Tuesday the 17th of March marked the first day of our much-anticipated Just Bread program running for the second time. After a very successful 8 week program of bread-making with refugee women in Myatt’s field last year, Just Bread have returned with eight new participants all eager to participate in this innovative and rewarding program. The eight women, all refugees seeking work, began the day talking about their dreams and ambitions for finding work and gathering knowledge of the art of bread-baking. Participants spoke of their own experiences with different breads from their home countries, ranging from the coal-baked flat breads of North Africa to the elaborate, perfumed breads of Iran. Everyone had some offering to make to the discussion and as bread so often demonstrates, it is above all else, a universal food and much loved from culture to culture.

As for our host this year, the renowned e5 Bakehouse situated in Hackney, they introduced the group to their own speciality bread; the sourdough. The group were introduced to a two hundred year old sourdough starter that had been fed and kept alive from generation to generation and is still the leaven for delicious breads sold today. Explaining how this was possible, how it must be fed and carefully looked after, one participant spoke about her experience with bread and how it really emanates a living quality which one must actively work with in order to understand the bread. Indeed as the group learnt, the living component of bread, the bacteria, is vital in the composition of the bread and is the foundation from which all future loaves will rely on.

E5 Pic 2As bakery owner Ben Mackinnon explained, the principles of bread-making are very simple; flour, water and a bit of salt, yet as the participants were led around the bakery the complexity of producing the perfect loaf became apparent. It is also an exact science which demands the right conditions and attention which participants will come to master over the coming months. Every step of the way the participants will have direct contact with the Refugee Council so their developing skills in the bakery will be well placed in other such employment opportunities in London. The women will be offered employment support from the Refugee Council and enrolled on the relevant IT, English language etc. courses to help boost their chances of finding work.

Along with the enthusiastic support of e5 Bakehouse, “Just Bread” has a great chance of being propelled forward into developing its own unique, refugee bakery enterprise and really capturing the huge potential and enthusiasm of the participants in providing a ethical, good quality bakery in London bringing those voices which are so often marginalized to the forefront of an exciting new enterprise.