Updated: Mar 17
This is the first post of a project I'm really excited about. And scared. And worried. I have to keep reeling myself in over it. It's post zero. No bread yet, no beautifully ordinary lives revealed. But perhaps an explanation, an introduction, a moment of me trying to pin down to paper the whirlwind that is 52 Loaves 52 Lives.
I was part of the middle class sourdough lockdown revelation. (I wanted to write revolution then, but until we start throwing our loaves through the windows of the establishment, that hardly seems fitting). During lockdown 1, you might remember that there was a flour and yeast shortage - it seems hard to picture those empty shelves now. Clandestine groups would text whisper to each other if they had found a yeast supply, they would buy up multiple packets from corner shops and pass on to one another. Yeast dealers. But that was not always possible and the gap in the market, ripe for sourdough, was exposed illuminated with the fact that a lot of us who were furloughed or had lost all of our work suddenly had a whole heap of time on our hands. Sourdough needs time.
My first lockdown refuge wasn't bread. It was digging. I have had half an allotment plot for about 5 years and I had never managed to get on top of it. It was mostly overgrown with couch grass and brambles when I got it and then my work, plus undertaking an MA, dealing with family illnesses and well.... family in general, meant that I hadn't had enough free time, at the right time, to get it going. Lockdown one gave me that and sunshine. As theatres went dark for 'we didn't know how long' I stepped into the light and dug. and dug. and dug. I dug for Britain, I dug to feel the need that although my income had stopped I could still contribute. I dug to keep myself sane.
Attached to our allotment site is a nature reserve which I walked around every day and it was here I bumped into Hannah. Hannah is someone I knew vaguely through my freelance theatre work at Hertford College. Hannah was both excited and nervous about her furlough plans to set up an online sourdough workshop. We chatted about bread, about how I used to make bread with conventional yeast all the time - when I had the time. I told her it was a great idea and began thinking about baking too. It's always brought me great comfort and a way to gift things when I didn't have that much money. Anyway, I eventually signed up for her BRILLIANT course and began baking bread again, without the need to seek out them pesky yeast dealers. You can find out more about Hannah's courses here
For most of this past year then, I have been providing the family with bread (and with some goods from the allotment too). But we need more than bread. We need connections and people, we need to be sparked by ideas coming from those outside our bubble. I've caught myself retreating from the public world, avoiding walks with people, zoom parties etc beacuse I felt I had nothing to say. What was there to talk about when you're not doing anything? Lets face it, talking about the latest COVID news was hardly a great starter for 10 and usually led to feeling worse than when you were alone. I'm pretty certain I wasn't the only person feeling like this. What was I really missing in lockdown? I’m not very sociable. I’m a blooming awkward presence in public and I prefer to be ‘working’ with people. That’s my happy place. So how could I work with people, meet new people, offer something that we all need now, in this brave new world with the doors to rehearsal rooms firmly shut?
My conclusion was to chuck together the things that lockdown had illuminated for me. Bread, community connections, (however fleeting) and writing. I began talking to a few friends about it, about this. It seemed to get a good reaction, (though they may have been humouring me) and here we are. Bread. The stuff of companionship and life, coupled with some human contact in whatever form. Bread and writing - my new branch. Bread and Writing and being less awkward around folk - my ongoing quest and my offer to the world as we enter a new awakening.
Each week I will make a loaf of bread, gift it to somebody , have a chat with them and write about it here. 52 loaves will be baked, and you will encounter 52 beautifully fascinating, ordinary lives.
So here I am. Forcing myself out. Taking my bread with me as a security blanket as I make connections, and hear about YOUR brilliant lives. Each week I'll take a loaf of homemade bread to somebody. People seemed to be excited by the idea. The fabulous, generous folk at Wessex Mill have given me enough flour to bake all the loaves (check out their ranges of locally milled flour - they are delicious) It is beginning one year after the theatres and lives shutdown , the year that the vaccinations are being rolled out . A year of awakening. We'll connect in a COVID safe way.At the end of it all something might happen, but that will reveal itself as the project progresses.
I'll write about it here. 52 weeks. 52 loaves. 52 lives.
You do have something to say! Lets chat! Lets create companionship.
I'm here all year.
You can support this project and my community work here.
Any money received goes towards travel costs, production costs and artists time.