The Big Lunch in Bradford: inclusion through food

An example of how a council gave voluntary groups and individuals a different way to engage the wider community and a framework for ongoing engagement through events to share food.

Bradford as a district is home to people from many different cultural and economic backgrounds. It has a growing population which is the youngest in UK, and is a geographically diverse community. Significantly we wanted to increase opportunities for residents from different areas and background to meet and spend time getting to know each other.

Inclusion is vitally important for a district such as Bradford and proactively countering the potential for misunderstanding. Our question was ‘How do we increase opportunities for people to celebrate and communicate across communities in Bradford?’

We came across The Big Lunch, and thought ‘What a great idea, we should do something!’ It’s such a simple idea, neighbours getting together to share food, and it can be adapted for different places and different audiences. It’s immediately accessible, food brings everyone together, and you can eat whatever you want. The idea of encouraging lots of little things, rather than one big one, felt like the right way to make truly resident-led change.

In the past, we’ve not had many Big Lunches happening organically, so we considered what would help stimulate more. Voluntary groups felt like the most likely collection of people to make something happen, but they are all strapped for cash at the moment.

So we came up with a small grant scheme, presented the idea to the Safer and Stronger Communities Partnership, and secured £25,000. With this we could offer grants of £100 to £200 with a good spread across the district, as well as two large events in the city centre to raise awareness.

Overall we had 97 different Big Lunches, Big Iftar, Lunar Lunches and Great Get Together events with a good spread across the district. Many existing groups took part, as did new groups. We made sure that all events were open to anyone in their locality, not just an existing insular group. Examples included interfaith lunches, or a youth centre sitting down with older people.

The best moments were the small moments. After our big event in the city centre, when people started leaving, groups of women were still sat chatting with each other, meeting new people, reclaiming a public space and doing something out of the ordinary. It was hugely impactful watching them sharing a magical experience, and feeling safe in their city.

We tried a last-minute exercise, inviting people to discover more in common with another person, using posters to hold up and take photos with for social media. This had a lot of impact on Facebook and Twitter. It’s important to encourage people to have fun together!

The Safer and Stronger Communities Partnership has agreed to a similar scheme in 2018, this is likely to be for a smaller amount, partly due to resources and partly as we found that people don’t need as much as we expected.

We kept the Area Committees involved throughout, with discussions held at meetings, and Members are keen and eager to support the ongoing idea. Our Area Teams bring people together for activities such as street cleaning and we hope in this next round will bring whole streets together for Big lunches too. Through all of this we want to encourage people to get to know their neighbours better regardless of their backgrounds and enjoy the differences and what they have in common.

Photos from the two city centre events can be found here


Bradford City Council

Amria Khatun, [email protected]

The Big Lunch

Peter Lefort, [email protected]


This case study has been developed in conjunction with Arts Council England