We know, we haven’t been great at keeping up with our letters from lockdown, especially since lockdown actually finished and we gradually
We know, we haven’t been great at keeping up with our letters from lockdown, especially since lockdown actually finished and we gradually return to baking.
Here in Leeds, full lockdown has gradually morphed into a local lockdown, bringing with it a whole new set of trials and tribulations to many local small independent businesses like ourselves, and we thought it was about time for a catch up!
So today we welcome back Keren, with a somewhat bittersweet hello and farewell.
“Although we are not quite in lockdown again, this week many of us at the bakery are suddenly feeling like we are back at the end of March, facing the unknown, wobbliness that we thought we had made it through.
On Tuesday last week one of our bakers received a positive COVID-19 result and consequently another three bakers and one of our operational staff are having to isolate for 14 days. To make matters worse, our baker’s positive result seems to have been one of the 15,000 positive results that went missing off the unbelievable excel spreadsheet apparently being used for the Test and Trace system, so we were left with no choice but to make the decisions for ourselves about who should and shouldn’t isolate. Stressful discussions about who had, and who hadn’t, been in what the government advises as ‘close contact’ in the last days of working (that’s two metres or less for fifteen minutes or more, regardless of mask wearing, in case you were wondering) and thus could potentially be contacted by Test and Trace and told to isolate, should the T&T system be working. And then how on earth do we make enough bread with only two bakers able to come to work? And of course the constant underlying worry about our friends and colleagues and their health whilst they sit at home and sweat it out, either literally or proverbially.
At present, a week later, everyone seems to be doing well, including the person with COVID-19 so that is good, fingers crossed it all stays that way. We had to cancel two of our favourite markets at the weekend and close our bakery shop last week and some of this week to make it possible for us to bake bread enough for our loyal wholesalers. We desperately don’t want to let them down as they too are small businesses whose futures hang in the balance during these uncertain days. This week we are only able to make half of the loaves that we usually make for donation to FareShare, the continuation of the Loaves for Leeds campaign that we started during lockdown.
It hurts us to make those choices, both personally and financially, and it is interesting to see that at present there is no financial support for this kind of disruption to businesses from the government. Perhaps they would argue that furlough and other measures have been enough but from where I sit it would be very welcome. Ironically, we missed a deadline for a funding application for a COVID recovery grant because of the many things that needed to be considered instead, but such is this life.
From a personal perspective, there have been some benefits of being part of a very reduced team – it is unusual to know that all the bread that you are scoring and putting in the oven has been shaped by your hands only. To be able to critically inspect your own handiwork and feel where you might need to make adjustments. A baker’s learning is never complete of course, and I am still only two and a half years in to baking professionally at this standard. I often still feel like a novice who should only be allowed to dust the baskets! [I am aware that this is not true and that I do know what I am doing but imposter syndrome is never far away!]
I am leaving Leeds Bread Coop at the end of this month, as I am leaving Leeds for a more rural life. Were it not for my need to live outside of a city, I would NOT be leaving this wonderful, challenging, educational, inspiring, all encompassing, deeply engaging organisation. I have learnt a huge amount – both about baking and about running an organisation co-operatively. Some of which I wanted to know and I’ll be honest, some of which I wish I hadn’t had to learn, but this year has been something of an anomaly. No doubt my experiences at Leeds Bread Coop will affect my choices in the future.
It has been a humbling experience, working closely with five other humans to try and determine the fate of this much loved organisation. In amongst trying to make sure we stay afloat we have also been working hard on trying to make changes to the organisation, to further empower each individual by creating a clearer, more equal working environment, to take the best care of all of the employees both current and future, to acknowledge where we need to improve, and to try and find ways to introduce more cooperation.
We have been incredibly grateful for the massive amounts of support that we received from our loyal customers during lockdown and afterwards. An incredible £2000 was given to Leeds Bread Coop for the Loaves for Leeds campaign from our regular subscribers alone, making it possible for us to attract money from larger funders and continue this provision into the New Year.
We are still very hopeful about the future of Leeds Bread Coop. We are by no means out of the tunnel but we have met a number of people through this period who are keen to support us to make the changes that will make us a better, more robust organisation where ALL our staff take an active role in how the business is run.
I am sad that I won’t be here to experience all these positive shifts, to share in the fruits of our labour and I will find it really hard to stop saying ‘we’ and remove myself from all of our many WhatsApp groups. But I’m excited to hear how things progress, even from afar. How I will ever work FOR anyone ever again, I have no idea.”
Note from the editor!
On behalf of everyone at Leeds Bread Co-op I’d just like to say how much we are all going to miss you Keren, you are a much valued and loved friend and member of the co-op. We wish you all the joy and happiness you deserve on your new adventures xx