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2013, blog, Chichester, tattoo

Moving On Up


Exciting times, after months, yes, literally months of having Valerie, my web designer chase me at odd hours of the day with her occasionally being across the pond and being up at silly time of the night just so that she can catch me on Facebook, my bakery’s website is finally live.

This is my last post from the WordPress platform itself as posts are being transferred to my website, where you will find past and future posts on a separate tab. Please do visit the website, change your bookmark and sign up to be kept abreast (oh how I chortle at that word).

You can find the new website here.

See you on the other side. I have a pretty amusing post to follow. Remember that Miss Tattoo Liverpool competition I was in the finals for? I never did tell you what the outcome was, did I?

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2013, Chichester, Whipped&Baked

Curiosity Is The Purest Form Of Insubordination


A quick one, SniffSnorters.

Following from the last post where we were awaiting the publication of the local newspaper on which we were front page for the whole street art storm in a teacup debacle, we were astounded to discover that we made front page.

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We have yet to officially hear from the Council.

I have however been forwarded this clipping from the Chichester Society newsletter. It’s not available to the public yet. It intrigues me that the article hasn’t even a byline and let’s not even get into the inaccuracies of the reporting. Now remember, children, unless the artwork is endorsed by an official establishment and is under the umbrella of some well known project, then it simply isn’t allowed to be called art. Other than that, it’s just copying.

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To reading about this today. My Twitter feed was alive with tweets from local Chichester tweet-people.

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It’s elicited plenty of comments on my Whipped & Baked’s Facebook page. The reach so far is in excess of 2000.

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And, on Twitter, @tnoac the people behind the Street Art Project have been making their views known on the matter.

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I’d like to know who these critics are whose pressure the Council is succumbing to? What stakes do they have and how do their opinions matter more than others?

And does this mean if I gather enough critics of the now butchered Butter Market, the Council will revert it to what it was originally purposed for?

Stay curious, SniffSnorters, not judgmental.

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2013, Chichester, Whipped&Baked

Common Sense Is Not A Flower That Grows In Every Garden


To be bluntly honest, SniffSnorters, I’m not looking forward to tomorrow much. I’ve had a hectic few days, partly self inflicted when I completely misunderstood when my next tattoo appointment was going to be. Cue 10:30 yesterday morning and I was picking up a Facebook message from my tattooer asking me if I would mind having my appointment moved to a later time that day. Up until then, I had actually thought that my appointment was a month away.
There was a mad scramble when the Chichester Observer photographer came yesterday to photograph us in front of the controversial painting on our shop’s external wall. I felt awkward being positioned in the centre of the photograph and was terribly overwhelmed by the number of customers and blog followers who had turned up for the shoot.
The local media interest arose initially from this blog post of mine, which in one day acquired almost 1000 hits. Personally, I think the whole thing has been blown out of proportion. The local newspaper’s interest was further piqued when we received an unannounced visit on Monday by the local Council’s Planning Enforcement Officer. He made the special visit on the basis of the one complaint his department had had about the painting and was there to warn us. Yes. No joke, that was the word he had used. Warn us. When we queried what exactly was he warning us about or even for, the officer was unable to provide any clarification and when pressed, he responded by saying that he would have to consult with his department for the details. We made a point about the hostility and the threat that a word like warn carries and that our art installation was a temporary one, hence not requiring Listed Building Consent. The paint used was water soluble acrylic and would in time wash off.
We also considered the wisdom in sending out officers to visits based on a singular complaint. Just how much does that cost in Tax Payers’ money? And the Planning Enforcement Department’s stance that the painting on our wall is of poor quality? The last time I looked, being an art critic wasn’t within the remit of the Council’s roles and responsibilities. How can a subjective opinion be used to justify a decision to enforce a Council action? Do we decide the worth of a piece of art based on the status of the artist or whichever organisation that endorses it? What makes one art form more valid than another?
But by and by, the point that I really would like to make is just what message is the Council sending out by having their officer enter the premises of a local business and use loaded words like warn? What about engaging with your residents and local business owners in a way that keeps the line of communication open and friendly? What happened to courtesy? Consider what being a public servant should really mean. The painting received, to date as I am aware, ONE complaint. That complainant has been served. I have been led to believe that the Planning Enforcement Department has to date received several emails which were positive about our painted wall. So who will be serving the opinions of these individuals? And the opinions of the 30 odd people who turned up for the photo shoot organised by the local paper? Since when was it alright for a Local Council to seek out to heed only the complaints that fits their agenda?

