Local events are a great way to bring communities closer together. Whether you want to raise funds for a worthy cause, bring about positive change in your area, celebrate something special or simply get to know your neighbours, a community event will help rally the masses.
Deciding what type of event you should hold will depend on your goals, as well as the size and demographic of your target audience. However, here are 10 tried and trusted ideas for community events that should help get everyone together. For further ideas, tips and tricks for community events, join the discussion over industry forum EventTribe.
1. Host a street party
Street parties or ‘block parties’ are said to have originated in New York at the start of World War 1. Entire blocks were roped off so a parade and patriotic singing could be held to honour the members of that block who had gone off to war. In the UK, street parties started in 1919 as ‘Peace Teas’ after the war as a treat for children in those times of hardship, and were formal sit down affairs.
From then onwards, street parties were commonly held in England and Wales on all major national days of celebration, such as the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953 and the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981.
Street parties are now being held at any time, for all ages, to build community spirit at the street level. They are a more relaxed affair with attendees asked to bring a dish to share or with a barbecue arranged. According to Streets Alive, a resource for street party planning, Bristol is the UK’s street party capital with around 150 held each year.
The government has produced a step-by-step guide for anyone looking to hold a street party, which can be downloaded here.
2. Put on a film screening
Who doesn’t enjoy watching a great movie on a big screen with a tub of tasty popcorn? You can organise a film screening at a local school, church, community centre or even outside, under the stars. Choose to screen a recent blockbuster or go for an old classic and embrace a theme, like ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ with guests encouraged to come in fancy dress.
On the other hand, if you have a message to get across or are marking a particular occasion you can choose a relevant movie i.e. ‘The Dam Busters’ to commemorate Remembrance Day or ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ to raise awareness about living with cancer.
But don’t forget, under UK copyright law, if you are playing films outside your domestic or home circle, you will need to obtain a licence to do so (even for free of charge events and fundraisers).
You can apply online for a Single Title Screening Licence (STSL) – prices start at £83 (plus £150 refundable deposit). For a full price list click here.
3. Organise a pub quiz
A quiz night with general knowledge questions can appeal to a broad audience, or you can target particular groups by focusing on specialist subjects, such as football or music. Theming your quiz can also give it an extra edge; for example, how about holding one on Halloween with questions about horror films, along with spooky decorations to get everyone in the spirit!
The hardest part of holding a quiz night is inevitably writing the questions. If you research your own trivia on the internet, then be careful how you select the sites you choose to get the questions from. Do not just crib from the first list of horror movie facts you come across – your participants may well have been on the same website!
Alternatively, you can buy a pre-made quiz pack. Quizpacks.co.uk offers a ‘Quiz of the Month’ with a mix of general knowledge questions or a ‘Bespoke Quizpack’ where you can choose from a range of different topics for each round category.
4. Gather a gardening gang
If there’s a green space in your community that has seen better days, why not organise a group of volunteers to restore it to its former glory? Digging out weeds, picking litter and planting flowers will transform it into something for all to enjoy and encourage people to take an active part in caring for their local area.
Or perhaps your child’s school has an unused area of playing field that could be put to better use? Approach the PTA about turning it into a vegetable patch with the help of parents and pupils, growing produce for school dinners while teaching the children about where food comes from.
Alternatively, bring everybody together to brighten up your street by holding a ‘make a hanging basket’ event. Challenge all your neighbours to get involved and award a prize for the best blooms.
5. Hold a swap shop
Holding a swapping event can have both social and environmental benefits for your community. Not only does it minimise the number of unwanted items going to landfill, but it also helps those in need – according to official statistics, there are 4 million children in the UK living in households that cannot afford to replace worn out or broken furniture and electrical items.
A swap shop is a cashless local event where people exchange unwanted items for something they do want. Not everyone needs to bring something – the more takers the better it will mean you will have very little left over at the end.
