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The Big Walk visited some amazing projects in NI this week

May 25, 2018

By Helen-Rose Owen, Big Lottery Fund NI


It’s been a busy week for #TeamNI of #TheBigWalk. We were totally thrilled that the walker for Northern Ireland, @Michael_Conlon, and the team stopped at some fantastic projects who received funding through

the National Lottery.

On Friday 18th May, The Big Walk team arrived in Belfast! Check out the photos from their very busy day here.

The team stopped at New Lodge and Duncairn Health Initiative (NLDCHP) during their walk in Belfast, who are funded by the Big Lottery Fund. NLDCHP were awarded £696,836 of money raised by National Lottery players for their project, Supporting Families North Belfast. Over five years, the group will work with families and children across North Belfast to improve their health – both physical and emotional.

By working with local health and wellbeing organisations, NLDCHP will teach children and their parents and carers about nutrition, physical activity and stress management. The project will boost children’s confidence and improve their resilience. Kids will be able to cope better when things get difficult, an important investment for their future mental health.

On Wednesday 23rd May, the Big Walk team visited The Escapists in Fermanagh. The Escapists are a group of women carers who come together to support each other through the ups and downs of caring for a loved one. The Escapists received £35,325 from the Big Lottery Fund in January last year for their project, Me Time. With this relatively small pot of money, they’ve developed a powerful programme that has a real and positive impact on the women it serves.

Have a look at some of the photos taken during the stop at

Caring for a loved one can be a full time job and it can be hard for carers to take time off from their responsibilities. The Escapists offer that chance, giving the women some time away – even for just a couple of hours a week.

“Our aim is to support parents of children and adults with learning difficulties or to any unpaid carer with a heavy caring burden. We’re committed to improving the holistic wellbeing of carers and their loved ones, and supporting carers’ continued personal development,” explains Clare McGovern from the Escapists. “We give carers a chance to relax and meet other carers who are in the same boat. We understand each other! It gives the carers time to chat and have fun and have a cuppa.”


On Thursday 24th, Michael and the team had a very special assignment. He dropped in for a surprise visit to St Eoghan’s Primary School in Draperstown and presented them with a cheque for £10,000!

Watch their reaction to the news here

Paschal Diamond, Principal from St Eoghan’s Primary school said, ‘Getting funding from the National Lottery is fantastic news for our school. It will make such a difference to our outdoor learning space and will allow us to open the school up to become a hub of activity for everyone in the community.’

On Friday 25th, Big Walk team dropped in on an incredible project based in Ballymoney.

Compass Advocacy Network (CAN) are one of many projects funded by the Big Lottery Fund who work with young people with disabilities. CAN help to give young people the power to become self-advocates and gain valuable employment skills whilst they develop their self-esteem and confidence.

Janet Schofield, CEO of CAN, says: “Young people with a learning disability struggle when it comes to leaving school, leaving children’s services and moving into adult services – it’s a massive leap. CAN Pathways will provide a person centred approach to planning that transition by discovering the dreams and aspirations of the young person and the support they want and need to enable them to get the life they choose.”

All of this amazing work has been made possible thanks to National Lottery players. We at the Big Lottery Fund love to support projects that support people to realise their own dreams and ambitions.

The Eden Project calls for communities in Northern Ireland to reclaim “Sunday Lunch” and bring people closer together

April 30, 2018






Guest blog by Grainne McCloskey, NI Manager for The Eden Project

New research shows that only 58% of us in Northern Ireland sit down to Sunday lunch every week. Now Eden Project Communities is urging local communities to “Reclaim Sunday Lunch” and use it to bring communities closer together and tackle loneliness and isolation.

The research carried out online by YouGov Plc during February 2018 also shows:

  • Over half of us (52%) in Northern Ireland sat down to Sunday lunch more often as a child than we do now
  • 7% now have Sunday lunch less than once every two months, while 9% admit to never having Sunday lunch.

Despite this, many of us still recognise the benefits of communal eating with three quarters (74%) agreeing Sunday Lunch is about getting together with loved ones. 75% say that the food is the key ingredient for a successful Sunday lunch while 75% also say that the people we eat with are key.  Getting people together is one of the most effective ways of tackling the growing crisis around loneliness and social isolation. A recent study by The Co-op and the British Red Cross showed over 9 million adults in the UK of all ages – more than the population of London – are either always or often lonely.

Pacemaker Press Belfast 07-05-2015: A VE-Day themed Big Lunch, in conjunction with Belfast City Council, at the NI War Memorial in Belfast. Pictured at the event Liz Weir and Grainne .
Picture By: Arthur Allison.

That’s why Eden Project Communities is calling for all of us to reclaim Sunday Lunch and bring it back as a chance to get together – with who we want, when we want and eating and drinking whatever they fancy. Why not join millions of others across the UK and sit down to have lunch with your neighbours as part of The Big Lunch on Sunday 3rd June 2018, the UK’s biggest annual get together for neighbours. Order your free pack at


Eden Project network member and Big Lunch advocate Liz Weir is passionate about the Big Lunch and its role in reviving community spirit. She will be hosting her third Big Lunch this June at her home Ballyeamon Barn, which is a writer’s retreat and hostel in Glenariff Forest.

“When I was a child the family gathered together for meals,” said Liz.” There was no TV in the house when I was growing up, and people would come round and entertain each other.

“I’m bringing those days back. Every weekend, people come from all over to gather in my house. We have tea and coffee and biscuits and old and young alike take it in turns to tell their stories and sing their songs. Sometimes they are folk tales, sometime ghost stories or recitations of poems.”

