The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited a London job centre today, before trying their hand at making bagels in a day out hearing how local businesses have survived coronavirus lockdown.
The Duke and Duchess, who have returned to London after working from home in Norfolk since March, took a turn cooking at the famous Beigel Bake Brick Lane Bakery, citing “beginners’ luck” as they were praised for their skill with the balls of dough.
At the London Bridge Jobcentre, they heard from those who had found themselves out of work thanks to Covid-19, hearing claims that employers had used the crisis as an “excuse” to lay off staff.
And in the East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre they heard how worshippers had rallied to provide food parcels to their community, still delivering groceries to those in need.
The Cambridge children were not forgotten as the couple heard about apprentices being taken on at a building site to help boost the area.
“The children, especially Louis would love to come and watch that, to see the diggers, they love it,” said the Duke, before the Duchess - appearing mindful of equal opportunities - added: “Don’t forget Charlotte! She’d love it too.”
The three visits saw the Duke and Duchess wearing masks as they worked to highlight the struggles faced by business owners and staff during coronavirus.
At the Jobcentre, they met Afef Ben Khaled, who lost her job in a commercial bank in May when her contract was not renewed.
When the duchess asked her: “Are a lot of your colleagues who were made redundant at the same time as you, are they finding themselves in the same situation?” Miss Khaled replied: “Another colleague of mine who was made redundant thought they [employer] are using the Covid-19 as an excuse. Sorry to be direct with you, but this is the reality.”
William responded: “I’m sure.”
The Duchess, who wore a red Beulah dress and tan heels, asked other job-seekers: “Claiming universal credit, was that an easy process to go through?”
Later, the Cambridges visited the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel to meet volunteers who have been supporting vulnerable people in their community, and beneficiaries of funds from the National Emergencies Trust, of which William is patron.
The mosque's senior Imam Mohamed Mahoud brought up the issue of mental health - championed by the couple through their Heads together campaign - and said afterwards: "I highlighted the issue of people increasingly needing support with their mental health - the Muslim community aswell as the rest of the UK who have been horrifically affected by the pandemic in terms of losing jobs and livelihoods."
He added that the visit by the royal couple had real importance for East London's Muslims: "It's an incredibly significant visit.
"The Muslim community often feel they have to do more than what is required to be recognised as part of mainstream society and their visit to the East London Mosque and Tower Hamlets borough helps us with that cause in establishing ourselves as part of the mainstream.
"It recognises our existence first of all and contributions we've made and the sacrifices and the pains and struggles of people, especially from the BAME (black, asian and minority ethnic) community.”
The Cambridge’s third and final visit of the day took them Whitechapel to the Beigel Bake Brick Lane Bakery, where they were given 7 1/4 lb piles of dough to knead into balls big enough to make 30 bagels.
Complimented on her technique, Kate laughed: “Just wait until you see the aftermath. I had beginner’s luck, they are getting worse!”
Beigel Bake was opened in 1974 and has thrived as a family business, opening 24 hours and churning out on average 3,000 bagels a day.
But they were forced to drastically reduce their opening hours as a result of the health crisis and most staff were put on furlough as the owners instead delivered food to the vulnerable.
Most staff have now returned, but the business is still struggling as tourist stay away from London.
“We are so excited to come to your famous shop,” William told Amnon Cohen, 70, one of the co-founders, who started it with his late brother, Asher Cohen. “We’ve heard there are very famous bagels in here.”
Eyeing up counters laden with baked goods, he added: “This is a dangerous shop to be in!”
After trying their hand at making bagels in the kitchen, Fiona McVeagh, 64, who has worked there for 33 years, told them: “You’re after my job!”
She said: “They are pretty good, especially her. She’d clearly knows how to bake.”
The couple left with a goodie bag of baked gifts and brown paper bags of bagels handed to their staff by the team.
Afterwards, a tearful Amnon said it was the “proudest moment of my life”.