Bread Together is a grassroots co-operative. We’ve been baking bread for over ten years at the Wesley Centre in Chester.
Our community baking sessions are a space away from the everyday. A space to develop skills, have fun and share ideas. A space for people of any age to make bread together.
It has been fantastic making bread together again at the Wesley. We are having a break over the summer – the sessions re-start on Monday September 6th. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for further details and to book onto a session.
And we do one-off events – so this summer with the kind permission of Chester Cathedral we are making a small temporary clay oven at the Dean’s Field (near the Cathedral) on Fridays/Saturdays from July 23rd.
We will be working together slowly, and everyone is welcome to drop by and chat, and also help out if they wish. We hope to enjoy the chance to be outdoors together, sharing a challenge of building an oven, making some bread and also (thanks to Emma) catching the chance to do some yoga too. Please email email@example.com for further information and details.
Why Bread Together?
We spent ages deciding on our name and wanted it to sum up what makes bread making at the Wesley special. We decided it was because we’re making bread together. We wanted to express our communal identity through a logo. One of our regular bread makers, Penny, designed it for us, wielding her usual magic with her multi-coloured pens and design skills. Key to our logo was the use of as many colours as possible, to express the inclusivity which is Bread Together. It was important to reflect the diverse range of skills and life experiences which everyone brings to our bread making sessions.
Here’s Penny with a round of her wholemeal rolls. Penny consulted us as she developed her logo, bringing in drafts which we all discussed. She ended up creating this fab design which we love for its vibrancy and circle shape.
We always enjoy welcoming different visitors. In April 2019 we welcomed David Briggs, the Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire who enjoyed eating a fresh out of the oven pizza and helped out too.
In conjunction with the Wesley we’ve enjoyed two bread making workshops with a local school. We also ran a series of bespoke themed workshops at the Hawarden Farm Estate Shop, where we made specialities such as Yorkshire Spiced Bread. Often the evenings there were sunny, so it was possible to sit outside to enjoy the snacks provided by Hawarden Farm Estate Shop whilst the bread was proving. On a couple of occasions we made the bread outside (also appreciated by the local raven who flew off with a Middle Eastern bread ring!)
A video, thanks to @canteencreate, done as a test shoot this summer in Hawarden. We’re making enriched festive bread, challah….
The people who make up our wonderful bread making community are truly diverse and their life stories vary. Some joined to lend a hand, while many wanted a relaxing space to quieten their minds. The one thing that everyone has is common is a love of baking bread!
“The tables were low and everything spaced out so I realised that it would work for me. I couldn’t take my guide dog though, and it was hard without him at first. But once a system had been set up for me – like my clothes and bags being stored in the cloakroom, then everything was out of the way for me. I also got to understand the layout and the baking area – like how far away the comfy chairs were.
“I like making bread and achieving something, and meeting other people. I like helping others if they haven’t got helpers – such as by stirring and kneading. When I started out, I wondered, “How am I going to cope?” but I’ve come on leaps and bounds. It was hard to do kneading at first as I have mobility problems with my hands but I have my own technique now.
“For the first six months I just used to make white bread but after that I started making different ones, depending on the ingredients that were there. A lot of bread making is down to trial and error.
“We’re now a cooperative because we had a thought – why don’t we try to make bread to sell? We had a trial baking bread to sell using the Wesley kitchen but it’s quite tight, so we didn’t know where we could set up the micro bakery. We now bake at Vivo – they let us use their kitchen and I’ve learnt there. Our head baker Helen now sets things up before we arrive to save time. Having a trial run was good to see what works and what doesn’t.”
“I started at the community baking sessions around four or five years ago. I was doing my gold Duke of Edinburgh award and I chose baking as part of the skill section. I became chair a year ago, when we set up the co-operative.
“I enjoy making all different kinds of bread and seeing friends. I’ve made new friends of all ages and abilities. I like the sense of community.”
“Bread making is great for me as it’s voluntary so we are not under pressure to attend. It’s wonderful to help the guys and see the smiles on their faces. My working life revolved around greeting cards and the happiness they bring. I’m a big sports fan, especially cricket, football and rugby league.”
“I love seeing friends and making new friends and baking bread. I like making everything with us all at Bread Together. Friends Forever! I also love reading, puzzles and spellings, and I love exams and assessments.”
“I’ve really enjoyed going to Bread Together and meeting Andrew and Mary as well as all the other lovely bread makers. It’s one of the only places that I’ve been in a long time where I felt welcomed and accepted.
“I suffer from anxiety and depression but after attending my self- esteem lifted off the floor. There were other people with difficulties, and I thought if they can get up and dressed and make it to the bread group so can I. I met some wonderful and likeable people who always put a smile on my face.”
