Luminary Bakery: Rising Hope in Uncertain Times

The local cafe's work stretches a whole lot further than simple fresh bread and cakes
Why Read This?

On the face of things, it’s a stylish, airy cafe – but dig a little deeper and you’ll find this bakery has a lot to say

Luminary is a social enterprise designed to offer women who have experienced social and economic disadvantage the opportunity to build a future for themselves through courses, work experience and paid employment. The Bakery landed on Chalk Farm Road last year, so had been in business for just a few months before the pandemic hit. We met with the cafe manager and Camden local, Essy Sparrow, to find out what this year has meant for them.

What brought Luminary to Camden?
“We felt it was the right place to be. We already have one café based in East London and had been looking to launch a second site for a while. I’d visited this venue in its previous incarnation as a bagel shop and really loved the building. It’s got all the room we need and gives us the opportunity to create a flagship store with the chance to expand and create more jobs.

Being here has meant that we can double the number of women that we support and launch a new employability and independence course for our graduates. Previously we offered six months of training before graduates could move into apprenticeships or other forms of work, but now we can extend their learning by a further six months, giving them the chance to really perfect their skills for the workplace.”

What did lockdown look like for you?
“We started out doing deliveries by bike, but once lockdown became official we had to close for three months. We have been open since July with eat-in, socially distanced seating, and we’re really happy to be back.”

What have been your greatest concerns over this period?
“Our main priority was keeping our team and the women we work with safe, so we have had to be vigilant with our new working processes, such as split teams. Isolation can sometimes be a real problem for the women we work with, so for a long time we were conducting baking lessons over Zoom. It was important to be able to offer a moment in the day when you could see and speak to people you know.”

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What projects have you got on the go now?
“We’ve been really excited to publish our new cook book, ‘Rising Hope’. It’s an illustrated collection of life stories and recipes by all the women that we’ve worked with, and the proceeds will feed back into the work we do. We’ve also launched the #ShareHerFare campaign, looking for people who might be saving money on their usual commute to donate and cover the cost of our trainees’ travel for their Employability and Independence course. We hope that our customers will feel inspired to invest in these women’s future and empower them into employment.

How are you finding being based in Camden? 
“It’s been great. I really love the area and have lived in the borough for the last nine years so am very much a local. It’s fun to be near the hustle and bustle of the market, and it’s a big plus to be close to so many transport links.”

Any collaborations with local businesses?
“We’ve enjoyed teaming up with local artist Rebecca Drake, who’s created new tote bags displaying illustrated drawings of our two cafes. It makes us happy to see loyal locals wearing them. We have also joined up with the KOFFY app, which has a loyalty scheme offering free coffees in North London. We are still building up our local networks so if anyone would like to collaborate with us then we’d love to hear from them.  Once life becomes a bit more normal we ‘d like to trial live music, supperclubs and story telling events for kids. Right now, we’re just trying to keep the business going whilst Camden’s tourists are away.”

What’s making you excited for the future?
“For us, it’s all about more opportunities for our graduates to be a part of our business. We’re launching new apprenticeships which will allow our women to work in our bakery and cafes, which will prepare them with important skills for working in the hospitality industry, and life in general.”

Interview by: Daisy Drury

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Luminary lights up the currently rather down-on-its-luck Chalk Chalk Farm Rd, so well worth dropping in for a loaf, a slice of something sweet or to linger over a lunchtime sarni.

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