“Nowadays we share food and tales with people from several countries at our Big Lunch. The fact that people come together to prepare and share food from Poland, South Africa, Germany, Slovakia, Italy, USA, France warms my heart.”

The Big Lunch – an idea from The Eden Project made possible by The National Lottery – will be held this year on Sunday 3 June, aiming to beat last year’s record involvement of 9.3 million people across the UK. The annual event encourages people to get together with others in their neighbourhoods to share food and fun.

Julie Harrison, Chair of Big Lottery Fund Northern Ireland, said:
“Whether two people or two hundred, sitting down together to eat and talk is important for individual people, families and communities. This is why we are supporting the Big Lunch, which provides the perfect opportunity for people to build connections, spark friendships and lay the foundations that enable communities to thrive.”

Visit the Big Lunch website to order your free event pack and to find out more.


5 top tips from our #BIGNIFunding campaign

December 1, 2017

We have been asking staff from Big Lottery Fund and successful National Lottery funded projects for their top tips on applying for funding.

This blog shares the latest 5 top tips from our #BIGNIFunding campaign.  If you missed the start, you can catch up with a roundup of the first 10 tips.

#11   We fund constituted not-for-profit organisations, but they don’t need to be registered charities.

#12  We can’t process your application form if the name on the form is different from the name on the attachments you provide.

#13  Paul Johnston from Monkstown Boxing Club shares their approach to finding out about challenges and developing ideas for their application to our Empowering Young People programme.

#14  Find a funding source that suits your project idea.  This helps to make sure your project is truly people led. You should not develop your project to fit a specific programme.

#15  Successful grant applicant, Shiela Smyth, explains how The Right Key made good use of local people’s skills and energy and got them involved in the design and delivery of their People and Communities project.

Keep following our #BIGNIFunding campaign in the new year on facebook and twitter

To find out more about our funding, visit our website.

You can contact the Big Lottery Fund advice team in Northern Ireland by emailing or telephoning 028 9055 1455 and selecting option 2.  Our team is available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Attention all Grant Holders…. Here’s our five top tips to help you share your success

November 17, 2017

Congratulations on getting National Lottery funding!

You’re now part of a family of fantastic organisations that are making communities across the UK better places to be.  Here are our five top tips to help you share the good news about your project getting funding and let the public know how they are making life better in their community by playing National Lottery games.


1. Tell the world on Social Media

Social Media is an excellent way to get word out about your project’s success.  You can use this to share your stories, photos and videos quickly and relatively easily.

Use the hashtag #NationalLottery to show where the funding is from.  Remember to tag us on Twitter @BIGNIonline and Facebook @BIGLotteryFundNI and also tag any groups you work with as this will help to get the message out.

2. Talk to your customers


Word of mouth is probably the best way to celebrate your projects success. Remember your customers are your ambassadors and will tell their friends and family about the work you are doing to transform lives within communities. Make sure you tell them where your funding has come from so they can let people know what National Lottery money doing in their community.

3. Get in touch with your local press

Your local press is a fantastic way to get word out to your community.  You can share your story with your local newspaper or news outlet. If you’ve never written a press release before you can find some guidance on our website.

4. Use the logo
New Logo (Blue)Only groups who receive funding from Big Lottery Fund can use our logo.  Using this logo will help you to get word of your success out across Northern Ireland. The logo is available to download from our website in a range of different formats so you can use it on everything from your letter heads to banner stands, from your website to your social media channels.  There is also range of branded items that you can order from us for free to help you with your launch events and photo opportunities.

5. Chat to the people who sell National Lottery tickets in your area

Get in touch with your local National Lottery Retailer and let them know that you’ve received funding – it could be your local newsagent, supermarket or shop. They may even be happy to display some information about the work that you’ll be doing with the National Lottery funding

I hope you have found our 5 tops tips helpful.  Remember that we are here to help and support you at every step of the way when you are sharing your success. We share your stories, photos and videos on our blog, ebulletin and website.  We are here and are always happy to answer any queries you may have.

Feel free to contact our Communications Team using the contact details below.


Call: 028 9055 1455 (select option 2)

Twitter: @BIGNIonline



10 funding tips from our staff and successful projects

October 13, 2017

The Big Lottery Fund distributes 40% of National Lottery good causes funding.  The groups we fund are transforming communities and making a difference to people’s lives. To help applicants in Northern Ireland, we are sharing advice from our staff and successful projects.

Here is a roundup of ten top tips from our #BIGNIFunding campaign….

#1 You don’t need to have your pitch ready before you get in touch with us about your idea


#2 If you are applying to the Awards for All Northern Ireland programme, remember to attach a recent copy of a bank statement for the account the grant will be paid into.


#3 You don’t need to pay someone to fill in your form.  Contact us if you need help!


#4 Talk to other groups in your area and see if you can work together to have the greatest impact.


#5 You don’t need to use buzzwords to make your application sound ‘better’.  Answer the questions in your own words.


#6 Aileen from Off the Streets gives you her advice on putting young people in the lead.


#7 This will make you rethink your approach to planning a project – see our people in the lead film.


#8 Check out our very quick video guide about the application process for Awards for All.


#9 Hear from one of our successful projects about how to approach your #funding application.


#10 Read the guidance carefully. Contact us if you need advice.


….. and we have more great tips to come, so keep following our #BIGNIFunding campaign on facebook and twitter

To find out more about our funding, visit our website

You can contact the Big Lottery Fund advice team in Northern Ireland by emailing or telephone 028 90551455 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm).