Planet Leicester Bakers has been created and carefully nurtured with very clear aims and principles. At the very core of the business is a desire to use and exploit a common, much loved food stuff, to bring people together. People from differing communities of common interest, not just those identified by ethnic or religious characteristics. To build strength, mutual support, togetherness and understanding.
Along the way it is an opportunity to raise awareness of modern food production, to encourage people to question the food choices they make, and to empower people to take more control over their food and therefore their health and wellbeing; food really is the most basic stuff of life.
Not only that. For me, and therefore my very small business, to be truly part of a wide, diverse community demands building understanding and working together. It’s a no-brainer. Whether that is at local, national, European or global level. And by doing so you reap benefits for yourself and others.
I grew up in a family that was fractured, with half my roots in Irish white South Africa. I went to school for a short time in Apartheid South Africa. I studied African and Asian history at university where the seeds of my commitment to taking action for social justice were sown and blossomed. I went on to work for nearly 8 years in aid agencies – Oxfam and Save the Children – then more years in local communities. Oh, and I live with my civil partner; my partner of 23 years and a wonderful, dedicated, highly skilled professional youth and community manager from whom I’ve learnt a great deal. I have been privileged to work with amazing, strong people who have sought sanctuary in our beautiful city of Leicester, a city I am proud to now call home. Sanctuary from unimaginable war and persecution. Events that many of us believe can never happen to us in what, for many but not all, is comfy England, without realising how close the tipping point really is.
This is me. This is my business. Rooted in togetherness. I might lose income opportunities and support because of it, but I cannot hide from it – that would be disingenuous and wrong. I supported the EU Remain campaign on Twitter and with posters in our windows because of it. Because of an undying belief in the strength of togetherness, partnership and building understanding, no matter what obstacles that can throw up. Nothing is insurmountable. I am shaken to the core that my country of birth has voted, albeit by an incredibly slim margin, in support of a divorce from a family that has helped to hold the peace in Europe and done so much that is positive for the ordinary citizen. With the Far Right emboldened on the continent I have genuine fears for our neighbours as well as ourselves. I hope most sincerely that my fears are unfounded.
I constantly worry that bread is not enough. That my newly chosen path and business cannot achieve enough. But then that is because, as I hurtle towards my 50s, I still want to change the world for the better and still want to make a positive difference overnight. Whether that is achieved through my own direct actions, or supporting others to do the work. Like a stick of Blackpool rock I have ‘social campaigner’ running through me.
Now is the time to work even harder to build bridges. Our nation has truly been divided by this political folly of a referendum. I know I need to channel my frustration and anger to achieve more and better. I hope customers and supporters will continue to help me do this. Thank you for helping so far.