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Wylam Community Bakery

Wylam Community Bakery in Northumberland is probably the only bakery in the country to operate out of a library.

Every Saturday morning Wylam’s volunteer bakers run a pop-up shop in the foyer of the village library. Over 100 customers come to buy their artisan bread, and often stop to look for books too – triple the number that would visit the library before the bakery opened.

Wylam Community Bakery stall
Wylam Community Bakery stall – image by Burntlight Ltd

Wylam Community Bakery has been running for over a year. It was set up by a local volunteer-run social enterprise called Earth Doctors.

It came about when Andy Haddon, one of the directors of the group, was looking for a way to get people engaged with the low-carbon agenda. He came across a friend in the village who was keen to start a bakery.

Andy said: “The simplest way to explain low-carbon living and get people involved is to bake some bread. You can’t get more low-carbon than making the bread locally and selling the bread locally.”

Andy Haddon Wylam Community Bakery
Andy Haddon selling bread to the Mayor

As a new company with limited resources and four volunteer directors, the group had to think laterally. They looked around to see if there were facilities they could borrow, spaces they could use and people who could help.

In a local college they found a bakery that was only used part of the time. The college was happy to let the community bakers come in and use the equipment.

Andy had been volunteering with a baking co-operative called the Artisan Baking Community, who gave them recipes and advice.

They asked the local council if they could put their pop-up shop in Wylam library foyer, and the council agreed.

Andy said: “The whole thing’s been about collaborating and finding good partners. If we’d sat down and written a business plan and come up with a number of how much money we needed to borrow to create the bakery and how much bread we needed to sell to cover the costs it would never have got moving.”

“Through collaboration we got something off the ground that wouldn’t have happened otherwise and it’s had positive benefits for all partners involved”.

After a year of baking, the group has worked with schools, asylums seekers and other community centres. People are now coming to them for advice on how to set up their own community bakery – or asking to sell Wylam bread themselves.

Andy said: “We believe the social benefit of the bakery is as important as the bread itself and we intend to develop our activities.

“Localising food production is a huge challenge – it’s easy not to bother, but bread seems to work for everyone as a way to start something. It’s almost magical how you start the day with such simple ingredients and make something so delicious. If you don’t believe it come and try our Christmas special roast parsnip, sage and onion sourdough!

Next year the group plan to grow their bakery enterprise and work with other community groups to create a local food production hub.

Andy said: “Our vision is to help people to help themselves through making, distributing and selling affordable, healthy breads in a supportive environment. One loaf at a time!”

bread picture