Everybody needs good neighbours

TV presenter Neil Oliver launches the Big Lunch initiative
TV presenter Neil Oliver launches the Big Lunch initiative

RESIDENTS of a north east Fife village named last year as ‘the friendliest in the UK’ are urging other local communities to take a leaf out of their book and organise a ‘Big Lunch’ event this year.

The Big Lunch, which is being held on June 2, is a Lottery-funded initiative aimed at encouraging people to get to know their neighbours and help reduce loneliness and isolation.

A Jubilee-themed Big Lunch was held last year in Gateside, which beat communities throughout the UK to the title of ‘friendliest’ in a competition run by Tesco magazine.

“The aim was to make everyone who came along feel very welcome, to share lunch together and to enjoy each other’s company,” said organiser Kathryn Wright.

“We had a fantastic day. I’d encourage anyone to knock on their neighbours’ doors and get the ball-rolling, you’ll be surprised and heartened by the responses!”

This year’s Big Lunch was officially launched by historian Neil Oliver, who presents the BBC’s ‘Coast’ series, and follows research that shows that many people in Scotland don’t know their neighbours.

“Our lives are so different from that of our ancestors,” said Mr Oliver.

“Today, most of us live in Scotland’s central belt, in urban areas, where heads are down Monday to Friday focusing on work, commuting and child care arrangements. When the weekend comes, most of us are busy with family and friends who can be scattered in different areas. This leaves us with little time for being neighbourly.

“Our ancestors lived together in communities, where the success of these communities depended on everyone participating and playing a role. So, it was very different.

“That is why The Big Lunch is a great excuse to get together and spend some time with people who live next door or on the same street, to break the ice and step outside your usual routine.”

The Big Lunch research found that just over a quarter of those surveyed in Scotland don’t know their neighbours, and one in five have no idea what their neighbours’ names are.

The key reasons holding Scots back from knocking next door include a lack of time, shyness, worries about getting on with their neighbours or that they will have nothing in common. When doors have been knocked, one in five Scots said the main reason has been to collect a parcel.

However, of the Scots surveyed who are keen to know their neighbours better, 70 per cent think it would improve the community spirit in their area, 47 per cent believe it would give their neighbourhood a friendlier atmosphere, while 42 per cent of those surveyed feel it would make their area feel safer.

•For further information or to request your free pack containing invitations, recipes, posters and other materials to help organise your Big Lunch, visit www.thebiglunch.com