Volunteering at Cotteridge Park

When we decided to support the Friends of Cotteridge Park we were interested in doing three things. Firstly, we took donations through our website and at the counter. You gave a total of £576, which will go towards keeping activities in the park free to access for everyone in the community.

Secondly, we wanted to help promote the park to our few thousand customers and newsletter readers. Hopefully you’ve been inspired to go along to an event for the first time, or just use the park more often.

Thirdly — and most importantly — we wanted to encourage you to give your time. The park is run by volunteers and many hands make lighter work. To this end Dorit has written about her time working as a volunteer at The Shed. We’ve also asked Emma, chair of the Friends, to outline all the ways you might get involved.

What it means to volunteer at The Shed

Before joining Loaf, Dorit volunteered at The Shed, the café and community hub in Cotteridge Park. We asked her to talk about why she got involved and what she got out of the experience.

Having moved to Birmingham from Germany during a pandemic I barely saw any actual English people for the first six months of living here. My social life only began in April 2021 at a SwingFit session in Cotteridge Park. I‘d never seen so many English speaking people in once place and it was quite overwhelming after so many months.

I moved here with my husband in late 2020 and took online courses in the language since my English school lessons were far too long ago. But, oh dear, there are worlds between Brummie English and what I have learned!

After the SwingFit session with many lovely people, we got a tea and I saw the sign ‘Volunteers needed’. I had a brief talk with Emma about what it meant to be a volunteer and started helping for a few hours once a week.

Since I used to work in a shop back home, it seemed best for me to volunteer in The Shed, the community building where people can have a coffee, eat some cake or just sit down for a while and enjoy the park.

If working in The Shed isn‘t your thing, there are many more ways to get involved. Volunteers do gardening activities, organise the CoCoMAD festival or help at the forest school. They also need people to take care of their website, social media, marketing, help with accounts and finances … Everything helps. How about doing some laundry from the café or picking up litter? Or maybe you have some skills to share with other volunteers, like knitting.

There are always new things to try at Cotteridge Park, such as drawing, bike polo, woodcarving… All of these and much more wouldn‘t be possible without those highly engaged volunteers.

I felt like I‘ve got something back every time I worked my shifts, and the gratitude of the visitors and the other volunteers was very encouraging. I‘m sure volunteering at The Shed helped me a lot when I applied for my job at Loaf as it was my only work experience in UK.

I quickly made many new friends and was made very welcome in this new community. When my flight home to Germany was cancelled due to Covid I spent Christmas with friends I’d made at The Shed.

Now I work full time at Loaf, I haven’t have the time to volunteer as much. But my husband and I are moving closer to the park, which feels like home to me, so I hope to be able to volunteer again. It’s where I started becoming a Brummie, after all!

Watch this lovely video about The Shed and the people who volunteer there

How to volunteer your time in Cotteridge Park

by Emma Woolf, chair of the board of trustees.

Cotteridge Park has been benefiting from the love and time given by volunteers since it was saved from closure by and for the community in 1997. The volunteers are the most amazing bunch of kind and generous people without whom the park would be a much lesser place.

Whatever you are interested in, and however much (or little) time you can give, there is always a way for you to help out. Here are 10 ideas to start you off, but we’re open to all suggestions.

  1. Join The Shed volunteers — like Dorit did
  2. Join the gardeners who meet on Tuesdays at 10 and Sundays at 10.15 (from mid September — currently on their summer break)
  3. Help plan and run events — such as CoCoMAD or the film screenings
  4. Help raise funds — by running events or writing funding applications
  5. Help maintain the website and social media
  6. Join the trustees to help with the legal and financial stuff
  7. Share a skill — the Bike Polo, Knit and Natter, and the Art Group are run by people with skills to share
  8. Create merchandise that could be sold to benefit the park
  9. Help find technical and sustainable solutions to make the park a better place for people and nature
  10. Or just pick up any litter you find when you walk round the park — litter picker and bin bags available.

