Tuesday, June 25, 2024


A NEWCASTLE teenager was invited to a very special event at Enniskillen Castle last week, when she was in the presence of The King and Queen. Fourteen-year-old Kate Connolly, who was accompanied by her mum Kathy Black, was among the guests at the celebratory event, which saw the Royal couple honouring people who volunteer in their communities.

Kate was invited in recognition of her volunteering efforts for The Big Lunch. As Duchess of Cornwall, Her Majesty has been patron of The Big Lunch initiative since 2013, with the annual community celebration moving to 6-8 May this year in honour of the Coronation.

At the event, Kate had the opportunity to join in with a very special Big Lunch, where Their Majesties spoke to community organisers from across Northern Ireland, found out more about the roles they play in their communities and thanked them for their support for the Coronation Big Lunch this year.

The local teenager also spent time connecting with other Big Lunch organisers from Northern Ireland, with the group discussing experiences, advice and highlights from their Big Lunches and volunteering activity over the years. Hosted at Enniskillen Castle, where a special Coronation Big Lunch was held earlier this month, the event was also a chance for The King and Queen to reflect on the rich heritage of Fermanagh and meet other people in the community giving up their time for voluntary, environmental and heritage projects. Reflecting on the event, Kate Connolly said: “I love to volunteer at The Big Lunch as it helps to bring people together and connect. It brings positivity and joy around neighbourhoods!” Also in attendance was Paula Nixon of County Down Rural Community Network and Katrina McIlmail from Bright, near Ardglass.

Speaking afterwards, Paula said: “ County Down Rural Community Network is delighted to support the Big Lunch campaign. We had an amazing day meeting great community leaders who are making positive changes in their own communities. Thank you Eden Project for a fantastic day.” Katrina added that it was “a special day”. “It was a great opportunity to attend this event with our gorgeous son Max. We enjoyed chatting to everyone on such a special day in beautiful Fermanagh,” she said. Grainne McCloskey, from Eden Project Communities, which organises The Big Lunch, said she was delighted that the specially invited guests, such as Kate, Paula and Katrina, were honoured by The King and Queen. “Since 2009, people across Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK have been bringing their communities together for The Big Lunch annually, with community spirit blossoming as a result. “The organisers invited today are a shining example of what can be achieved when we reach out to our neighbours, whether it’s a reduction in loneliness, valuable funds raised for good causes or people coming together to make improvements to where they live,” she said.

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