Food & Drink

Baking for Gaza, as Belfast bakers unite for Trademarket ‘cake picnic’

A ‘cake picnic’ in Belfast this weekend is raising funds for some of those trapped by Israel’s invasion of Gaza

Shonee McWilliams who is organising a Picnic for Palestine at the Trade Market this weekend. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN
Shonee McWilliams of Pie Queen, one of the organisers of the 'Cake Picnic for Palestine' in Belfast this weekend PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

A group of Belfast bakers have teamed up for a ‘cake picnic’ fundraiser to help evacuate a Palestinian family from Gaza. The event, which will be held in Trademarket this Sunday, will see the venue filled with cakes donated by both amateur and professional bakers.

Shonee McWilliams, who owns Pie Queen and is one of the organisers, said that it was a direct response to “everything that’s continuing to happen” in Palestine.

“It’s so horrific,” she said. “You just feel you have to do something, in whatever little way you can.”

The group – which consists of Ms McWilliams, Hannah Hollywood of Hings Bakery, Kim McCallum of Bloated Toad and Claire Magowan of Lily Pink Bakery – is asking the public to donate to their Just Giving page in the lead-up to the fundraiser. During the event, attendees will be asked to make a donation in exchange for a box of cakes.

“It will be a spectacle – a gorgeous, visual event,’ explained Ms McWilliams, who said there will be “a big banquet table, and we’re going to have beautiful tablecloths and cake stands”.

“We’ve got loads of professionals involved,” she added. “There are people who are going to be doing big three-tiered beauties, and we also have loads of home bakers who want to bring their banana bread or a little batch of cookies.”

The bakers have also arranged for traditional Palestinian dabkeh dancers to perform at the event.

“There’s more than one way of showing solidarity. It’s not all about making money – it’s about having the respect for that culture as well. It’s about saying, ‘We see you and we want everyone else to see you too’.”

Money raised by Cake Picnic will go towards helping four family members of a Palestinian living in Belfast to leave Gaza.

This isn’t the first time the bakers have tried their hands at fundraising. In February, they took part in a raffle which raised £13,000 for Medical Aid Palestine.

Businesses including Let’s Go Hydro, Dilly and Dolly’s and Past Tense Clothing donated prizes for the raffle.

“Initially it was just me and a few friends of mine who own small businesses getting together to do a little raffle,” said Ms McWilliams, who only expected to raise £1,000.

“As soon as I put it on Instagram, I got message after message from all kinds of people – big and small businesses all over the country.”

The reaction to the raffle made Ms McWilliams realise that many businesses want to help but they’re not sure how.

“They just needed that platform that somebody else had brought together,” she said.

Everything that’s continuing to happen in Palestine is so horrific. You just feel you have to do something, in whatever little way you can

—  Shonee McWilliams

The event takes its name from the American version of Cake Picnic, which sees bakers in cities like New York and San Francisco blanket local parks with their wares for free.

Shonee McWilliams who is organising a Picnic for Palestine at the Trade Market this weekend. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN
This weekend's 'Cake Picnic for Palestine' is another way to show solidarity with those caught up in the tragedy of Gaza, says Shonee McWilliams (Mal McCann)

“I just thought that was such a beautiful idea – why don’t we do that? But while we’re doing it, make some money for a really, really important cause,” she added.

“Of course, the most important thing is raising money but it’s also going to be a lovely community event.”

Claire Magowan of Lily Pink Bakery said the group have been inundated with requests to take part.

“Everyone is just itching to get involved,” she added.

“We’re doing the logistics but we have so many people who have volunteered to help. People want to donate coffee, or make the set up look beautiful by donating flowers.”

Ms McGowan said the group is quietly confident that the event will be a success – and if it is, the bakers plan to organise more charity events.

“I just think it’ll be brilliant. I love that there are loads of bakers coming to together to do it, it feels like a community initiative,” she said.

“It’ll be a really fun day and hopefully if it goes well, we can continue it for other causes as well.

“I think it’s very important to pull the community together right now and do what we can – and baking is what I can do.”

Cake Picnic runs between noon and 3pm on Sunday June 23 at Trademarket on Dublin Road, Belfast. Anyone who wants to donate can do so via Just Giving.