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Our highlights from the #GreatBigWalk

June 29, 2017

On 29th May Noel Johnston from Omagh and Olivia Cosgrove from Enniskillen, joined walkers from across the UK in Bately, West Yorkshire to set off on the #GreatBigWalk, funded by the National Lottery.

They walked almost 700 miles on their 21 day journey. It saw them walk from Bately to Liverpool, take the ferry to Belfast and then walk around Northern Ireland before returning to Belfast on 18th June to celebrate at a Big Lunch event.

Along the route they stopped in towns and villages each day to shine a light on amazing community projects which are really making a difference to people’s lives.

Some of the projects Noel and Olivia visited were are funded by Big Lottery Fund. Here are some highlights of our projects:

Connswater Community Greenway

Arriving in Belfast on Saturday 3rd June, their first stop was Connswater Community Greenway where they took a tour of greenway and rang the bell to start Park Run in Victoria Park. They met volunteers and heard stories about the positive impact the greenway has had from people who use it. Connwater Community Greenway has been created with our largest ever grant in Northern Ireland of £23.5million.

Acceptable Enterprises Larne Ltd

On Monday 5th June they visited Acceptable Enterprises in Larne which recently received an Empowering Young People grant of £600,000 to support young people with a learning disability. The team toured the various enterprises run by the group including the allotments, had a meal in their café, and learnt about the bottling process for Clearer Water.

David Hunter, chief executive of Acceptable Enterprises said: “It’s given Acceptable Enterprises Limited a real boost to have the walkers from the Great Big Walk drop in to find out about our project here in Larne.

“Larne has had its fair share of difficulties in the past but sometimes it’s good to focus on the real needs of a community and pull together to deliver positive change.”

Be Safe Be Well

Olivia and Noel visited an open day for Be Safe Be Well Men’s Shed in Limavady on Wednesday 7th June which was developed with support from National Lottery funding. With plenty of visitors – old and new – there was a real buzz around the centre with the members showing off their woodworking skills and sharing stories about why coming to the shed is so important to them.

Armagh Men’s Shed

Armagh Men’s Shed, which has been funded through our Connecting Older People programme was also visited on 13th June. The members met the walkers along with Joanne McDowell and Joan McCrum from Big Lottery Fund and walked through Armagh to their men’s shed where they had lunch, had a sing along and chatted about their lives.

Click here to watch a video of the sing along at the shed.

Dessie, one of the members, said: “Today, meeting the great big walk folk was good craic and good luck to them walking all that way from Yorkshire to here, meeting people and learning what we all do.”

Head injury Support

On Thursday 15th June Olivia and Noel started the day by visiting Head injury Support in Newry which received funding through our People and Communities programme. The walkers were inspired listening to the stories from members, some of who have had to learn how to walk again after surviving a brain injury. They then walked through Newry with some of the members before heading off on the final few days of their journey.

College Park Avenue Residents Association

The walk finished on Sunday 18th June, where Olivia and Noel met Big Lottery Fund Chair Julie Harrison in Belfast and joined a Big Lunch event in the Holylands with over 400 other people from different communities. The event was funded with a Celebrate grant to College Park Avenue Residents Association.

Noel and Olivia were overwhelmed by the stories they heard on their journey, but the common theme was that in every community they visited, they met ordinary people doing extraordinary things and they were inspired by everyone they met.

Click here to watch a video of Olivia and Noel reflecting on their experiences.

The Great Big Walk saw five teams of walkers set off from West Yorkshire and walk to Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and London. Run by Eden Communities the Great Big Walk encouraged people to hold a Big Lunch celebration on Sunday 18 June as part of The Great Get Together, run by the Jo Cox Foundation.


The Great Big Walk shines a light on Acceptable Enterprises in Larne

June 12, 2017

The Great Big Walk came to Larne last week as part of an initiative from the Eden Project made possible with funding from the National Lottery.

Five teams of walkers set off from Batley, West Yorkshire, on 29th May and are travelling back to Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and London respectively. Every day, the walkers and their supporters have been visiting different community projects and initiatives spending time with the extraordinary people who go the extra mile to bring communities together.

The Northern Ireland team of walkers, Olivia Cosgrove from Enniskillen and Noel Johnston from Omagh, chose Acceptable Enterprises in Larne as one of their stops. They recently received a National Lottery grant of £600,000 from Big Lottery Fund to support young people with a learning disability to move into adult services and, where possible, the world of work.

