The chattiest streets are the happiest streets 10 March

March 10th 2014
The Chattiest Streets are the Happiest Streets
Speaking to our neighbours makes us happier, a study has revealed
Research carried out among 2,000 adults by The Big Lunch found that despite small talk with neighbours
not coming naturally for almost half of those questioned, two-thirds of people said it makes them feel
The study, carried out by Lottery funded initiative The Big Lunch - the UK’s annual get together for
neighbours - found that 60% make small talk with their neighbours and 52% even go out of their way to
start a conversation with a neighbour. Seven in ten of those who do make small talk claim that a simple
conversation with a neighbour makes them feel more in touch with the rest of their community.
Small talk comes more easily to the older generation – perhaps unsurprisingly - with 72% of over 55s saying
it comes naturally compared to just 35% of under 35s. Twenty per cent of under 25s say that they do not
talk at all with their neighbours.
The study of 2,000 Brits, found that although one in five said they don’t feel comfortable making small talk
with their neighbours, 21% say they are flattered by the interest when a neighbour makes the effort to talk
to them with over a quarter saying it makes them feel that they matter and are less invisible. For more
than one in twenty, talking with a neighbour is one of the highlights of their day.
Clinical Psychologist Tanya Byron comments, “It is very easy to trivialise 'small talk' as tedious and time
wasting, but in fact taking the time to have meaningful but minimal interactions is very important. These
are the conversations that have meaning and benefit our immediate community and wider society. They
are free, take no time and are impactful. These moments are humanising and are an important
acknowledgement of the individual. In taking the trouble to talk to your neighbour you may also be helping
to reduce their sense of loneliness.”
When it comes to the motivation behind small talk, one third of respondents said they wanted to talk about
something that happened locally, while only 1 in 8 used small talk as a means to an end for example asking
their neighbour for a favour.
Researchers found that weather is the most popular subject when starting a conversation, followed by
holidays and enquiring about a person’s well-being. Children, local events or the opportunity to gossip are
also among the go-to themes when making small talk.
Top ten small talk subjects
Enquiring about well-being
Your/their children
Local events happening in the community
Gossip or news about another neighbour
National news/current affairs
Crime levels in the area
The garden provides the top location for small talk occasions, whether hanging out the washing, washing
the car or other outdoor chores. Bumping in to neighbours in the local shops or pub also provides small
talk meeting points.
Sir Tim Smit KBE, Founding Director, Eden Project and co-Founder The Big Lunch, which commissioned the
research, said: ‘’The significance of small talk shouldn’t be underestimated. It might seem trivial but it can
have a powerful impact on people. Small talk might not always come easily and can be awkward to initiate,
but taking the time to start conversation can lead to big things.
“Small talk is in fact ‘big talk’ - it’s the code or tool which enables us to overcome our shyness. This is
where The Big Lunch comes in – it’s the ice-breaker that is needed to convert strangers into possible friends
or acquaintances. Feedback from previous years has shown that almost everyone who takes part in a Big
Lunch feels closer to their neighbours as a result with two thirds going on to hold other events in their
community afterwards proving it is not just about one day it’s about what happens before and after the
The small talk that happens in communities is a lifeline for many and The Big Lunch is calling on everyone in
the UK to boost the conversations happening in streets and gardens nationwide. Chatty neighbours are
being encouraged to host a Big Lunch event in their communities on Sunday 1 June to spread small talk
further and build community bonds. Anyone interested in organising a Big Lunch in their area is invited to
request a free Big Lunch pack from to get their events off the ground.
Small talk provides a lifeline for some
With more and more of us living alone, an increase in communication via e-mail and text and feelings of
loneliness on the rise, the study found that the simple act of talking to your neighbour is seen by those
questioned as not only a way to ‘brighten someone’s day’ (34%) but as a ‘lifeline’ for those who live alone
Sir Tim Smit added, ‘’Many of us take it for granted that we have jobs, friends and families – all of which act
as opportunities for social interaction. Not everyone is as fortunate. Spare a thought for the elderly, infirm,
those who are unemployed – for many, their only chance to talk to someone will be with their neighbours.”
Love thy neighbour
The Big Lunch research highlights that there is more to be done when it comes to making small talk with
our neighbours as 53% admit they have got at least one neighbour they have never said ‘hello’ or ‘good
morning’ to. One in twenty say they have never engaged in small talk with a neighbour, while another one
in twenty admits it’s been years.
The key reasons holding people back from talking to their neighbours include not knowing what to say
(36%), shyness (29%), or a lack of time (22%).