We find volunteers get as much, if not more, than they give and find the experience rewarding in many ways. If this sounds like something you’d like to try, pop down to The Shed for a chat or fill in the volunteer form on the website.

Thank you!

Landworkers Radio

We’re big fans of the Landworker’s Alliance, a union of farmers, growers, foresters and land-based workers with a mission is to improve livelihoods and create a better food and land-use system. They recently started a podcast which Neil has been enjoying.

The first three episodes don’t shy from the big issues, asking how we can transform our food systems, how to we get access to agricultural land, and investigating the grain crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine.

Listen here or via your favourite podcasting app.

Kids lunches fundraising update

We’ve had an incredible response to our Free Kids Lunches programme this summer, reaching the capacity of what we can provide this week. We’re really happy we’ve been able top help feed a lot of kids, but us running out means there are more people out there who are struggling.

A society that allows people, especially children, to go hungry is not one we want to live in. Access to good food is right, not a privilege.

Thankfully it seems we’re not alone in thinking this. We’ve had over £400 in donations this week from those who were able, online, at the counter and in envelopes through the door. They came in all sizes — some small, some substantial, all of equal importance. We’re on track to cover our costs and the B30 Food Bank should expect a donation of the excess in September. Thanks to you all, and also to those to helped spread the word.

Emergency measures like this are important but long term change needs to happen. Please contact those able to make a change, starting with your MP.

During our shutdown we won’t be able to distribute lunches but we will do the final week of the holidays before school lunches are available again: 31 Aug — 2 Sep. There are a few left to reserve.

Loaf does Bio Arts!

When Laurie Ramsell asked us if we’d like to be involved in BAB LAB, his festival of artists working with biological materials, we immediately said yes. And so this Monday saw Loaf hosted a Yeast themed day of workshops and talks.

Laurie’s aim for the week is to encourage artists to consider working with biological materials and living things, and most of the participants were practicing artists, bringing a focussed but still playful inquisitiveness to the subject.

Martha introduces the yeast

We ran a short version of our bread course in the morning, giving a solid grounding in what yeast is and the ways we work with it to make bread, before letting them loose with some dough.

Over lunch we had a talk from Rosa Postlethwaite, a performance artist who has been using a sourdough starter in her work, focussing on it as a living creature and thinking about what it means to collaborate with it.

And then in the afternoon we had Günter Seyfried in our kitchen making “yeastograms” where shadows of UV light create images in yeast cultures. We went through the full process of making the agar to inoculate in Petri dishes and the next day had our living artworks. Here’s the Loaf logo:

Some photos from the day are on the BAB Lab Instagram. The festival continues at venues across Birmingham this week and we really hope it returns next year as it’s given us lots of ideas!

An affordable loaf for Stirchley

It will come as no surprise that we’re having to increase the price of our bread from this week. While most of the cost of a loaf of bread is our labour, other costs have increased significantly recently to the point where we need to pass some of them on.

Here are our new prices.

White Sourdough – Large£3.50£3.75
White Sourdough – Small£2.20£2.50
Wholemeal Sourdough£3.50£4.00
Spelt Sourdough£3.50£4.00
Sourdough Tin£3.50£3.75
Sourdough Special£2.50£3.00
Rye – Large£3.50£3.75
Rye – Small£2.20£2.50
Rye Specialno change£3.00
White Tin£2.20£2.50
Multigrain Tin – Large£2.20£2.50
Multigrain Tin – Small£1.10£1.20
Stirchley Loaf – Largeno change£2.00
Stirchley Loaf – Smallno change£1.00
Honey Oat£2.00£2.50
Sourdough Focaccia£2.00£2.50
Baguetteno change£2.00
Sourdough Baguette£2.00£2.50
Fruit Loafno change£3.50
Bloomerno change£2.20
Ciabattano change£2.00

Naturally we thought a lot about what to increase and by how much. What follows is a glimpse into that process.

One of the key issues in the world of Real Bread is how to keep it affordable. We believe that good bread is worth paying a fair price for and that factory bread is only cheap because the true costs are hidden. But it is also vitally important that real bread is within reach of as many people as possible.

Last month Molly and Rach went to London for the Real Bread For All conference, looking at how small, local bakeries like Loaf can make Real Bread affordable and accessible for people on lower incomes. On the other hand bakeries have be economically sustainable and ensure that neither people or their products are undervalued.

There were no easy answers but they came back buzzing with ideas, one of which we’re planning to roll out over the next few months. And it was a good reminder that we’re already doing something to keep bread affordable…

Our Stirchley Loaf is an unassuming loaf of bread but it’s very important to us. It’s a simple, yeasted loaf made with a blend of white, wholemeal and rye flour with grated potato added for softness. Because there’s no tin involved we can mix, shape and bake it with the minimum of work and keep the cost down as much as possible. It’s not a lesser bread, but it is much more accessible.

We made the decision a while back that we will always charge £1 for a small and £2 for a large Stirchley, and that the ingredients will not change in quantity or quality. No shrinkflation here. As costs increase the Stirchley will be subsidised to keep it at this price as long as possible.

Meanwhile the majority of our other breads are going up. Some price variations are based on ingredients and there are a couple of overdue corrections, but it’s fairly equitable across the board. This mostly reflects our electricity bill which is more than doubling this year, and given that’s what powers the oven there’s not much we can do about it! (Other than continue to fight for systemic global socioeconomic change, of course.)

Thank you for continuing to buy our bread and keep us trading. As our prices are forced to increase we will continue to work to make Real Bread as affordable and accessible as we can, with your support.

We’re taking donations for Free Kids Lunches

The response to our free kids lunches programme has been great. From a standing start we’ve given away loads of packed lunches to people who need them — no questions asked.

And then, without prompting, some of you asked if you could send us money to cover the costs, which led to some quite emotional scenes on the Loaf group chat. So we’re making it official.

Our fundraising for the summer holidays will go towards the material costs of the packed lunches. We will provide the labour and logistics. Any surplus will go to the B30 Food Bank.

If you are able (and please don’t feel bad if you are not), you can make a donation on the website or at the counter with your purchase.

Thank you.

Free lunches for kids this summer

During the summer holidays, to help cover the shortfall of free lunches while the schools are closed, we are giving away children’s packed lunches to anyone who needs them, no questions asked, and no purchase necessary.

We have a limited number available each day so we ask you to reserve them online.

They are available Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons during opening hours.

Included in the bag will be:
1 x Cheddar or Jam Roll
1 x Pack of Pom Bears
1 x Piece of Fruit
1 x Chocolate Chip Cookie
1 x Cawston Press Juice Carton

Lunches will be available

  • July 27-29
  • Aug 3-5
  • Aug 10-12
  • (Loaf closed Aug 17-26)
  • Aug 31 – Sep 2

These lunches are not a promotional offer or anything like that. They are intended for families that rely on free school meals which are not available in the school holidays.

Tonight on Loaf TV

A couple of videos came our way this week which we thought you might be interested in.

How The US Ruined Bread by Johnny Harris is extremely YouTubey in style, all fast-cuts and hyperkinetic memes, comparing standard US supermarket bread with the boulangeries of Paris. An unfair comparison, you might say, but in doing so he tells the story of how bread in the States got to be so bad and why that matters. He also has the most enjoyable one-minute explanation of How Bread Works starting at 4:24

While Harris is talking about the US, he could easily be talking about the UK and our cursed Chorleywood system. His talking points are essentially those of the Real Bread Campaign, of which we are enthusiastic supporters, so seeing them in this style was somewhat jarring, but not in a bad way. Maybe the campaign could take some notes!

Co-operation Calderdale is a survey of the businesses and organisations in the borough of Calderdale, West Yorkshire, that run as co-operatives. Their video couldn’t be more different in its style, but also not in a bad way, just different.

Of particular note is a visit to the Suma warehouse, from where our wholesale orders are dispatched every fortnight.