Olivia Cosgrove said “It was my very great privilege to meet David and the staff and trainees at Acceptable Enterprises, the atmosphere was one of a community working together with pride and respect for each other.

The walkers enjoy breakfast at Acceptable Enterprises, Larne

“David is a man with a mission to put Larne on the map as a place of social enterprise excellence, he is an entrepreneurial champion. He sees possibilities instead of problems and pulls people toward the opportunities we can achieve when we work together.

“I’d say from our visit that Acceptable Enterprises have much to be proud of, looking at all they have been doing they are not just providing training for people of all abilities, they are offering transferable skills and learning that can be put to good use in a range of businesses in the retail and manufacturing sector.

“During our visit we toured the sites seeing the healthy vegetables growing in the allotments and enjoyed them as a delicious meal served with a smile by first class staff in the café, right through to the Clearer Water bottling and distribution which is bringing in business from across the water and changing lives locally and in disadvantaged places across the globe.”

Olivia is a founding member of Row the Erne, a Fermanagh based group who brought the community together to build a Curragh. She currently volunteers with the RNLI and travelled to the Greek island of Lesbos during the refugee crisis to support lifesaving training.

She said: “We need more Davids in the world, he is one of those people who you meet who are a fountain of ideas and inspiration. Clearer Water’s back story really struck a chord with me, perhaps because of my love of water, or perhaps because bottled water can often seem extravagant but this water is not only pure and healthy, it makes a difference just like everything Acceptable Enterprises does.”

David Hunter, Chief Executive of Acceptable Enterprises said: “It’s given Acceptable Enterprises Limited a real boost to have the walkers from the Great Big Walk drop in to find out about our project here in Larne. Particularly important, after recent events and as recognised by the decision to start the walk in Jo Cox’s constituency of Bately West Yorkshire, is the need to tell everybody that there is an amazing amount of good work going on every day in every corner of these islands.

“Larne has had its fair share of difficulties in the past but sometimes it’s good to focus on the real needs of a community and pull together to deliver positive change.”

Some Clearer Water donated to the walkers. L-R William MacCauley, Olivia Cosgrove, Noel Johnston, David Hunter, Jerome Grace, Maureen Hanvey

The Great Big Walk will finish on Sunday 18 June, allowing all the walkers to take part in their Big Lunch: the highlight of The Great Get Together, set to be the biggest community celebration the UK has ever seen.

Find out more about the Great Big Walk  and the Big Lunch.


Enter the Youth got Community Spirit competition now

April 25, 2017

By Grainne McCloskey, Northern Ireland Manager of The Big Lunch

The Big Lunch has now been running successfully for nine years but this year we want more young people to get involved so we are running a digital competition – Youth got Community Spirit!

We’ve teamed up with Belfast Harbour to give young people across Northern Ireland a chance to put their social media skills to good use and win from a prize pot of £3,000 for their local neighbourhood.

Jenni Barkley from Belfast Harbour and Antoinette Campbell from Downpatrick with Big Lunch organisers from across Northern Ireland at the launch of Youth got Community Spirit

We live in a digital age where we can connect with friends, family and colleagues online, but what about the people living next to us?

By building strong relationships with people who live near us, we tackle crime, reduce loneliness and ease community tensions. We hope to see lots of young people across Northern Ireland taking up this simple challenge and making good and lasting local intergenerational community connections.

This competition is designed to recognise that young people are neighbours too and to enable them to get involved in the community where they live.

Entering is easy — you need to be a community group which works with young people from the ages of 8 to 18 or a young person who isn’t part of a group can team up with an organisation in their area. You need to submit a short video to the Big Lunch team pitching your unique vision for a community spirited activity which you would like to deliver with a local organisation or group, including how it will improve the feeling of community spirit and engage with a wide range of people of all ages within your local area.

The best entries submitted will be in with the chance of winning prizes of £200-£500 to be spent on materials or items which can be used for community spirited activity, but also be reused again for future activities.

Find out more and enter the competition here:

The deadline is at midnight on 24 May 2017.

The Big Lunch, an Eden Project initiative made possible by the Big Lottery Fund, will be celebrated by neighbourhoods across the UK from Friday 16th June to Sunday 18th June, providing a stand out date in the diary for neighbours to get together, get to know each other better, and celebrate their communities.

Anyone can host a Big Lunch either on the street with neighbours or as a wider community event. The main date this year is 18 June and forms part of the Great Get Together weekend and a free pack is available to anyone interested in taking part at

For more information on how to get involved in this year’s Big Lunch and to enter the competition please contact Grainne Mc Closkey on 07703189048



April 4, 2017

By Jackie O’Sullivan, Director of the National Lottery Promotions Unit


Who remembers what happened in 1994?

