Big Lunch 2017 season kicked off this weekend with hundreds of Big Lunches boosting community spirit in cities, towns, villages and rural areas in every county.

Mary Kerrigan held her first Big Lunch in the blazing Sunshine last week with lots of local residents and volunteers of the project.

The Eden Project idea, funded by the National Lottery thanks to National lottery players, encourages people across the UK to slow down once a year on Big Lunch Day to celebrate community by sharing food, fun and friendship with their neighbours. The idea has really caught on across Northern Ireland with Big Lunches being planned in every city and county.

Mary Kerrigan held her Seven Streets Feast as part of Eden Project’s National Lottery funded initiative The Big Lunch 2017 last week.

A spokesperson for the The Big Lunch said: "The whole community came out and showcased their talents, from kitchen talents to dancing, cooking up giant bubbles and just celebrating community spirit, kindness and positivity at a time when it is sorely needed.

"Mary came and met our Northern Ireland Great Big Walk leaders Noel Johnston and Olivia Cosgrove when they were walking through Derry.

"They completed their 684 mile journey across England and around Northern Ireland highlighting the good work of dozens of community groups who are helping people from diverse backgrounds find common ground and build community initiatives from there.

"This was the second Seven Streets Feast for Mary and her neighbours. They held cross community street party with her neighbours last August and invited the local Syrian refugees. 20 Syrians joined about 50 neighbours for a car-free, afternoon of food, music and dancing in the street.'

Derry woman Mary Kerrigan who hosted the feast said: "The Syrian's presence was the icing on the cake of a fantastic day. One of our younger neighbours, a young boy called Joseph (aged 9) - who was the first child into the street in the morning on his bike once the cars had been removed - returned five times that evening, each time bearing increasingly profuse gifts of gratitude for the party.

"This year my neighbours young and old thought it was even better than last year. It is my hope that our Big Lunch street party can encourage others in the Derry area and beyond to take the initiative and start their own."

Grainne McCloskey, the Big Lunch Northern Ireland manager said: "People from every neighbourhood across Northern Ireland are already getting involved. Don’t let your area be left without a party this year! All it takes is for one or two people in an area to get the ball rolling and everyone brings something to the table."

The Big Lunch 2017 joined the Great Get Together - an event celebrating commonality inspired by former MP Jo Cox, who said that we have, 'more in common than that which divides us'. Jo Cox was murdered on the 18th of June last year and her family set up The Great Get Together with the Big Lunch and other partners, to celebrate her life and all that she stood for.

Although the main date for the Big Lunch is the 18th of June this year, people can apply for and receive a free Big Lunch planning pack, thanks to National Lottery funding, and hold their Big Lunch on any date that suits their neighbourhood. Sign up for a pack at http://www.thebiglunch.com

For more information please visit the facebook page: http://facebook.com/thebiglunchnorthernireland or visit http://www.thebiglunch.com

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