A couple of weeks ago I had the great pleasure of visiting the Great River Bakery in Sheildfield where I met with Gail, director and employability programme  manager. What a treat!

I love cooking. OK, I’m a mediocre amateur, but what I lack in skills I make up with enthusiasm. So being invited to meet the team at the Big River Bakery generated a lot of excitement.

The Big River bakery is a small batch bakery specialising in slow ferment hand made breads, using organic flours and fresh ingredients.

The bakery is also a social enterprise that is contributing to the wellbeing of the local community of Shieldfield, and beyond. (Picture courtesy of the Big River Bakery website)

The bakery runs a baking and barista themed employability programme for local people furthest from the job market and provide employment for people with learning disabilities – such as autism.

All the freshly baked bread, pies and cakes, as well as coffee, are weighed, mixed, stirred, baked and served by the Big River Bakery volunteers and trainees.

During the covid-19 epidemic the bakery team has collaborated with local community and charity groups to run an emergency food parcel distribution service to those most in need.

It doesn’t stop there. The bakery has also this year grown, harvested and milled its own wheat! In Sheildfield!!

When I was there the bakers had already tested the flour in a batch of bread and were planning to bake loaves to sell in the shop. A loaf truly bread and raised in Newcastle. (couldn’t resist that one 😊)

So, as I mentioned at the beginning, I was excited to be in the bakery, to see, smell and to buy (a malt loaf and cheese and potato pie), but I left the bakery with a sense of ‘togetherness’.

Both Gail and I felt that PROPS and the Big River Bakery could work well together and I’m thrilled to let you know that in the future you’ll be hearing more about the work that bakery and PROPS will be doing in collaboration.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in gaining experience of working in a commercial bakery or learning barista and front-of-house shop and café skills please contact me on 07791 246557, you may be eligible to access accredited training with the Big River Bakery.

The Big River Bakery based in Shieldfield – Newcastle, believe they can change the world one loaf at a time, lets helps them do it.

Helen Thompson