The Big Bread Experiment
This unique social experiment has one extraordinary ambition: to reunite a community through bread.
This remarkable journey begins with a small group of women in the local church hall of a Yorkshire town, called Bedale.
On the edge of the dales, Bedale was a thriving farming community for generations, but has nowbecome a commuter town.
But the irrepressible local Curate, Cath Vickers – a real-life Vicar of Dibley – hopes her bread group might be able to bring community spirit back to the town.
As she says: ‘people used to bake together – they used to go into each other’s houses because everybody’s doors were open.
All of that has been lost from our society’.
In fact mills used to be a part of almost every village in Britain, supplying the local bakery where bread would be baked according to their own unique recipe.
The advent of the supermarket – and sliced bread, packed with preservatives to make it last – led to their fast decline. But in our push for convenience, have we lost a lot more than just taste?
Bread didn’t just used to be locally produced, it was frequently made with locally ground flour too. Just a few miles away from Bedale, an ancient water mill is about to be restored to working order.
This presents a remarkable opportunity: locally sourced, stoneground flour, that the baking group could use in their community bakery.
Can Cath’s nascent bread group ignite a passion that will help to persuade others to join their cause?
It’s a mammoth task; and they’ve got nothing in common – except an interest in their local community, and a love of bread.
To help the baking group make the leap from village hall amateurs to professional bakers, we enlist the services of award-wining artisan bakers Duncan Glendinning and Patrick Ryan.
Young and passionate about their craft, they are eager to make the 250 mile trip north from their shop in Bath in order to mentor the bread group and bring them up to their exacting standards.
Shot over eighteen months, the series follows their inspirational journey.
Cath, the ever-gregarious curate has assembled a group of women including a midwife, a teacher turned stay-at-home mum, and a recently-retired grandmother.
We soon learn they arealso looking for new meaning in their lives. Valerie feels she’s not achieved her potential in life; Carol’s a bit frustrated with her domestic routine and sometimes admits she feels ‘empty’.
Even Cath admits her father, also a vicar, was wholly opposed to the ordination of women – and while she is proud to follow in his footsteps, she wants to prove herself too.
We return periodicallyto the mill, and watch as decades of disuse, and the traces of repair jobs through the ages, are gradually peeled away.
Will it be able to turn again and will it provide flour once more for Cath and her baking group?
The journey is far from smooth and there are plenty of moments when it looks as if the whole thing could grind to a halt, but as the community bakery slowly starts to take shape, something inexorable happens to everyone involved: ‘There’s something quite mystical about bread – it connects you somehow.”
Series Produced, Directed and Filmed by
Series Edited and Narrated by
Executive Producer for BBC
DV Director and Sound
Head of Production
Trevor Lopez de Vergara
Clear Cut Pictures
BBC Look North Yorkshire
Highfield Training, Doncaster