How Covid-19 has brought new life to Seven Hills Bakery book club

Written by Chloe Bowen

For some of us the pandemic has slowed our hustle right down, leading us to question what we are meant to be doing with all this spare time. So far we have seen many lockdown trends from baking banana bread and creating TikToks, to sweaty fitness classes and doing laps of our local park to wave the time away. It looks like we are finally seeing the end to our third, and hopefully final lockdown, but what many of us can now all celebrate is our reignited love for reading and an appreciation towards ever growing book clubs.

For the time being, existing reading groups have moved online to regular Zoom calls and engagements through Instagram to keep the book worm communities alive. But the internet has been a magical place for allowing new book clubs to form. Whether it be to discuss your favourite plot twists with friends, or to cosy up with a hardback while gripping your tenth cup of tea of the day.

A new up and coming book club casts a spotlight on Seven Hills Bakery in Sheffield, nestled away in the cool Sharrow Vale area that attracts lovers of food, fashion, and art. The staff have started their own book club, known as #sevenhillsbookclub, to share the books that have been giving them a sense of escapism through lockdown.

India Johnson is 26 years old and originally from Nottingham. She is the kitchen supervisor at the bakery and in her spare time curates the delicious menus on offer. Since lockdown started the bakery has had to switch to takeaway food only, which gave India some leeway with her time at work. She decided to take on more of the social media management duties which gave back her creative flair. From this #sevenhillsbookclub was born.

“The book club itself was inspired by my wonderful co-workers. We could no longer meet up socially as we once did, but one thing we could do was discuss the shows we’d been watching, the films we’d seen and the books we’d read. I love the feeling of reading a great book and instantly wanting to share it with everyone you know. That’s where the book club came from, it’s a way of reconnecting with the community in the same way we’d been connecting to each other.”

Working in a neighbourhood bakery holds many perks, like the smell of freshly baked bread filling the air. But the other bonus is getting to know the regulars and getting a chance to interact with them every week, as well as building up a good relationship with them. But when COVID-19 hit, a lot of that was put on pause for the community.

“Some of our customers no longer wanted to leave the house and those that still visited the bakery weren’t able to chat with us in the carefree way they once did. That’s why our social media presence has been so important to us, it has allowed us to communicate with our customers in a safe way.”

Whilst it is still early days for the club, at the moment, it is only able to take place online. This is expected to change and evolve when life resumes to how it once was. The staff involved with #sevenhillsbookclub have found a way to really get behind this idea and make it unique to them- linking each book with one of their famous bakes.

Ms Johnson said: “I love the idea of running a monthly meet-up at the bakery where we share food and drink to discuss the latest read. We try to match the book to one of the items on our menu, so it would be really exciting to prepare food that matches the region the chosen book is set in. Maybe one day this will be a reality.”

The latest and first book mentioned was “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. The novels theme of grits regularly cropping up inspired the bakery to match their blood orange polenta cake to the contents. Spoiler alert, everybody loved it. The post has been showered with love and attention so far. First book – big success.

Ms Johnson added: “The way it works at the moment is we select a book from the recommendations from our customers on Instagram. We then announce the chosen book on our Instagram page to allow everyone to read along. A number of us at the bakery will also read the book and once we’re ready we will write our own short reviews in a post. We then ask our followers to let us know what they think and voice their opinions and recommendations in the comments. We then select another book and start again.”

According to The Guardian, a new survey of 1,000 people has revealed  people in the UK have almost doubled the amount of time they spend reading books since lockdown began. Nielsen Book’s research found that 41% of people said they were reading more books since Boris Johnson imposed the measures on 23rd March.

“My hope for the book club is that it not only allows us to interact with our customers, but for our customers to communicate with each other. Many people are stuck at home right now, so if this can act as a small way for people to feel somewhat social again that would be amazing. Even if it is only online!” said Ms Johnson.

Follow Seven Hills Bakery over on their Instagram to follow their book club journey @7hillsbakery

Written by Chloe Bowen

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