This blog is shortly going to return to being positive – I’m just removing some crap from my brain and then we’re going back into creative mode.
I know my stock-in-trade is cynicism, sarcasm, facetiousness – but right now I’m feeling angry. I keep having a little pop at the Campaign for the Real Bread Campaign and I’ve nearly finished a full scale critique which I’ll try to get out of my system before normal service is resumed.
But, what is the Real Bread Campaign for? They (who are they?) have these Real Bread Ambassadors – supposed celebs who don’t need any more promotion – if you can arrive in the bread world they’ve arrived.
Take the latest of these from the Thoughtful Bakery – a self-declared eco-artisan bakery. This claim, as I have said before, seems to be based on the fact that they use nettles, blackberries and 2nd hand equipment.
Take someone like Rick Coldman, http://www.mairsbakehouse.co.uk He lives on a smallholding in South Wales. He generates his own electricity by wind turbine. He built an Alan Scott wood-fired masonry oven in which he bakes organic bread with renewable fuel. He rebuilt his second-hand Artofex mixer and adapted it to run on single-phase electricity. So far as I know he doesn’t claim to be eco-anything and doesn’t have time to go blackberrying, write books let alone get publishing contracts.
I thought I was cynical, but The Real Bread Campagne recently reinvented itself as a charity to work with people in danger of social exclusion – why? because their funding was running out and presumably social exclusion was a precondition to get new funding.
They claim to exist to promote and support “real bread” production. Rick’s power supply has, as the American government may say, just “degraded” to the extent of £4,000. So, what is the Real Bread Campaign going to do to help before he becomes socially excluded? On top of being a full-time baker he has already hosted one Bethesdabakin’ weekend for baking enthusiasts on a shared-cost basis and, despite his current travails, is organising the next one in June. If the Bread Angels are there for anything, they should be bailing Rick out.
Why hasn’t Rick been invited to become a Bread Ambassador as a mark of his achievements and because of the example he sets for aspiring bakers? Any of our current ambassadores run cost-based weekend?
I recently commented on the fact that another of these Grandees charges £2,500 + vat for a day’s consultancy. I just ran a series of four, two-day courses to retrain someone who had been made redundant as a small scale baker for less than half of that without the vat. I’m not looking for praise but I’m like to know where the Real Bread Campagne’s values are at.
9 thoughts on “Real Bread Complain”
While I am with you in deriding our culture for promoting “celebrity” over substance, I think by and large the Campaign for Real Bread does more good than harm. You criticised “Sourdough September” saying that it was about baking sourdough once a year. Really? Look at their web page and there are lots of events promoting sourdough – how to bake it, where to buy it. I bought a loaf from a food festival in Berwick upon Tweed threes years ago. One loaf and a chat to the enthusiastic baker who sold it to me and look at me now…. I bake several loaves every weekend and have persuaded numerous colleagues to give it a go. I even take my starter on holiday! And that’s what sourdough September can do… Raise awareness and spread the joy. Most people have not tasted sourdough, or if they have, it has been a horrible imitation (Morrison’s sourdough would be worthy of your vitriol! )
The social inclusion aspect of their new vision is clearly about getting funding to carry on, but it is a good vision and the web page is very upfront about the proposed development. You yourself were involved in such a project so you can see the benefits . Community bakeries that bring people together and may even support some of our more vulnerable people are worth supporting, don’t you think?
I don’t get your attack on the Thoughtful Bakery. There book was okay. Baking for the MTV-era may be. Not my cup of tea, I gave my copy to my nephew, he liked it. They are 2 blokes trying to make a living out of making bread. Good luck to them.
I think the work you and Rick do is amazing. But I don’t understand the degree to which you appear to oppose the CRB. It seems out of proportion. Sure, they should be held accountable. I would love to know who exactly pays for the inflated prices for the consultancy from your unnamed high flying baker. What muppets!
Thanks for responding. Just published a longer piece for you to have a pop at!
I think that an organisation like the real Bread Campaign is divisive in a world as small as modern bread making and that promoting bread doesn’t even need an organisation still less the sort of circus the Campaign is becoming.
