The Bread Maker in Aberdeen has signed up to UK-wide campaign The Big Lunch in an effort to help improve mental health and reduce isolation across the region.
Encouraging people to come together and share food, this year’s campaign will be taking place across the weekend of Saturday June 5 and Sunday June 6.
A survey conducted on behalf of The Big Lunch by OnePoll revealed that 1.7 million people in Scotland are experiencing “re-entry anxiety” in Scotland, with around 58% saying they are still wary of socialising without restrictions.
Another 12% also said they have forgotten how to have a proper conversation after a year in mostly isolated lockdowns.
The Bread Maker
In a bid to bring people back together again over food, local businesses are signing up to help encourage this, including The Bread Maker.
The CEO of the community bakery, Donald Anderson, says their involvement with The Big Lunch campaign “didn’t take much persuasion”, as it fits in with the bakery’s own daily ethos and activity.
“The Big Lunch runs in tangent with what we do every day,” he said.
“It’s having a place within the community that people can come in and share or make friends and have lunch and get together and share that experience.
“What’s more prevalent now is, after the lockdowns and all the restrictions, we see that there’s a big need for people to get together.
“Certainly just as we’ve opened in the last four to five weeks, there’s an overwhelming need or want from the general public to come into the cafe and meet with friends and family.
“For us to be involved with The Big Lunch is very easy because we carry the same ethos in our day-to-day business now.
“We’re about bringing people together over bread, over food but there’s also something about breaking bread and sharing it and allowing people to taste it – hence our name: The Bread Maker.
“It didn’t take a lot of persuasion for us to get involved. It helps us promote what we do in our charity but it also helps us promote The Big Lunch, which is a wider reach, rather than just in the city of Aberdeen.
“It’s nice to be part of something outwith just the city limits.”
Created in 2006, The Bread Maker has been heavily involved in local communities around Aberdeen and helping adults with learning disabilities to develop skills and work in a safe environment.
Donald continued: “We opened our doors in 2006, but years before that it was a man called Dr Dennis Durno who had the idea of opening a cafe and a bakery in Aberdeen to allow the general public to see the ability of adults with learning disabilities.
“With The Bread Maker, there’s something therapeutic about making bread and starting something from just flour, salt and water, to producing an end product and the work that somebody needs to put into that to achieve that end product.
“For people with learning disabilities, I suppose there is something about the repetitiveness of making bread that allows the adult to do that process every day.
“That’s the idea of The Bread Maker, as well as to have a commercial charity in the sense that, everything that we do, we make our own money.
“There’s also the community aspect to what we do in terms of the coffee shop, which allows adults with learning disabilities to deliver the service, quality and be able to compete in the same marketplace as commercial organisations.”
In terms of The Big Lunch itself, individuals are encouraged to get involved in any way they like, from organising a tea and cake catch-up with close friends, to cooking a meal from scratch to share with the family, to supporting their local cafe by getting a lunch to go.
With this ethos at the forefront of the campaign, Donald says the cafe is on stand-by to host any Big Lunches that people may want to have at their premises, and can also offer outside catering for those who want to host their own at home.
Donald adds: “We are advertising The Big Lunch and for people to get together inside the coffee shop, but also, through social media, we’re marketing for people to use us for any Big Lunches they will be having at home, as we also do outside catering.
“We’ve got afternoon teas and all these things that encourage people to get together, with food being at the heart of that.
“If people contact us through their social media, we’ve got a full list of options for afternoon teas, buffets and things like that.
“The website is a bit more inclusive for that, too, and people can find our contact details there.
“Our food can be as bespoke as you need because we make everything in-house.
“For these orders, we’d really need them in by Wednesday June 2, to be sure we can get them out to everyone in time.”
The Big Lunch ambassador for the past five years, comedian Jo Brand, says that, for her, taking part in the campaign is a great way for people to “dip their toes” back into socialising again.
She said: “Whilst I’m chomping at the bit to see family and friends again, I certainly won’t be front of the queue dishing out hugs when my local rave club reopens.
“Everyone has their own social roadmap to what they will feel comfortable doing. We all need to go at our own pace and that’s just fine.
“The real positive to come from this research, though, is that 12 million people are now closer to their neighbours than before the pandemic.
“So if anyone is feeling anxious about diving back in to the socialising pool, then The Big Lunch is the perfect way to dip a toe back in the metaphorical shallow end.
“Just fling open the door and wave an egg vol-au-vent over the back fence during a natter with the neighbours.
“We need to remember how to talk to real-life human beings again, so why not start with the human beings next door?”