“I first started ten years ago but I gave it a break for a few years because I worked full time, but returned three years ago. It’s great fun and I like to muck in. Sometimes people get panicky, but the best thing is when you see their faces when the bread they’ve made comes out of the oven.”
“I volunteered two and a half years ago to be part of the steering group. I’ve been to two or three of the bread making sessions but I mainly do behind the scenes work.
“I’ve worked with people with disabilities in the past, working for Mencap for over 20 years so it was nice going back to grassroots work. It’s good reconnecting with that kind of work again. I took early retirement – voluntary redundancy, and wanted to get back into it. I wanted to socially interact with the less able.
“In the future it would be ideal to produce bread for the public. I think we need Chester to see the faces of Bread Together and get more exposure. It would be good to sell bread at late night food stalls, Friday nights for example, and Chester Indoor Market.”
“I moved to the area in 2017 from Milton Keynes and joined the group three years ago. I’d done baking in college and I used to watch The Great British Bake Off so this sparked my interest. I used to work at the Wesley in the café and I heard about the bread making sessions.
“I like the community of Bread Together, and the atmosphere in the baking sessions is really relaxed. A man called Andrew used to work at the Wesley, and he’d sometimes play his ukulele to us to help us relax. Everyone’s really nice and they hold good conversations. Baking at the Wesley has been therapeutic. It’s about connecting – not just by baking bread but with people. It gives us all the same feeling.”
Sarah F, words from her support worker
“Sarah has been bread making for over eight years. She used to go to the Wesley on Saturdays and one of the ladies gave Sarah a flyer about it.
“Sarah enjoys making loaves and rolls, and trying and sharing bread. She really likes focaccia, and cinnamon rolls at Easter. She often donated bread that she made to the food bank.”
Consilia supports her brother, Kevin
“I came along with my brother, Kevin, in around November 2019 after he moved up from Birmingham to Chester. Kevin is quite vulnerable. He has Parkinsons and lives in a retirement flat, with a care package in place. I came at first to support Kevin (he has learning difficulties) but after a while he started coming independently.
“Coming to Bread Together, for me, it was really nice to meet other adults with or without learning difficulties. Everyone was welcoming from the start. It’s good for me as a carer to talk to others in the same boat about the support networks out there.
“One of the men that comes along, Chris, is partially sighted so he often recognises people when he hears voices. One day he said to me, “Hi Connie,” and it felt so nice that he knew me.”
“I came along with my daughter Sarah in 2016, as she wanted to learn bread making as her skill for the Gold Duke of Edinburgh award. I originally went to support Sarah but then I stayed on to help anyone who needed it. I’m also part of the core group.
“I’m used to making cakes but I’d never made bread before. It was great to learn how to make bread by hand and I learnt by watching others as well. It’s a fun atmosphere – we have a fun time. It gives me satisfaction and an uplift that we’re all achieving something together and for me, it’s the coming together of a community.
“One of the participants was injured in a car accident a few years ago. He once took four steps across the bread making room unaided. It was just brilliant to see. And we often share birthday cakes!
“In the future I think selling at markets would be a good idea but also getting sponsorships from local businesses so we can grow. As we’re now a co-operative, it would be great if we could generate an income so it’s a paid job for some of our members.”
“I joined in 2019, mainly because I had never made bread in my life and fancied a go. I found the group very friendly and someone was always willing to help, so much so that I carried on going until the present problems. As a social activity I think it has a lot to recommend it and I hope at some point in the future it starts up again, but I realise there’s issues to this happening.
“I mostly enjoyed the “group activity” aspect but the bread was a pleasant bonus, although probably not good for the waistline!”
“I joined around two years ago. I was taught bread making years ago from a friend in New Zealand who is very, very good. I’ve baked for years and it’s an extremely pleasant thing to do.
“The group is great fun, hysterical sometimes. You make something new every week and the group is just lovely. I used to work with schools and young people so I wanted to help out. I’ve invented a technique called ‘scwodging’ where I stand in the corner with yeast and honey and put it in people’s dough when they have forgotten their yeast. I just ‘scwodge’ it in!
“Things are so different now due to COVID. In the future, it would be good to re-organise participation so that everyone who wants to bake gets a turn. Also, if people want a set role in the micro bakery we should aim to find one for them.”
All our activities were on hold between March 2020 – April 2021 due to COVID-19. These include our community bread making sessions, bespoke bread workshops and micro bakery.
Since May 2021, thanks to the Wesley, it’s been amazing to run community bread making sessions again, our new Monday sessions have been a relaxed empowering space for us all.
But if you’d like to join us this summer while we make a temporary outdoor clay oven it’d be great to see you! With the kind permission of Chester Cathedral we are doing this on the Dean’s Field, and we look forward to the chance to be outdoors, having the space and time to chat while we work together again.