Prior's Court's bakery with a difference ‘Bread & Beyond’ has opened for business with an official launch event on Friday 25 January.

Great British Bake Off semi-finalist Briony Williams was invited along to cut the ribbon for the ground-breaking venture, which has been developed by Prior’s Court to provide training and work opportunities for young people with severe autism.

The purpose-built bakery was constructed on the Berkshire-based Prior's Court site, with support from master baker and confectioner Steve Fudge who shared his expertise to ensure the business was set up to be commercially viable and in line with industry standards.

Great British Bake Off contestant Briony Williams with PriorPrior’s Court CEO Mike Robinson explained; “Our aim is to develop and bake the finest hand-crafted goods, using the highest quality ingredients, free from additives and preservatives. And at the same time, provide vocational training and employment opportunities for young people with severe autism. Only 32% of autistic adults in the UK are in any kind of paid employment and for people with severe autism, the current expectation is that they will never enter the world of work. This significantly reduces their independence, increasing the risk of social exclusion and mental and physical ill-health. We want to change the outlook for young people with autism, building on our existing work placement programme, and give real opportunities for paid work in a commercial environment both here and out in the community.

“We currently have around seven training sessions taking place each week, and 12 young people already involved. Our ambition is to have 10 bakeries across the country so we can make an even bigger impact on the lives of more young people affected by autism.”

Baking is an activity which really suits the strength and skills of people with autism; highly process driven, practical and with an end product which is rewarding and motivating. 

24-year-old Reuben has been involved in sessions from the start and was part of the inspiration for the bakery. He has always had a love for food and cooking, and began taking food tech sessions at Prior's Court in 2015. Along with another student, Reuben started baking and selling muffins to staff. Having started life at Prior’s Court with very few interests and complex behavioural issues, Reuben is now one of the most skilled trainee bakers. His parents are able to see a future for him with opportunities they never thought possible.

Great British Bake Off contestant Briony Williams is handed a loaf of bread from PriorArtisan Bakery Manager Dylan Needham leads on day-to-day production, quality control, and training the young people and staff members. He brings a wealth of experience having worked for the likes of Hovis, Delice De France and Warburtons to name a few, working on production lines and new product development.

Dylan said; “For me the most exciting bit is getting the young people involved, and that sense of achievement for them. It’s giving them more meaning after they leave Prior’s Court; they can go on and get a job which is incredible.”

Briony Williams was a very popular contestant on the Great British Bake Off (filmed just a short drive away from Prior’s Court), and was praised for not letting her disability stand in the way of her passion which she described as a part of her, not all of her. Briony enthused about Bread & Beyond at the launch, saying; “What an incredible thing to be doing, to provide such great opportunities for these young people who wouldn’t ordinarily have that. It’s an honour to be here.”

As well as being there to cut the ribbon, Briony formed an expert judging panel alongside Steve Fudge and Henry Jeffries to taste some new speciality breads. Together they selected the olive bread as their favourite, which will now be added to the bakery’s product list.

While the bakery shop is not open to the general public, Bread & Beyond products are beginning to hit the shelves of shops such as Budgens in Newbury, and local farm shops. They also supply all the bread and baked goods on the Prior’s Court site, catering for around 90 young people and 500 staff members.