You may choose to have an event at a specific venue or simply a day when everyone puts their unwanted items out on the street and anyone can take what they want.
Just remember to notify the local council first and arrange for the anything not claimed to be taken to a local charity shop or furniture reuse organisation afterwards.
Recycle for Greater Manchester has put together a great guide on running swap shops, which can be accessed here.
6. Organise an arts & crafts festival
In every community, there are budding artists and craft enthusiasts that you could bring together by creating your own arts & crafts festival.
The term arts & crafts covers such a magnitude of different disciplines, that there really isn’t anything stopping you setting up stalls selling anything you want; from pottery to watercolours, knitted wear to jewellery, there’ll be something for everyone to buy.
A community in Highams Park created a community arts festival and managed to get a local street artist hub to come down and create some live art. If you’re trying to reach younger members of the community, live street art is a great way to get them to your festival.
Many street artist newcomers may work for free in order to build some publicity, if you will be adding a charitable element to the festival, the artist may even let you auction or raffle off their artwork.
The Highams Park Arts Festival also included installations throughout the town, most of which were interactive requiring the community to get crafty themselves and add to the pieces. This is a great way to get people to walk around different parts of town, as well as making them part of the festival itself.
7. Use a themed day
There are a multitude of different themed days you could utilise, you only need to check out the website ‘Days of the Year‘ to see how many different “National’ days are out there.
A firm favourite, which will also help your local library, is World Book Day. The best way to get the community involved is by getting everyone to dress as their favourite character from any book they choose. This could mean dressing as Where’s Wally, The Cat in the Hat, Mr Darcy even! The possibilities are endless!
Invite local authors, or even famous authors who have ties to your community. You can organise a selection of readings with an open-mic night, and why not organise a poetry competition and get a local bookshop to donate prizes?
8. Organise a performance
Amateur dramatics has been a long standing part of the community, so why not gather some aspiring thespians together and organise a show?
This doesn’t have to be on a stage in the community hall, why not change things up and create a walking performance? Get the audience to follow a set course around town, where they can watch parts of the play in certain areas. Have your actors do scenes or interact with the audience in-between stops, making them part of the performance.
Use the seasons to your advantage to entice people to see your performance. Everyone loves getting into the Christmas Spirit around December, so why not perform ‘A Christmas Carol’? Or you could make use of a nearby forest or gardens to perform ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ when the summer months are here.
9. Food Festival/Farmer’s Market
Who can say no to delicious food? Especially when the town is filled with the most amazing smells!
Whether you get some local farmers, caterers or local food shops together, this is a great way to highlight the local produce and local sellers in the area. As well as getting to eat all the delicious food at the event, people will know they will be able to buy this produce locally on any other given day.
Why not think Great British Bake Off and ask the community to create their own showstopper cakes and raffle them off. No one can turn down cake, especially if you have a tea stand nearby!
10. Fireworks / Bonfire Night
Fireworks always bring in the crowds. There is something about lighting up the sky that just amazes people. Add a bonfire to the equation and you have a perfect winter event. Serve hearty food like jacket potatoes, with a hot chocolate (maybe a Baileys hot chocolate for the adults) and you’ll keep the crown fed, watered, and more importantly, warm!
You may be limited to using fireworks to certain nights of the year like Guy Fawkes Night and New Year’s Eve, but there isn’t anything stopping you having your own bonfire night with all the added activities to go with it, like lighting sparklers and toasted marshmallows.
Holding a community event is well worth the effort. Whether you’re organising it on behalf of your organisation, club, church or just for your neighbourhood, bringing people together in this way helps create a more caring and inclusive community. Ultimately, it can make your local area a nicer place to live.
Remember that Eventbrite offers you all the tools you need for organising your community event. This includes your own free-of-charge professional event page and registration and ticketing system, as well as facilities to help you promote your event. Click here to get started! And if you’re new to organising events, learn how to create an event plan with our handy template.