One in four people will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lives. And research from King’s College London suggests the economic recession across Europe has had a profound impact on people with mental health problems.
Campaigners are working to end the stigma of mental health problems. In Bristol next weekend, a pop-up stall offering cakes, biscuits and sweets will be opened in the Bearpit with the aim of highlighting the issue to passers-by.
The Depressed Cake Shop may sound less than appealing but the cakes, biscuits and sweet treats promised sound irresistible.
The initiative aims to raise awareness of and discuss mental health issues, with a focus on depression and simultaneously fundraising for a mental health charity.
The symptoms of depression are complex and varied but as a rule of thumb if you are depressed you feel sad, hopeless and lose interest in the things you once enjoyed. The cakes created by the professional and hobby bakers contributing to Bristol’s event will represent this.
The grey colour scheme represents the fun and colour disappearing from a depressed person’s life, the lack of vitality and the bad days. However inside they will be brightly coloured and are promised to taste delicious.
We spoke to Beth Ward and Sarah Newman who are the driving forces behind the Depressed Cake Shop in Bristol.
How did you hear about the Depressed Cake Shop idea?
BW I stumbled across it on Facebook and was struck by what a fantastic concept it was.
SN Someone had linked to a Guardian article on Facebook and, as a baker and depression sufferer, I was intrigued by the headline.
Why did you decide to get involved?
BW I was hoping somebody would start organising something in the South West because, whilst I’m not necessarily the most talented baker I do enjoy it. I also thought that raising awareness of issues surrounding mental health was a brilliant cause to join. Despite the statistics so few people understand mental illness in it’s myriad forms. Everyone has ‘mental health’, just like everyone has ‘heart health’, but there’s an unfortunate stigma attached to people who struggle with theirs.
A lot of people seemed interested in joining a Bristol concern, but nobody had stepped forward to take the lead, then, simultaneously Sarah and I decided to get organising
SN I thought it sounded like a fantastic event, not only to raise awareness for mental health issues, but also to show how something like baking can provide a therapeutic and positive distraction for those who suffer from depression. I tend to struggle with self-confidence, so on a personal level, I thought this would be a good thing for me to be involved in.
Why did you chose the Bearpit for the pop-up stall?
SN I love the atmosphere in the Bearpit and I always go through there whenever I need to get from the city centre to Stokes Croft, as do many other people. It’s seen an increase in traders over the past year or so and I expect that continue in the future.
BW The Bearpit is a fantastic location. It’s almost as central as you could possibly be, and since the recent development of the market it’s become a really interesting location. The traders there are so friendly and passionate about what they do, and they’ve been incredibly helpful and supportive of us since we approached them.
Will there be other similar cake sales this year?
BW There are similar cake sales all over the country and beyond, Bristol is only one of over 22 pop ups across the UK, and the project has branches in Chicago, San Francisco, Sydney and Kuala Lumpur too!
What sort of cakes, sweet things and crafts can customers buy from you?
BW There will be everything you might expect at any market cake stall, cupcakes, biscuits, macarons, doughnuts, but all grey. We’ll also have some lovely grey crafts available. Sarah’s made some fantastic sock monkeys, but get down early, because I’m sorely tempted to snap them up myself.
Were you tempted to bend the rules about the cakes being grey?
SN I found it more of a challenge to make the cakes look appealing, but that’s all part of the fun. I think it’ll look really striking to have a stall filled completely with grey cakes and hoping that it’ll get our customers thinking more about mental illness and maybe we can help to break some of the stigma attached to it.
BW There’s really only one hard and fast rule for the shop, and that’s that the cakes should be grey, at least on the exterior. And I wasn’t tempted to stray from it. The whole point of the exercise is to demonstrate the complexity of the issue. Something that looks grey and drab from the outside can surprise you when you scratch the surface.
Without the grey cakes we’d just be another charity bake sale. I think this is a truly unique movement, I loved the idea when I saw it and I think the concept is so strong that deviating from it would dilute the message.
And the cakes are just as delicious as they would be with pink icing… trust me, I’ve sampled plenty over the last few weeks.
The Bristol branch of the Depressed Cake Shop will be opening at the Bearpit Market for one day only on Saturday, August 17.
With grey cakes, doughnuts, biscuits, macarons, muffins and crafty treats to boot. All proceeds will go to Rethink: http://www.rethink.org/
To see a recipe for just one of the cakes on offer see here