Ormeau Park Bowling Pavilion was filled with the sights, sounds and smells from across the globe as the first International Big Lunch took place. Alongside tasty foods from seven countries, the event celebrated the cultural diversity of the south and east Belfast areas, with performances and crafts drawn from all across the world.
The event, organised by Radius Housing and Apex Housing, with the support of Belfast City Council, brought together tenants from the Ravenhill Shared Housing Developments and participants from a range of backgrounds in the wider community to promote cultural diversity and awareness as part of Good Relations Week.
In organising the event, Radius Housing and Apex Housing worked with a range of local community & voluntary and faith based organisations, who work with BME groups, refugee and asylum seekers and indigenous families in the Ravenhill area. The key aim of the event was to help the 200 invited guests learn about a range of cultures through the medium of food, dance, music and craft.
The International Big Lunch is one of a number of good relations events which the housing associations have held in recent years to help develop positive local community relations around the Ravenhill Shared Developments, which include Radius Housing’s development in Global Crescent extending to Cantrell Close, Ravenhill Avenue and Miller Street and Apex Housing’s development in Ballynafoy Close. The project is supported through the NI Executive Together: Building a United Community Strategy, which reflects the Executive’s commitment to improving community relations and continuing the journey towards a more united and shared society.
Speaking at the event, Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Kate Nicholl said: “I’ve set out to help make Belfast a more inclusive, more forward thinking and a kinder city during my term of office and today’s International Big Lunch has been a really joyous affirmation of the kindness we’re capable of in Belfast. Building shared communities where there’s not only mutual respect, but friendship, trust and support is so important, especially as our city becomes increasingly diverse. Well done to Radius Housing, Apex Housing and all of the people involved in organising such an uplifting event as part of Good Relations Week.”
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey, said “The Executive is committed to building a shared society, and providing shared housing with associated Good Relations events such as this, is an important component of that. The Ballynafoy Close and Global Crescent shared housing developments in the Ravenhill area of Belfast demonstrates the commitment of delivering an ambitious shared housing programme. I want to build more high quality housing developments, including shared schemes and hold further Good Relations events to bring our communities together, consistent with New Decade New Approach.”
Radius Housing’s Director of Communities, Loma Wilson added: “the areas of south and east Belfast are among the most diverse communities in Northern Ireland, which is why events like the International Big Lunch are so important. Today we have seen people from far and wide across the world who have made this community their home, along with people who have been born and bred here, coming together to sample the taste of so many cultures.
“Building strong and resilient communities is central to the work we do at Radius Housing, and it is particularly important in shared housing projects such as Global Crescent. Through experience we can learn so much and with this event we are celebrating the diverse cultures that make up this area and making sure that acceptance and understanding is central to how we all think and act.”
Sheena McCallion, Chief Executive of Apex Housing Association, commented: “It’s a pleasure to be here at today’s event to witness the coming together of so many different cultures in the heart of Belfast. Ballynafoy Close was the very first shared housing development in Northern Ireland and its tenants welcomed the choice to live together; acting as pioneers in the development of shared communities. It’s wonderful to see those tenants here today at such a vibrant and inclusive event, helping to build even stronger community relations in the wider Ravenhill area.”
Organisations involved in the International Big Lunch included Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NIACRO), Belfast Health & Social Care Trust Ethnic Minority Worker and Chinese Community, Alternatives Restorative Justice and East Belfast Family Support Hub, East Belfast Men’s Shed, Lagan Village Youth & Community Group, St Vincent De Paul supporting refugee and asylum seeker families, Willowfield Church and Indian Women’s Association Belfast