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body & soul


holistic health, personal growth & spirituality

the nicing on the cake Beccy Golding finds a grass roots movement that’s using cake to get people talking about mental health


he Depressed Cake Shop is an international phenomenon, imagined by creative director “Miss Cakehead”, and has seen pop-up shops appearing from Sydney to San Francisco, and all across the UK. The shops sell cakes and other baked goods with the purpose of raising awareness about mental health issues. There is only one rule: the cakes must be grey. Why? “Because the colour represents what depression does: it coats a beautiful life in grey” is the word from Miss Cakehead, via her website. Beth Ward and Sarah Newman were involved in the first Depressed Cake Shop event in Bristol, held in August 2013. I asked them what why this idea particularly inspired them. Beth says, “Bake sales generally remind me of school fêtes, and I just thought this was something different. It was less about people giving us money for a ‘good cause’ and walking off with a fairy cake, than it was inviting people to consider the reality of mental illness in as positive an environment as possible. And every environment is made more positive with the addition of cake!” to ask us what it was about, but we also had Sarah adds: “I love baking and, since I people coming down specially, and they were suffer from depression myself, I saw it as a all so positive. It’s strange but we found good way to raise awareness. I also liked the ourselves having some very frank discussions whole idea of the cakes being grey on the with total strangers, slap bang in the centre outside and how that might trigger people of town across a table full of cake. It was to think about and/or discuss mental health surreal, totally incongruous, and absolutely issues.” wonderful. That’s how I saw the concept Beth says: “I when I got involved, and offered to organise it was so satisfying to see it and seemingly simultaneously “A lot of the time people have itofinit.”action and be part Sarah threw her “We raised £350 for difficulties but it doesn’t hat in the ring Rethink Mental Illness. too. Between mean that they are any less It was incredibly stressful the two of us we but I’m so glad I did it. wonderful underneath” managed to move I like to think that some things along pretty people got something quickly online. out of it, be it a greater It wasn’t until a couple of weeks before the awareness of issues surrounding mental event that we met in person, though, which health, a sense of community and support, was a bit of a ‘red carnation’ affair!” or just a sugar rush from macaroons and rainbow cake.”

b&s news Independent Age, which tackles older people’s poverty and loneliness through the ‘ABC’ of advice, befriending and campaigning, has launched a freephone number for older people, their families and carers, offering advice on issues such as social care, welfare benefits, befriending services and other social support. They also produce factsheets about the most common issues affecting older people. Freephone 0800 319 6789

Have you been affected by a stroke or mini-stroke? Or caring for someone who has? South Glos Stroke Café is held on the 2nd Friday of each month and offers a place to socialise and learn about rehabilitation services available. Professionals from a range of organisations share their knowledge and expertise on subjects including living independently, volunteering, education and work, telecare, healthy eating, medication and exercise. Next few dates: 14 March, 11 April, 9 May. tel 01454 862356 See & search ‘stroke cafe’

The British Johrei Society is holding a Japanese Cultural Event in Bristol on Saturday 15 March, with taster workshops including Japanese Tea Ceremony, Ikabana (flower arranging) Calligraphy & the spiritual & healing practice of Johrei. £15 including light lunch. To book call 01225 745766 (Tues/Wed) or email:

We received this sad news recently: “Regrettably the Cairns Clinic in Bristol closes at the end of February due to the owner/manager moving away to enjoy a busy country life on the Welsh borders. All the fantastic therapists who practise here are moving their practise to other places. Thanks to the Spark for your support over the years.”

the great Bristol bake-off

Beth told me about some of the preparation: “I booked a week off work and couldn’t face a mixing bowl for weeks afterwards. There may well still be icing sugar and flour in my hair six months after the event. There’s almost certainly still some on the kitchen ceiling! Local media were really supportive, we had some lovely write-ups and I ummed and erred my way through a radio spot without swearing (which is a massive achievement), and there was a word-ofmouth surge at the last minute. Suddenly I had work colleagues offering cakes left right and centre!” Sarah says: “Beth and I did most of the organising before the big day, but there were four of us who did most of the baking and ran the stall. We received donations from members of the public, plus some fantastic grey meringues from Hart’s Bakery.” Beth takes up the story, adding: “As well as the bakers there were the fantastic stallholders at the Bear Pit who gave us our pitch, helped us set it up and offered advice (Miriam from Bearpit Social was incredibly helpful), people who leant us equipment, chauffeured cars full of cakes across Bristol, lugged tables and gazebos too and fro, designed promotional material, plugged us online and, obviously, everyone who came to chat and buy cake.” Beth says: “Foot traffic was surprisingly good. We had a number of people stopping

craftivism for change

Colette Brown, 24, was involved in the second Depressed Cake Shop in Bristol, at the Full Moon Market on Stokes Croft, which raised funds for Changes, a peer-topeer mental health support group she is part of. “I liked the idea that the main thing was not to raise money but to raise awareness,” she says. “To get people talking about mental health, not to feel shame. When I first saw photos of grey cakes I thought, ‘this is something really different, it will get a reaction’. And it’s good because people struggling with mental health issues can participate – several people baked but didn’t attend the event – they were able to feel part of it but behind the scenes. It’s a campaigning tool that enables you to feel as though you’ve contributed without having to be frontline. Rather than activism, it’s craftivism!’” As well as the home bakers who contributed, professional bakers donated stuff and the stall was free, people were very receptive. Eight people ran the stall on the day, at least 50 people stopped and had a conversation, while a further 100 took away leaflets. Colette has since been involved in a third Depressed Cake Shop held in St Werburghs, whilst Bristol University students

have also held their own event. Colette says: “I made cupcakes with grey icing while inside there was a lemon or jam explosion.” And what did the cakes mean to her? “A lot of the time people have difficulties but it doesn’t mean that they are any less wonderful underneath. But it can also work the other way, people can seem colourful or bubbly on the outside but be falling apart or broken inside. Being involved has been a liberating experience, it empowers people and you can do as little or as much as you can. It’s not a normal cake sale!” Go to Facebook and search ‘The Depressed Cake Shop’ or ‘The Depressed Cake Shop – Bristol’

Bristol College of Massage & Bodywork has a home! Founded in 1987, BCMB has shared space with a range of venues over the years, for which they are very grateful, but as Andy Fagg, college founder, says: “I have dreamt of having one place to locate all our work.” You’ll find BCMB at Langford Lodge, 109 Pembroke Road in Bristol, where you can also book sessions at their new low-cost clinics with students and recent graduates.

The always-fabulous Expressions Festival from Milestones Trust this year takes ‘journeys’ as its theme and includes a 12-foot sea witch with a woven, plastic bag ocean, a cardboard train and a knitted street. The festival is a result of a year of creative endeavours by Milestones Trust service users, with learning disabilities, mental health needs and dementia. 25 April-1 May, Paintworks, Bristol expressions-2014