Back in 2014, Nancy Birtwhistle helped inspire the nation with her show-stopping creations on The Great British Bake Off. Her traditional recipes and Yorkshire charm won over the nation, as well as Mary and Paul; so much so, she was eventually crowned the winning Queen of Cakes Now Nancy is hoping to inspire the nation again, but this time in an altogether different way.
She’s doing this with a 365-day challenge where she’s posting a pearl of wisdom – be it a recipe, craft, gardening or household tip – every day on her social media platforms, to pass on her knowledge and, she hopes, encourage more silver surfers to make the most of social media.
Nancy, who started the challenge in February, says: “When I started Bake Off I wasn’t on any social media as I thought it was something for young people.Then the team at Love Productions who make Bake Off, said it would be a good idea for me to have a Twitter account so I set one up.”
Since then, Nancy has attracted a big following on social media sites Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. And now she’s hoping to be a champion for those of us who didn’t grow up with computers, demonstrating just what great potential there is in social media to make friends, share information and keep up-to-date with people and news.
“When I go to food shows, people of my age often say to me that they aren’t on social media, as do a lot of my friends. Usually they say they’d rather see someone in person than make a friend on Facebook, but what I’ve found is that by being on sites like Facebook I’ve met a lot of new people that I’ve later gone on to meet in person. And I think the social side of it would be especially great for people who might be living on their own.
“I love how interactive social media is, too. For example, since I started my challenge, I’ve had lots of people messaging me to ask for certain things, like a recipe for a pavlova or for tips on making the best rice pudding. I’d love it if I could be a bit of an ambassador for getting people of my age on social media, because I think it’s an amazing thing to be part of.”
Nancy says by challenging herself to post every day – be it a hint, tip, recipe or ‘how to’ video – she’s learning lots of new things about how to make the most of social media sites, too.
“I’m already finding that every day I’m getting a little bit better, especially since my grandson introduced me to an app called iMovie that lets me make short films on my phone that I then share. Doing this kind of thing keeps you young I think.”
For those who’ve never been on social media before, Nancy recommends starting off with Facebook and trying to stick at it, even if it looks confusing at first.
“It all depends on what you want to use social media for – for me it was about sharing my recipes and knowledge – but really you get to grips with it just by having a go.”
As well as inspiring people to venture online, Nancy wants to use this challenge to share some of the many tips and tricks she’s learned as a baker, crafter and gardener over the years.
“Since Bake Off I’ve done lots of cake judging and demos and what I always get asked for is tips, shortcuts and life hacks as they’ve come to be known. So when the new year came round I thought the year’s young but I’m another year older and I’m mindful that I have this information and knowledge that, if I don’t pass on, will die with me.
“I remember my grandmother was a fantastic source of information for me but even now I wish I’d asked her more things. So that’s why I want to pass on everything I know now by posting a new tip or trick online every day.”
A lot of the posts are about cooking and baking ¬– after all Nancy still bakes every single day, to the delight of her obliging tasters – large extended family, neighbours and friends. She’s also still in regular text contact with the other contestants she appeared with on the Great British Bake Off, who she says really helped get her hooked on social media, and they meet up a couple of times a year.
But the 365 challenge won’t just be all about cakes. “Gardening and craft are also big interests of mine, so I’m sharing tips on those. My interest in knitting came about when I was a very young, newly-married mother with not a lot of money and I had to make-do-and mend. Then my crafting skills were something I learned from my grandma. Now I’m passing these skills onto my grandchildren as well as sharing with a much bigger audience on social media and it feels fantastic.”