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Bromley street shows neighbourly love with annual Big Lunch

PUBLISHED: 12:48 09 May 2013 | UPDATED: 12:48 09 May 2013

Residents tuck into their annual big lunch in Pope Road.

Residents tuck into their annual big lunch in Pope Road.

Archant

How well do you know your neighbours? Could you put a name to a face, or even go as far as calling them friends?

Pope Road resident Hywel Davies chats with an elderly neighbour at the first Lunch with the Pope.Pope Road resident Hywel Davies chats with an elderly neighbour at the first Lunch with the Pope.

In Pope Road, Bromley, there are around 100 homes that have come together for annual celebrations where they break bread, share stories and raise a glass, all in the name of getting to know one and other.

The summer Big Lunch celebrations, launched in 2009 by the Eden Project, aim to bring communities across the country closer together and it was that neighbourly spirit that sparked Pope Road’s first street party.

“A neighbour my age saw my house was a dump when I first moved in and invited me over for dinner one day as I was fixing it up,” said organiser Tony Mitchell.

“I had seen an advert and we said how good it would be to close the road down for a party. The worst that could happen was it would be just be us two eating lunch together in a deserted street.”

Tony Mitchell, with his wife Emma and their two children Hannah, nine, and six-year-old Georgia.Tony Mitchell, with his wife Emma and their two children Hannah, nine, and six-year-old Georgia.

This year will be the fifth “Lunch with the Pope” and the first since it was short-listed for a Big Lunch Community Award last month.

Though they missed out on the gong, Tony, 41, is pleased all the hard work by him and his neighbours over the past few years has been recognised.

He said: “There were 35 lunches nominated and we didn’t make the top five, but I was a very happy to be nominated. It’s a nice recognition of the effort we have been putting in.”

Pulling together each year has certainly made a difference to the street’s atmosphere, which father-of-two Tony says is more close-knit – though it’s “not quite like EastEnders” just yet.

Morning nods have been replaced by chats, and a few of the men have even formed a football team.

“We are more aware of people on the road now because we all share common experiences,” said Tony. “New people moving in just embrace it and it’s also a great way to introduce yourself to everyone.”

The first lunch in 2009 was a large-scale event with magicians, entertainers and non-stop barbecues, but it soon became clear people wanted a more modest approach.

Entertainment now consists of music, a kick-about and face painting for children as the adults prefer the chance to relax and take time to talk.

Tony said: “We chose to go all out at first and have a big street party, but you could have a Big Lunch in your back garden – it doesn’t matter.

“It’s been reeled in a bit now because people want to talk and entertain themselves.”

Pope Road’s seasoned Big Lunchers now take some of the burden off Tony, so he can just drop leaflets through doors, knowing everyone will do their bit.

This year is slightly different, with the road hosting a street play day on June 2 and the real Big Lunch in the July sunshine. To find out more, visit lunchwiththepope.org.

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