Surviving lockdown through a love of baking

Bread makers at Bread Together, a Chester based bread co-operative, are finding that their love of baking is helping them cope in today’s uncertain times.

The bread co-operative has held popular community bread making sessions at the Wesley Centre for the past 10 years, as well as running a growing bread to sell business, but all their baking activities have been on hold since COVID-19 hit in March.

Consilia attends the community baking sessions with her brother Kevin, who has learning difficulties. The impact of COVID-19 has meant that a week full of activities for her brother has now stopped.

She said: “Baking during lockdown helped me stay sane and it gave me a structure. Lockdown was difficult for Kevin as all his activities ground to a halt, so we did a lot of walking to keep him active. Kevin used to have such a fantastic week of activities before COVID-19 so it’s been difficult for us all, but he’s been baking still in his flat.”

Bread Together works in partnership with Vivo Care Choices, which provides a range of flexible and responsive support for people with learning disabilities and autism and older people, including those with dementia. Services are delivered across west Cheshire.

A new, professional kitchen was installed at Vivo’s Canal Street Day Centre in November 2019 and plans are in place to start baking again soon, with the aim of selling products to markets around Chester.

People using services there, such as Sarah, have been enjoying baking sessions provided by Vivo at the Canal Street Centre over the last few months, making items such as cheese rolls.

Philip Shone, Deputy Service Manager at Canal Street Day Centre, said: “Bread making provides a unique, all-inclusive sensory experience due to its visual, tactile and aural nature. The smell and taste of the bread is an experience also gratefully shared by others. There’s nothing better than the smell of freshly baked bread drifting through the building.”

Philip added: “The partnership extends social contacts and friendships, increases engagement with the community and creates a feeling of belonging, leading to an increase in self-confidence and self-worth.”

Laura Beckett, Project Manager at Bread Together, said: “We really miss baking. Not just the act itself, but also the laughter and friendships that comes with it. Our sessions used to be drop in but it’s difficult with so many restrictions in place. We’ll soon be back at the micro bakery and hopefully selling products to markets and potentially shops.”

Bread Together prides itself on providing an open, inclusive and fun space for people of any age to meet and make bread. Running alongside the community baking sessions, the micro bakery is a learning space where members make top quality bread to sell.