Some thirty people turned up for that photoshoot. Not necessarily because they love the painting, although I know some of them do. I know of a 3 year old freckled faced little girl who insists on visiting the painting every time she is at our shop. On the whole, they were there because they see the painting for exactly the bit of whimsy that we had intended it to be. A little injection of fun. A harmless quirk.

Common sense is definitely not a flower that grows in every garden. We live in a kingdom where mountains are made out of molehills and vivacity is suffocated by the bindweeds of pencil-pushing. Tomorrow this very subject will be featured in our local newspaper. Until then I choose to remain bemused.

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2013, Chichester

Whipped & Baked Needs You


CAKE REVELLERS: We need your help.

This blog post of mine had near 1000 hits the day it was published. Chichester Observer has been over to interview us about our views and just this morning, we had an unannounced visit from the Planning Officer telling us that he has had one complaint about our wall.

This is what we need:
Chichester Observer’s photographer is coming to photograph the wall on Tuesday morning. We would like to get a group of people to be present in this photo. If you’re local to Chichester, please come and support us if you can.

And if you can’t make the photoshoot at 11:45 this coming Tuesday and you actually think that perhaps the Council is better suited to direct its resources to more important matters at hand (like answering those long overdue Freedom of Information requests they have to by law answer within a time limit), you can let your views be known to the officer who visited us today.
Here is his email address.

Elockett at Chichester dot gov dot uk

Or you can just tell him that you love the painting. Maybe he would visit us again to pass on that message. I’d like to think he’s paid to serve the likers as well as the haters.

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2013, Chichester

Disgruntled Of Chichester


The title of this post sums it up really. Unfortunately, there possibly won’t be any photos to accompany this post. Unless I find the ones I’m looking for and I convince myself that I’m not doing anything libellous.

Few things irk me more than it should. Car alarms going off every thirty seconds when it is actually parked outside my bakery and I have to listen to it for what feels like hours. Every single time, I have to stop myself from unleashing my mighty artistic skills with a bold Sharpie pen on their windscreen.
People sitting on the top of the backrest of park benches. Just why? How can that possibly be any more comfortable than sitting down properly?
People who drive big urban 4×4 fuel guzzling tanks when the only trip they do is from their town house to Waitrose.

I appreciate I am being somewhat excessive.

And then, there are the ones that justifiably piss me off. Let me paint you a picture, but before that some sort of background. A few months ago, Chichester rested its elbows on the dining table and somehow took a chill pill. The good council of Chichester allowed for the Chichester Street Art to happen.
Being a Conservative, traditional Cathedral City, it did not put up any protest against this public display of artistic expression. Artists from all over the would came into the city and with the permission of the landlords, installed works of arts on blank building walls. I thought it was amazing. The residents of Chichester that I have come across absolutely love it and the #Chichester Twitter feed was alive and buzzing about this event.

Being fortunate enough to own the building that the bakery is in, we granted Samo, a Petersfield based artist/tattooist to paint the brick wall on the side of the bakery’s building.

Here it is finished.

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And here is a cool shot taken by Nadia Stephens Photography.

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The response to it was immense. We had great feedback both on Twitter and also on Facebook, and in actual real life, people were coming over to see it in person.

Fast forward a few weeks, a gentleman on a bicycle complete with his trousers bicycle clips, walked into the bakery and without introducing himself, asked if we had given permission for the wall to the painted.

Yes.

Is it on of the official list of street art festival?

No.

Oh, said he.

I’m sorry. Just who are you and what is our interest in this?

Apparently he’s from conservation. Notice how I wasn’t even afforded the courtesy of a name or a full title of the organisation that he was representing. Apparently ‘they’ were concerned about the increased amount of street art that has been popping up recently.

And your issue with this particular painting?

Apparently it wasn’t very nice. The paint runs looked untidy. Oh yes, never mind that is the style of the artist. “I don’t like it”, he said.

Resisting the temptation to follow him home and tell him how I detested the way his garden grew, I politely informed him that it is a matter of opinion and that everyone else I’ve spoken to liked it.

He tried to ask me if I had sought the Council’s permission to put the painting up and looked rather crestfallen when I pointed out a fact that he obviously had already known – that just like the street art installations, no permission was needed from the council and that it only required the approval of the landlord.