Schindler’s List, starring Liam Neeson, won seven Oscars; Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black president and three-time Formula One world champion Ayrton Senna died in an accident during the San Marino Grand Prix in Immola, Italy.

Closer to home, Northern Ireland was still four years from the Good Friday Agreement while Armagh was restored to city status as the Lagan Weir was completed in Belfast.

Amidst all this the very first National Lottery draw took place.

And now almost a quarter of a century later, Northern Ireland is a very different place to what it was back then.

Contributing to that change is the more than £1billion invested by the National Lottery in the form of 20,000 grants.

And the National Lottery funding awarded by the Big Lottery Fund has had a significant positive impact on our community.



The £23 million transformation of the Connswater Community Greenway in east Belfast is a living, breathing example of an area reborn.

With 16km of cycling and walking trails, a civic square and new bridges and crossing points, the project has created a living landmark and a real legacy for future generations.

This award was the second largest ever in Northern Ireland behind the £45 million allocated by the Millennium Commission to the now SSE Arena.

This shining success story features in a new film by the National Lottery highlighting the impact of funding on Northern Ireland.

But when you buy a National Lottery ticket it is not only big ticket items you are supporting.

The majority of National Lottery grants are for £10,000 or less which provide vital support to charities and organisations working to improve our health and education.

The Memories Café, run by the Alzheimer’s Society provides a relaxed environment for people with dementia and their carers.

National Lottery funding has provided a lifeline for these people allowing them to enjoy social activities and combat loneliness and isolation.

National Lottery players can be proud to have supported such wonderful life-changing programmes.

So if you want to know what the National Lottery has done for you and your area please visit:

International Women’s Day 2017

March 8, 2017

Today, Wednesday 8th March 2017, is International Women’s Day. We are taking the opportunity to celebrate the inspirational achievements of women from some of our National Lottery funded projects.

Paige Floyd

Paige Floyd, 17, from Antrim had started life in care until she was adopted as a toddler and those early years left an impact on her. Three years ago her troubles came bubbling to the surface and disrupted her school and family life. But with support from Oasis Caring in Action, which received a £600,000 grant, she was able get her life back on track and is a role model to other young people.

Paige said: “I love working with the younger people coming through Oasis. Some of them look up to me because I have come so far. I explain to them how it was with me and they find that very inspirational. I am excited about my future for the first time, and I am so proud at this moment in my life.”

Another project, TIDAL in Toombridge, recently received almost £178,000. Mum of five Geraldine McCoy has been part of TIDAL for years and is helping others talk about their mental health on their new project. She was 32 and working as a primary school teacher when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had to give up her beloved teaching career, and struggled to control her condition while dealing with family life.

Geraldine said: “Being committed to TIDAL has stopped me from going into my usual pattern of isolating myself. Now when I’m depressed I will push myself to get out of the house and I come to the TIDAL garden – I can still have my own space and not talk to anyone if I don’t feel like it – but the important thing is that I’m out of the house and I’ve got people around me if I need them, and I’m doing something productive. If other people can experience this at TIDAL too then we are changing lives.”

Geraldine in the TIDAL gardens with her daughter.

Another inspirational woman, 43 year old Moya Murphy, from Co Down, suffered a devastating brain injury 11 years ago. Against all odds Moya has learnt how to walk, eat and read again and is now living independently. Moya credits much of her determination to recover and take on new challenges to Head Injury Support who received almost £180,000 from Big Lottery Fund.

Moya said: “Before the brain haemorrhage I was an adventurous person — I had trekked in the Amazon rainforest — and I never thought I’d have the ability to be that person again. But Head Injury Support organised for me to go gliding, horse riding and do a zip line which I would never have attempted to do on my own. I feel very proud of myself and every day I feel grateful for my life. I’m very lucky that I survived and that my son still has a mother.”

Head Injury Support gave Moya the confidence to apply to college where she hopes to do a psychology degree. She wants to use her experiences to be a brain injury counsellor and help other survivors through their recovery.

Moya with Head Injury Support centre manager Siobhan Murphy

We’re able to fund these projects and help people like Paige, Geraldine and Moya thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players.

Share your inspirational story with us by using the hashtag #IWD2017 and tagging us on social media – Twitter: @BIGNIonline or Facebook: Big Lottery Fund NI