How about a bit of direct action like sticking labels on supermarket “sourdough” saying “This is not sourdough bread”
Rick seems like a really good bloke, who’s passionate about doing the right things for the right reasons. This is why we comissioned and ran a double page Bread Hero feature on him in our members magazine. Should you at any point decide to join, you’ll be able to dowload and read it (and the feature about the great Bethesdabakin’ you organised a couple of years back) here: http://www.sustainweb.org/realbread/trueloaf/
As for Rick as a Campaign ambassador – not sure how he’d feel being asked to do TV shows, media interviews or all of the other things we need our ambassadors to do to help raise the profile of Real Bread and the Campaign to the widest audience possible…
Real Bread Campaign coordinator
No, you’re right. The idea of Rick being a Real Bread Ambassador is quite laughable. He’d never cope with those type of demands and I’m sure audiences would find him quite off-putting.
Good Evening Mick,
I thought that seeing as you have decided to quote us in a blog, and without any chance of a conversation to allay your concerns as to our eco vibe and our value to the Real Bread Campaign in my role as an ambassador, I would volunteer some information.
We did indeed suggest when starting up that what made us different was our wanting to combine sustainability in the workplace with our passion for bread baking, but I can assure that this isn’t greenwash. We work tirelessly, day in, day out to ensure that we have a positive impact on the environment. Meticulously segregating our waste and then weighing and then recycling/composting before considering landfill, growing a lot (in fact most) of our own herbs, and other goods, foraging for some others, and otherwise sourcing as locally as possible, ensuring we make good and reuse ahead of throwing out and simply buying new and much more that I won’t bore you with are just some of the many things that I believe earns us the right to call ourselves environmentally conscious. Do we have a small-holding? No. What we are doing however is finding a good compromise between running a growing bakery with doing so in an ethical and environmentally conscious way. And do you know what, if you don’t believe us, why not contact Sir Stuart Rose who handed us a commendation at the Business Commitment to the Environment Awards which I was very proud to have been a part of, and which might I add is run by WRAP.
Here is a link: http://www.bceawards.org/assets/Winners/2011/BCE-Ceremony-Brochure-2011.pdf
As for the Real Bread Campaign, I am feeling rather more protective. It is a shame that you have clearly spent too much time postulating and brewing over your blog entry and not enough time looking at the content of the website, understanding their values, and getting a feel for what they are trying to achieve. I was honored to have been asked to become an ambassador for the campaign. Am I a celebrity? Don’t be silly. Have I spent the last 5 years since my company’s inception encouraging a better understanding of what Real Bread is both locally and when away from home? Sure. Have the other Ambassadors? Sure. I have no doubt that there are plenty of good candidates who could join the ranks as ambassadors, but the campaign is maintained by a very small team, and it’s a big bad world out there? Why not nominate someone for their contributions rather than rubbish those of the existing ambassadors?
And as for the perceived sway towards social inclusion, then I ask you. If an existing campaign, with a fantastic track record decides to look at other, equally good avenues to lend support to, which in turn will allow it to continue to do all the great things that it does, then where is the problem?
Duncan, Ambassador (and proud of it) of the Real Bread Campaign, and founder of The Thoughtful Bread Company.
I know just what you mean, Duncan. You’re just going to bed on Sunday night and think, “Oh, shit. I haven’t done the recycling!” So you get out of bed because, well, we’ve got to save the planet, yes? Then you go back to bed and can’t sleep for thinking your neighbour is counting the bottles.
Didn’t know you could get an award for it though.
You know, there’s more to being a Bread Ambassador than you might think. I’ve spent the weekend in front of the mirror trying to say “My eco vibe is not greenwash” without cracking up. It’s not that easy you know …
Lots of good debate, I agree and disagree with lots of the points raised here, personal attacks on hard working bakers not cool and fell down for me a bit when admitted charging £1200 for 8 days training for a guy who’s lost his job, isn’t exactly bread angel? would be great to see this debate moved and looked at in bigger audience as agree with lots of other points.
Thanks for your comments, a wider debate would be welcomed. I’m someone who scrapes a living from baking, writing and teaching. I charge £250 for two days one-to-one training, average day 12+ hours. My charges are clear on the blog – do you know anyone cheaper? The guy paid nothing – the Welsh Government paid for for Vocational Retraining. A little realism would help.