Researchers found, of those questioned, more than four in ten claimed they wish they had a better
relationship with the people living around them, while only one in ten say they are firm friends with the
person living next door.
Sir Tim Smit concludes, “At one end of the spectrum, making connections with our neighbours can help
alleviate loneliness and social isolation and create happier and safer communities. But it can also have
practical implications such as having someone you trust to feed your pets or collect your post when you are
away from home.’’
The Big Lunch – made possible by the Big Lottery Fund - is expecting millions of people to take part on
Sunday 1 June 2014. For more information about holding a Big Lunch, request a free pack online at Packs contain invitations and posters to adapt for your community, as well as seeds,
a bunting template and an inspiration booklet with lots of ideas and info to help get you started.
Notes to Editors
The Eden Project started The Big Lunch in 2009 with the belief that we’re better equipped to tackle the
challenges we face when we face them together
The Big Lunch is led by the Eden Project, funded by the Big Lottery Fund and supported by Halifax, Asda
and Streetclub by B&Q. Find out more about The Big Lunch at
The aim is simply to bring as many people as possible together for lunch with their neighbours once a
year and encourage the sharing of conversation, ideas, skills and resources
Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall is Patron of The Big Lunch
The Big Lunch takes place annually on the first Sunday in June, but events can be held on another day if
it works better for the community
3.65 million people took part in The Big Lunch 2013, which took place on Sunday 2 June
On Sunday 3 June 2012, ‘The Big Jubilee Lunch’ formed part of the official programme announced by
Buckingham Palace to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and was a huge success with 8.5 million
people taking part across the UK
Post event success research by Havas UK* highlights the success of this initiative:
 94% say it brought different generations together
 84% met new people at their Big Lunch
 Over 60% felt less isolated
 84% report a positive long term effect
See how The Big Lunch comes to life:
The Big Lunch Impact: Feeding Community Spirit:
Media Spokespeople
We can offer The Big Lunch spokespeople including Sir Tim Smit KBE, Founding Director, Eden Project and
co-Founder The Big Lunch and Peter Stewart MVO, Joint Executive Director (Interim) the Eden Project, who
are great at talking about a range of topics including:
 The who, what, when, why of The Big Lunch - as well as previous Big Lunches
 Inspirational ideas on every aspect of throwing successful street parties - from the best food to serve
up to getting reluctant neighbours on board!
 Local road closure issues affecting street parties
 The positive impact a Big Lunch can have on local community
Proof that people want to get to know their neighbours better and, for those people who have hosted a
Big Lunch, the positive impact experienced afterwards.
Media Collateral
We have a wealth of material which will help you, the journalist, to bring The Big Lunch to life. This
 Real stories of previous Big Lunches across the whole of the UK - giving a local perspective of The
Big Lunch and the longer-term benefits. We have existing case studies or can provide contact
details for you to do your own interviews;
 A Big Green Bunting Competition everyone can join in;
 Fun and colourful photography of Big Lunches from across the UK - people eating, chatting,
dancing, children playing street party games, musicians
About the Big Lottery Fund
Bringing communities together, reducing loneliness and isolation and helping to make a difference locally is
at the heart of the Big Lottery Fund’s mission. BIG is therefore delighted to invest Lottery funding into The
Big Lunch which continues to help inspire communities and neighbourhoods to come together in the simple
act of sharing a meal. Through this neighbourhood social networks will be strengthened, and a greater
sense of community cohesion will be created and people will be motivated to take more of an active role
on their doorstep.
About The Big Lunch supporters
Asda is delighted to be an official partner of The Big Lunch. Paul Kelly, External Affairs Director, Asda, said:
“Asda has a proud history of supporting local communities. Our vision is that every store and depot should
be at the heart of our local communities and we’re committed to making them better places to
live. Through our support for The Big Lunch we aim to partner with local people and help build stronger
and more sustainable communities”
Halifax supports The Big Lunch as a way to bring people together and get them talking. Halifax hope the
impacts of The Big Lunch are celebrated throughout 2014 and beyond – whether you’ve made new friends,
developed new clubs or found someone new to share a lift to work with.
Streetclub by B&Q is thrilled to have partnered with the Eden Project’s Big Lunch campaign – if Big Lunch is
the party, then is the way to get your community organised.
Contact Us
Our Big Lunch Press Office is on call to give you the latest news, case studies of Big Lunches in your area,
recipes as well as to meet your spokespeople requirements and provide photography.
For further information contact:
The Big Lunch National Press Office, Tel: 0207 420 7756 |
Helen Smith, Account Manager, Golley Slater London
Tel: 07875 586725 |