Tim Smit: Breaking bread together will break down community barriers

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The Independent Online

Imagine a summer's day on which millions of us, throughout the UK, sit down to have lunch together with our neighbours: in the middle of our streets, around our tower blocks and on every patch of common ground. The food, entertainment, music and decorations we will have grown, cooked, or created ourselves. That's why The Big Lunch project is asking the people of Britain to stop what they're doing and sit down to lunch together, with friends and neighbours in July.

Most of us are shy, many of us lead single lives and even when we are together, we often go our own way. We all know about the problems in our society and don't need to be preached at. But inside almost everyone there is a notion that despite our fabulous differences, the ties that bind us are important.

The shared enjoyment of food, laughter, play, music and conversation brings us together and reminds us of a simple truth – together we are strong. Wouldn't it be great if for just one day we reminded ourselves of all that is good about people and brought about a moment that ignited a spark?

What matters is that everyone has fun and expresses a talent. Community comes from the Latin word communio meaning "together in gift". We aim to include the widest range of communities: the whole gamut of prisons, hospitals, picture-postcard villages and anonymous suburban streets. It may be tricky and feel uncomfortable to start with. It takes courage to stop being a stranger, But think of the prize – to be able to walk down the street and into the wider neighbourhood and realise how people can create a real sense of community.

The mood of the nation has been made incredibly gloomy by the games in the finance system, which have left us all open-mouthed at the shenanigans of the fat cats. If only they had used their creativity to some public good. We want The Big Lunch to be a very public demonstration of what all us thin cats can do – leaving the nation open-mouthed for all the right reasons – good conversation, neighbourly gossip and the eating of good food in a friendly atmosphere. The art of doing this well is that people should just do what comes naturally and it shouldn't cost the earth. The only real cost should be time and isn't that a price worth paying?

The Big Lunch will take place on Sunday 19 July 2009. Tim Smit is the chief executive of the Eden Project