By Grainne McCloskey, The Big Lunch NI
Two women from two communities on one of the most troubled interfaces in Northern Ireland are set to throw a street party this summer in a bid to tackle division and nurture friendships.
The two Jackies belong to the Belfast Interface Project and are planning to take part in the The Big Lunch, which is the UK’s annual get-together for neighbours, an idea from the Eden Project made possible by The Big Lottery Fund. It’s the perfect recipe for having fun with your neighbours, feeding community spirit and helping to build stronger neighbourhoods.
Together, the two Jackies hope to provide an opportunity for young and old to have fun and enjoy what they have in common.
Jackie Upton, from the Lower Newtownards Road, said: “The Big Lunch is going to be social and it’s going to be fun.
“There are ongoing issues associated with this interface, with different homes being attacked in both areas. It’s frightening for people.
“A lot of people’s efforts concentrate on difficult issues but this will be a way to come together more informally – it’s about meeting people and chatting, there will be no stress, and because of that it will help break down barriers.”
Jacqui O’Donnell, from the Short Strand, said: “Living on an interface comes with its own pressure – they are often the site of violence but not always the source. People here want to develop good relationships with all those who live nearby. I believe the Big Lunch can help with that. The solution to issues here is far from being as simple as taking the peace walls down, what is vital is creating opportunities for people to build relationships.
“I’m a great believer in cross-community work, and I believe that the younger kids are when they get involved in cross community activity the better because you can get them playing and growing up together. I live and work in the Short Strand and I know what it is like to raise kids here.”
Having started in 2009, The Big Lunch is now becoming an annual tradition and you and your own neighbours are welcome to host your own Big Lunches on Sunday June 7th 2015.
The idea is so simple it is often dismissed and yet independent research has shown those who take part in a Big Lunch often go on to get more involved and give back more at a local level. The Big Lunch really is creating social good.
Get started by ordering the free pack funded by the Big Lottery Fund and sponsored by ASDA and Halifax and have a Big Lunch in your own area – simply visit http://www.thebiglunch.com.
or call 0845 850 8181 to speak to one of the team.