Exports of Irish bakery products increased by more than 20% in 2009 despite difficult market conditions.Bord Bía (Irish Food Board) told British Baker it estimated that bakery exports were worth E30.84m (£27m) for 2009 compared to E25.7m (£22.5m) in 2008. Products showing growth potential were morning goods (muffins), rolls and innovative breads (e.g. seeded breads). Key markets were the UK, which takes 80% of total exports, followed by the US and Denmark. Much product for export is par-baked.Exports were helped by increased capacity in Ireland, according to Bord Bía in its Performance and Prospects 2009/2010 report. While Bord Bía could not comment on individual companies, industry sources said Aryzta (Cuisine de France’s) new facility, at Grangecastle in Dublin, with an investment of around E195m (£171m), was one of the most efficient and modern of its kind in Europe.Bakery product exports bucked an otherwise downward trend. Overall food exports to the UK were down by 15% or E400m (£351m). A key factor was the decline in sterling against the euro. Bord Bía told British Baker that, in 2010, it expected the market environment to remain difficult.
Just days after author Will Kostakis came out as being gay on his blog, he was contacted by De La Salle College in Sydney’s southwest to inform him that a talk he was scheduled to give on his latest novel The Sidekicks would be inappropriate.In the blog post, the author reflects on the experience of finding out that one of his ex-partners had cancer. Realising he could possibly lose someone he cared about dearly, the young writer was inspired to be honest about his sexual orientation. Following the post, one of the school’s staff members emailed Mr Kostakis, expressing concerns about the book, which features a gay character. “We have a concern about promoting your new book at our school as it is a Catholic school,” the email reads. “We were reading over your blog and I think it might not be appropriate, and parents might not be happy.”The teacher went on to clarify that it was “nothing personally against” the author but that it just wasn’t “appropriate”.“I’d like to say I was surprised, but it was always something that was in the back of my head as a possibility, and it was certainly a fear of mine,” Mr Kostakis told Neos Kosmos.The 26-year-old spoke at the same school last year to promote his previous novel, The First Third, which also openly dealt with gay themes, including casual sex in the gay community and the use of dating apps. Although he admits that it “felt like a risk when I was writing it” it was an experience he knew a lot of people would connect with. “The fact that they embraced The First Third so wholeheartedly, it was just very strange to get this response for The Sidekicks,” he said.The themes of his latest novel have never been hidden, with a segment made public in the middle of last year. While there is a scene where two boys kiss, he says it is a minor sub-plot of the book, which is about three very different boys and the ways in which they deal with a close friend’s death. “I think no matter what religion you are, no matter what school you go to, that kind of story is important,” Mr Kostakis said, adding that literature can often be the best way for young people to encounter various issues, as it is carefully crafted with the best interests of the child in mind. With his books targeted at students aged 12 and above, his school talks are tailored depending on the age group and their maturity level, but he is clear about the fact that his “sexuality is not the subject of my speeches”.“The thing is, we wouldn’t say you can’t read a book about someone of a different religion or about someone of a different race. It isn’t a manual to teach kids how to lead a different lifestyle, it’s just encouraging them to understand that people live lives that are different to theirs,” he explains. While the school banned Mr Kostakis from talking about The Sidekicks, they offered him the option to re-promote his earlier book again. “We still absolutely want you in June, but if possible can you please do the same talk as last year with focus on becoming an author and The First Third?”Mr Kostakis declined to take part however, stating in his reply “that is not something I will accept for the promise of a pay cheque”.“It’s the fear running through organisations like this that’s underestimating kids’ ability to make their own decisions,” he told Neos Kosmos.“It wasn’t a blog post about being gay, it’s a post about treating people with love and respect and cherishing them while they’re here. At the end of the day, if you have a religion, that’s what is at the core of it. It’s about loving one another.” Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram