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Community Conversations: Village Bakers

The Village Bakers is a LGBT Social Group, founded on the simple belief that sharing homemade bakes with new and old friends is the best way to bring people and communities together, food is a powerful tool to break down barriers and look past differences, so whether you are keen to develop your baking skills, meet new people or simply come along and eat the fabulous homemade bakes.

In the second of our new series 'Community Conversations', we spoke to Kevin and Liz from the Village Bakers about how the group is finding news ways to keep its members engaged and reach new audiences.

Kevin: Currently, the main issue we’re experiencing at the moment is that the Village Bakers is a social group who normally meet once a month at the Molly House in Manchester’s Gay Village, and puts on events too. Superbia, (Manchester Pride’s year-round programme of arts and culture), provides us with a grant to help us put on the Great Village Bake Off event - which normally takes place around Pride season. We take over the Molly House and have some great bakes and it’s a great fun time. I’m really proud that Manchester Pride sees the benefits that we bring to the community. In fact, Manchester Pride was one of the first organisations to give us funding and have supported Village Bakers since we started.

However, lockdown has meant that we can no longer meet up in the Village or anywhere else. The best part of Village Bakers is seeing people enjoy your bakes and what you bring to the group. And so currently, members can’t actually share their baked products together or enjoy each other’s company. The tag line is ‘Bake it, Bring it, Share it’ and right now we can only ‘Bake it’.

To adapt to the current situation, we’ve increased our activity on social media and we’ve been using our Facebook group more - our members can interact with each other and share recipes and show off bakes and have a virtual chat on this forum. We’re using this alot to encourage digital gatherings.

We’ve also hosted a few live baking sessions on Facebook. Although it’s not the same, the point is to still bring people together and to show new people what Village Bakers is about and that we’re still baking. These live sessions allow bakers to interact and ask questions and chat while people are baking, and still get a little sense of that community. We’ve seen lots of social groups coming together and interacting a lot more on social media. Facebook lets us see lots of interactivity around which social events are happening. Although we’re on lockdown it feels like the LGBTQ+ community have come together to hold up the scene.

Everyone has really embraced the changes. Having people being able to watch along and interact, and even if people can’t watch live they can still watch the content later or at their leisure. Normally if you miss the bakers for a month you’ve got to wait another month before seeing everyone, but now you can catch up on it whenever you’re free.

For community groups trying to keep going during the current situation, just adapt, stop and think about what the essence of the group is actually about. And think ‘how can I replicate that?’ Have a video chat as a group/post more on social media/connect with your community/check on members. Stay in touch and keep it relevant. We love seeing people posting what they've made and then posting the recipe on facebook for others to try and we will continue to do what we’re doing, trying to maintain that presence with our members. Continuing that is crucial. We’re looking at things week by week to assess which events can go ahead and the impact that will have long term.

Liz: The Village Bakers is one of the nicest groups I've been a part of. It was the first LGBT+ group I joined and it’s always been welcoming and friendly.

Baking has suddenly got really popular again as people all over the internet are baking banana loaves and cakes and sharing these with friends/flatmates or neighbours - hopefully in a safe way! It’s difficult to not see people and not be able to share your creations. Food can’t really translate through a screen, you kind of need to be in one place to experience it together. There’s lots of baking going on, but no sharing. The live bake alongs are at a regular time each week. This is good because they provide a regular event for people to stay in touch. And it adds something to the week and keeps a form of routine. We’ve always used social media but right now it’s vital to stay in touch (and still show off bakes).

One good thing to come out of this is that we now have to embrace technology to connect and stay in touch. Hopefully there will be more flexibility around meeting groups and being involved in different things from around the country. I think this will help the whole community feel more united.

My advice to other organisations is to continue to be a presence for people. Don’t vanish, stay there for the people who need you.


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