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Community Champion Laura is the Face of Nationwide Initiative

Written by on May 29, 2020

Last June, over 45,000 people from Northampton took part in one of the 752 Big Lunch community events that happened across the region.

One such event was organised by writer and community champion Laura Graham, who is now fronting a campaign encouraging people to stay connected during lockdown.

Laura is the face, and the voice, of a poem to help launch The Big ‘Virtual’ Lunch, taking place on June 6-7. You can see Laura’s poem here

Laura, who has lived in Northampton on and off for 15 years, is founder of the Happy Hood – Positive Northampton news made by positive Northampton people.  She has been hosting a Big Lunch since 2017, a UK-wide initiative aimed at getting neighbours and communities together once a year for lunch.

“I’m a huge believer in strong communities and having that connection to others around us,” says Laura. “It’s helped with my own self-confidence.”

Laura has hosted three Big Lunch street parties, but she knows that this year is going to be different. “I am so proud of my street and the way everyone gets involved in The Big Lunch every year. The aim is to bring the whole street together and it works brilliantly.  We are hoping to do something this year but we just have to wait and see what life will be like in June.  The main priority is keeping everyone safe, so we are thinking about making it a true virtual event and jumping online to do some digital dining together, or we might raise a cuppa from our doorsteps. Either way we will do something.”

Laura was just 26 when she lost her mum to breast cancer, an event which fundamentally changed her and made her appreciate the importance of a local support network.

“I have had bouts of depression and I have definitely felt lonely,” she admits. “I volunteer for Age UK Northamptonshire so I see a lot of social isolation in older people, but that can happen in younger people too.  That’s why it is so important to stay connected and take part in community events.”

The Big Lunch, an idea from the Eden Project, made possible by The National Lottery, usually attracts millions of people across the UK. Last year over 6 million people took part in 100,000 Big Lunch events. This summer for the first time in its 10 year history, The Big Lunch will become The Big ‘Virtual’ Lunch, with online events running across June 6-7.

In the film to help launch The Big ‘Virtual’ Lunch, Laura lyrically muses on the change of circumstances from this time last year, but ends on a positive note…. “No one knows when life will restart, so let’s have lunch together…. even if we’re apart”.

Laura is delighted that the event hasn’t been cancelled: “As humans, we are social creatures,” she says. “I think we’ve realised that now more than ever. We know that connecting with people is great for our wellbeing and overall happiness and that applies even if we are connecting digitally. We don’t know who might really need the connection at this time and The Big ‘Virtual’ Lunch gives everyone the perfect reason to reach out.

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