Friends of the Earth crowdfund restoration of old Comino bakery for community centre

FOE wants to turn old Comino bakery into into a community centre equipped with basic hosting facilities, space for informal workshops and a space to immerse in nature

 Friends of the Earth Malta have recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to restore an old bakery found on the island of Comino. The environmental organisation has plans to turn it into an interpretation centre for the island, which is completely self-sustaining and a not-for-profit space for overnight stays and retreats.

The idea was initiated by the organisation’s director, Martin Galea De Giovanni who explains, “I came across the bakery in young adulthood, while I was camping with some friends. It immediately piqued my interest, and I realised that it was the ideal space to turn into a hub for sustainability, green education and share Comino’s genuine beauty.”

As the years went by, the need for a place which is dedicated to educating people about Comino’s protected Natura 2000 status became ever more present. “Most people spend all their time at the Blue Lagoon and have no idea of the true natural qualities and rich cultural heritage which this tiny island has to offer,” says Martin, a problem he believes can be solved with this restoration exercise.

“I’ve experienced it first hand at our community garden. People are hungry to learn about how they can care for our environment and the old bakery in Comino is the perfect place to do it,” adds Michelangelo Galea, the organisation’s head gardener and custodian at their green resource centre in Floriana. “I’m hoping that we can get the bakery’s oven up and running by the summer. We’ll be able to invite people to enjoy a slice of homemade bread in nature!”

The building is surrounded by unspoiled nature, and boasts of lovely limestone walls, impressive arches and the bakery’s original oven is still intact. Unfortunately, the organisation shared that the rest of the building has suffered from decades of neglect. Ceilings have caved in, windows and doors are missing, and it has suffered acts of vandalism.

Plans for the dilapidated building, which already have Planning Authority approval, will see the bakery restored to its former glory, using original material from the collapsed sections wherever possible and other second-hand materials to keep the impact as low as possible.

Maria Eileen Fsadni, FoEM’s communications coordinator, says: “We’ve spoken to so many people who have no clue that a bakery even exists in Comino which is a great pity. It’s a beautiful building which used to serve bread to the community back in the island’s heyday.” She goes on to say, “Now it’s been left to fall to bits, but it’s high time that the general public can enjoy it again.”

In the first leg of the campaign, the plan is to secure the site with windows, doors and basic security in order to prevent more vandalism, install essential facilities, including a simple bathroom and supply some areas of the building with electricity.

The first two goals will allow them to turn the old bakery into a community centre equipped with basic hosting facilities, space for informal workshops and a space to immerse in nature. Finally, if they meet the first two targets they would like to responsibly clear the site from the gathering rubble, and rubbish left behind by passers-by.

These three things will help Friends of the Earth Malta gain more financial independence moving forward to be able to complete the restoration works with more ease. More importantly, after several decades of neglect the building will once again be enjoyed by the community.