The focus on the history of co-operatives in 19th-century Calderdale reflecting on the surprising number of them in operation today reminded us of Stirchley. As you may know, Stirchley has a long history of co-operative societies starting with TASCOS in 1875, and we’re delighted to be continuing that tradition. Maybe we’ll make a video like this one day.

A food system strategy for Birmingham?

The draft Birmingham Food System Strategy document came to our attention today. While we haven’t had a chance to digest it (pun not intended) a cursory read shows it covers a lot of the issues Loaf is passionate about. It also features a number of organisations we’ve worked with over the years, which is reassuring.

It’s good to see something like this coming from Birmingham City Council, although that scale means it covers a lot and has some lofty ambitions. The document itself is very clearly presented, so please download it, have a read and if you have views and ideas, put them in the consultation.

We will be watching this with interest and cautious optimism!

Back to Baskerville

We managed to fit in another visit to Baskerville School last week for an afternoon of baking with the students. They had great fun and it was a rewarding experience for all involved, including us.

More pics and a video of the end results!

When we wrote up our previous visit to Baskerville, and mentioned our plans to work more in the area of education, we were inundated with offers of advice and requests. We haven’t had a chance to anything with them due to extreme busyness of this year but it’s still on our development plan. We will be in touch, don’t worry!

Savoury buns are a thing now

A few weeks ago we experimented with some savoury buns. Using the same process as our sweet cinnamon buns, these have a cheese sauce filling with a variety of toppings. They’re proving popular so it’s time to start shouting about them!

This week we have sundried tomato, green olive and provolone on Wednesday and Thursday, while on Saturday they’re spring onion, chive and provolone.

B30 Foodbank update

Every Thursday we bake extra bread and bag any leftovers to be collected by the B30 Foodbank on Friday mornings. It’s usually somewhere between 30 and 60 loaves and they get distributed to people in need by the dedicated team of volunteers at the food bank warehouse.

They got in touch this week with an update which we thought we’d pass on verbatim. We can afford to give the bread away every week because of the volumes you buy, so it’s really you, our customers, who should be thanked.

Dear All at Loaf,

Thank you so much for your recent kind donations of food to the B30 Foodbank.

As you probably know we are a completely voluntary organisation, supported by the Trussell Trust. We rely solely on donations from organisations and generous supporters such as yourselves to provide for people, including families, within our local community who, for whatever reason, find themselves in immediate crisis, and are therefore going without.

Just to give you an idea of the scale of the work we do at the B30 Foodbank: during 2021 we gave out 95,257kg of food to feed 6,770 people (of whom 2,307 were children) across 3,340 households. Unfortunately we noticed a significant rise in the number of families requiring help in 2021 and with the anticipated increases in the cost of living we expect this trend to continue as 2022 progresses.

Should you wish to learn more and keep up to date with the work of the B30 Foodbank please visit us on our website, Facebook or Twitter.

We would like to reiterate how important your donation will be in helping us to make a real difference to individuals and families who would otherwise go hungry — and on their behalf we thank you wholeheartedly once again for your generous support.

Kind regards,

The B30 Foodbank Volunteer Team

The CoCoMad programme is out

It’s only a month until CoCoMad, the big community festival in Cotteridge Park, and the programme is back from the printers. This year it’s a tabloid newspaper chock full of articles and activities, beautifully illustrated by Edie Woolf and designed with care by Kerry Leslie.

We’ll have copies on the bakery counter this week (while stocks last) and you can read it on your computer here. Kerry says she’d like to make it a regular thing with more articles next year so if you’re interested, get in touch!

Bike beer

News has reached us that our sibling worker co-op, the Birmingham Bike Foundry, have had a beer made for them by Attic. Musette, named for the refreshment packs handed out to cyclists in long-stage races, is a lower-alcohol beer for summer riding days and comes in a eye catching can. Sadly we can’t sell it at Loaf without a licence, but you can get it from Stirchley Wines and Attic themselves.

So why doesn’t Loaf have an Attic beer? We both work with fermentation and there’s a long history of bread-related beers. Rest assured, we’re on it. Watch for something later in the year…