It was when he asked when the painting was going to be taken down and me replying When it washes off that I think he realised that I was a lost cause and communication should cease promptly.

And I don’t understand this attitude. The need to preserve a great city exactly like its one dimensional postcard image. Stagnant, devoid of activity and a mere snapshot for passing visitors. The council grovelling for visitors to come visit and spend their money in the city and at the same in, driving its residents out of town to spend their money there. The same attitude that fuelled the bewildering Council decision to want to plough 70K into refitting a shop dedicated for local produces to be run by a local business which somehow will need to be able to pay the extortionate rent and business rates of in excess of 60K a year. You’re going to have to sell a hell of an amount of jams to make that amount.
And don’t even get me started on how they managed to massacre the Butter Market on North Street. That Council funded 70K could have gone a LONG way to rejuvenate the Butter Market and preserve its use for small independent shops.

How did this viewpoint:

We’re very aware that Chichester has seen a number of redevelopments in recent years, which have often left nothing more of the original buildings than a shell or exterior façade. That is not what we want for the Butter market.

And this:

We believe a more ethical and flexible approach to retail business is required; an approach that echoes the original purpose of the Butter Market in serving the needs of the consumers and producers of Chichester, rather than one which regards an historic building as simply an attractive shell for the ubiquitous modern retail mall.

And this:

Our vision is to see a return of the “toll” model originally used in the Butter Market. This will ensure that the consumer and producer are not used as a simple margin to be exploited in the retail environment. The toll model is a simple and fair way of bringing produce to market because charges to the producer are based on profits, which ensures that the producer retains a sustainable margin while the consumer pays a sustainable cost. In other words, producers benefit, consumers benefit, and Chichester benefits.

http://www.chichesterbuttermarket.co.uk/vision.php?menu=benefit#benefiting_chichester

Become this?

It is already recognised as a renowned retailing centre and there is now an opportunity to take retailing to a new level with the conversion of the historic Butter Market into a top end shopping experience.
Distinguished brands and luxury goods retailers will have an opportunity to connect with the inherent prosperity and wealth created by centuries of commerce in and around this flourishing Cathedral City.
The Butter Market aspires to become the benchmark in the retail environment for bespoke and distinctive retailers.

http://www.buttermarketchichester.co.uk/

So, we sit and watch historical buildings like this butchered. The Butter Market was apparently 200 years in the making and it was destroyed in an instance by greed. We hear of yet more independent shops closing down due to extortionate business rates, and yet, it appears to be the main bugbear of the Council is the growing number of A boards on the high street.

Seriously

Some people just need to get over themselves.

I have one proposition. The people who make decisions about the city centre will need to be actually living in the city centre.

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2013, bakery, Chichester, stonepillow, suspended coffee

Suspended Coffee Whipped & Baked’s Way


I suppose seeing that I haven’t posted for a long time, I really ought to update you on how the Whipped & Baked bakery is doing. To those new to this blog, sometime around four months ago, I, together with my husband a.k.a. Slaveboy refitted a shop and opened a bakery/coffee shop on little more than £5000. We didn’t want the constraints of a bank loan or the gamble of investing large sums of money into it so decided to be inventive. Seeing that I don’t plan to be posting about it just this very minute, you are very welcome to have a peek at the bakery here. While you’re there, consider liking the page, it’s our only form of advertising, apart from Twitter.

But let’s talk about marbles.

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These marbles do a lot in the bakery. It initiates interest and intrigue, mostly spurred on by young children who probably have never seen traditional glass marbles that up close (they’re Slaveboy’s from when he was a little boy and the jar was from when the bakery was a family run sweet shop just after World War 2). They visualise random acts of kindness from our customers who pay a £1 to see two marbles put into the jar. They each represent a cup of coffee for the homeless of Chichester.

Just around a week before we were to open the bakery, a friend forwarded on Facebook a link on a scheme called suspended coffee. The gist of it is easily conveyed. It started in Naples, gained momentum in the States and Whipped & Baked was the first establishment in West Sussex, England to have adopted and adapted the scheme. Where it originated in Naples, customers who came in to a coffee shop would pay for an extra coffee which is then suspended for any homeless individual who might wander into the coffee shop in need of a hot beverage. Milk bottle caps used to represent the suspended coffee drinks and as long as there were milk bottle caps visible in a container on the counter, any homeless individual was able to come in and request for a coffee.

