Matt Fountain is the founder of Freedom Bakery, a social enterprise that has grown to become one of the most respected wholesale bakeries in the West of Scotland, supplying over 90 restaurants, cafes and delis. He is also an expert in social investment working as a consultant for funds and charity clients. He is a graduate of the Universities of Glasgow and Cambridge, where he was awarded alumnus of the year in 2016.
Lee has been baking professionally since he was 17. He was one of the first bakers to join Freedom Bakery in 2015 and has been our head baker since October 2020.
When people walk out of prison, they don’t walk into a new life. Prosperity and stability are built up carefully and slowly. This is a very vulnerable period for ex-prisoners, particularly those who are not returning to a family or a home. In Scotland, reconviction rates have fallen by 22 per cent in the past decade. But re-offending is still a problem: in Glasgow City from 2015-16, the reconviction rate was 27 per cent.
Unemployment is part of this problem; not least because it's hard to get a job when you have a record. New government-backed schemes such as Street & Arrow, a Glasgow street food truck that employs ex-prisoners, have shown the effectiveness of work and training in the prevention of crime. At Freedom Bakery, we have a similar belief in breadmaking: to join our team is to prepare for a more constructive future. Here are some stories of people we’ve worked with:
‘I’ve been in and out of prison most of my life. I grew up in the Gorbals in the 60s, 70s. It was a pure slum. I got into a lot of trouble, took out of school, into borstal, into prison. My dad was in the navy, away in the far east, and my mum was a binge drinker. When they divorced she took up with a junkie. From bad to worse.
My work was as an early cook, we’d make 500 rolls a day. In that time I was married, but we divorced after a couple of years. I met another lassie and stayed out of trouble for about 8 years. Then she died, and I went off the rails, got into drugs.
I’ve always kept myself busy but it’s only since I’ve been working here that I’ve started to think things could be more positive. Inside prison, they just let you sink or swim. You get restless, there’s never anything to do. Here, I’m starting to feel a bit more like myself. It gives you hope. When I get to the door of the bakery, I feel normal.
"I worked in banking for 30 years. When the crisis hit in 2007, my earnings dropped by almost two-thirds, and my wife lost her job. I was short of money and I started spending my parents’ estate. I was in limbo – I got sacked, and my case went to trial.
I was one of the original HMP Low Moss protégés of Freedom Bakery; I was there on the first day; it was a chance to learn something new. When I got out of Low Moss, on a Monday, I started work here on the Wednesday. I was driving part-time; it was something to do. Now I’m full time and I’ve got more and more responsibility.
When a lot of people get out of prison, they have nothing. No family, no support. Freedom Bakery can offer them something.
*Names changed to protect identity