If you told us in 2010 that our small weekly baking group would be selling bread to the public, registering ourselves as a co-operative and using a state-of-the-art kitchen we wouldn’t have believed you. As we celebrate our 10-year anniversary in 2020, we’re looking back at the steps we’ve taken to become a fully operational co-operative, and how we created our fun and thriving bread making community.
There’s the old saying, “Let’s break bread together,” and that was very much in mind when the group was set up ten years ago by the Wesley Centre in Chester, with the aim of being all inclusive and welcoming. Anyone could join regardless of age or ability. It was important that bread making was held in a central public space so people could easily drop in, and accessible for people with or without disabilities.
We needed funding to start. Local charities provided us with grants and a local supermarket supplied us with fresh yeast.
Originally baking in the Wesley Café once a week, numbers swelled and in 2015 we moved to a larger space and baking sessions increased to twice a week. Led by Mary Horbury, bakers learnt about the bread making process, from ingredients and types of bread to kneading, proving and baking.
A joyful space
People enjoy Bread Together because they don’t just learn a new skill – they make deep connections and friendships, share stories, and connect with people from different backgrounds. As time went on, we realised that our community was very special. Entering a warm and welcoming space after a hard week was the highlight of the day for many. Bakers often forgot about their problems when they were concentrating and helping others, and sharing great tasting bread.
Over the years we’ve had people living with disabilities, special needs and mental health challenges join the group, and people of all ages-our youngest baker was 18 months old. In the baking space this doesn’t matter. Our group is multi-generational and everyone is equal.
Spreading our wings
We’ve enjoyed trips to the Hawarden Estate, where we learnt how to make a clay oven using reclaimed materials and the expertise of local makers. Hosting bespoke workshops where participants learnt how to make breads such as Middle Eastern Lavash was a success, as were our workshops with local schools where we shared our passion with the next generation of bread makers. Hosting these events bought us an income in addition to the donation made by bread makers every week.
In 2019, David Briggs, Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire, visited us to learn about our work. We took part in Real Bread Week in 2020, manning a stand at the Storyhouse where we shared our love of bread and met other bakers.