We contacted the local homeless charity, StonePillow about our plan to start the scheme and since then, we have received their endorsement. We avoided the complications of over-thinking the scenario – some people suggested that coffee wasn’t a great thing to be feeding homeless people who are potentially sub-optimally nourished, some people suggested that we might not want the likes of homeless people entering our establishment and deterring paying customers, some people suggested that if we wanted to give away free coffees, why not just do it, rather than make a show and tell of it.
We were quick to brush off all these as moot points. They might be sub-optimally nourished but let’s not go all First Class Woes on this and ponder upon whether they should be fed lentil soup instead – if you were homeless and potentially penniless and hungry, a coffee is far better than nothing.
And deterring paying customers by having homeless people come in getting their cup of paid for coffee (it’s not free when it’s been paid by someone)? Meh. We don’t want paying customers like that. That decision making didn’t require a rocket science degree.
And I will make a show and tell of it. I’ve met plenty of Chichester residents who would declare that this great city does not have a problem with homelessness. They were not so quick to retort when informed that the StonePillow day centre can sometimes see up to 50 homeless individuals come through their door in a day. We are comfortable with the concept of being charitable when it doesn’t really involve us engaging directly with the recipient of our charity. A bit like donating £5 a month to sponsor a chimpanzee or £7 to go towards installing a clean water standpipe for some village in Africa. It’s a clean, sterile and detached charitable act. The act is more about your feelgood factor than it actually is about the recipient of the donation. And this is where the suspended coffee scheme is different. It’s not fundraising, money is not being collected for the sake of collecting money which then gets pushed through channels where stakeholders and administrations decide where the money should go to, once the costs of admin, stationery, advertising etc have been recouped. Instead, this scheme is direct action. On a daily basis, in our bakery, marbles go into the jar donated by our customers and they come out of the jar as suspended coffees are claimed by homeless individuals.
The lads (I say lads because in general, they tend to be men although there are a few women regulars too) come in pretty much every day, between 7-15 of them and most of them are fond of coffee, and also hot chocolate. Almost all of them have sugar and more likely than not, it would be in excess of four teaspoons worth per drink. They’ve become quite chatty, they know us on first name basis and I know a few by name too. We talk about how the coffee machine works, organic food, cinder toffee making, tattoos and 99% of the time our paying customers don’t even know that they’re homeless. In fact, we have had people pass comments that we didn’t seem to be getting any uptake with the suspended coffee only to be very surprised when we pointed out to them that the last group of people who left the shop were all homeless.
The old fashioned assumption that this marginalised section of the society would be unruly/dirty/unkempt/different is still rife. Occasionally, a couple of the lads would turn up looking a bit worse for wear, but so would you if you were sleeping rough on damp ground during an unanticipated nighttime downpour.
The biggest wake up call for me, which felt like a slap in the face with a wet sock, and even more shocking because I thought I was being ever so sensitive and conscientious by doing this, was when one of the lads knocked on our door after we’re closed asking if their friend can still get a cup of coffee. Not because he was thirsty but because he was on medication and there was simply no water to be found anywhere in the town centre. The toilets were closed, and even if they were open, the water was not fit for drinking. There’s no standpipe for water accessible. The ironic thing is, we have shops on the High Street putting out bowls of water for thirsty dogs.
This scheme of ours have generated a lot of interest and I’m really pleased about this. I’ve been invited by the local radio station to talk about it, the local newspaper have written a feature about it and even a columnist have commended us for starting this scheme.
However, there is room for improvement. Other businesses could come on board, and adapt the scheme to make it work within their own business models. If you’re a sandwich shop, then the suspended coffee could be a basic sandwich. If you’re a fruitmonger, it could be a banana. The list is endless.
When I decided that we were doing this scheme, Slaveboy’s was sceptical but he went with it. Now, he is the biggest advocate. He educates the customers and their children who enquire about the marbles. He engages in a discussion about it with those who find it intellectually intriguing. He rationalises with the sceptics who are looking for the catch or how we are financially profiting from this which obviously we aren’t.
This scheme is not about coffee or charity. It’s about random acts of kindness. It’s about doing something which you know will directly benefit another person. There’s no free pens, or cute photos of fluffy animals or snapshots of dusky skinned little girls with dirt stained faces and oversized tee shirts but that cup of suspended coffee could make the difference between a homeless person making it through a cold winter night outdoors, not just for the warmth it gives, but the hope it represents.

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