the fore. It was incredibly encouraging.”
After his visit, Richard joins Eden’s 1000-plus strong UK-wide network of community activists dedicated to bringing together neighbourhoods.
Eden Project executive director Peter Stewart continued: “People feel happier, safer and more content when they know their neighbours and 94% of people who visit these camps go on to connect their communities using a skill or information they’ve learned here. We can’t wait to see how Richard’s ideas develop.”
The research released last month, carried out by the Centre of Economics and Business Research, shows that neighbourliness already delivers substantial economic benefits to UK society, representing an annual saving of £23.8billion for the economy.
This saving comes from sharing between neighbours, an increase in social connection and reductions in the demands on public services such as healthcare, social care, welfare and the environment.
“Starting to benefit from these savings can come from a simple act like getting to know your neighbours by holding a Big Lunch on June 18,” added Peter.