I have just got back from an absolutely incredible weekend at Brighton VegFest. From a vegan doner kebab stand to wonderful vegan performance artists to vegan bodybuilding competitions to a talk about foraging, it was all there. I ate my own weight in free food samples (honestly, you can really fill up on these things!) and got squiffy while drinking vegan prossecco and networking. And among all that, I managed to lurk around on the VeggieVisionTV stall, pretending to be of some use.
It all happened rather quickly, as I had not been intending on making the substantial journey down from Manchester - although I had been sorely tempted. But fate intervened and the next thing, I was all-of-a-sudden and very-last-minute making plans to head down there, having been invited by the beautiful Karin Ridgers, who is the founder of VeggieVision.TV.
Karin asked me if I would be an extra pair of hands on the stall (though I don't think I was that much help!), as well as take part in an event she was running (I'm keeping schtum about that for now, I might be writing about it separately in a feature!). And I was to have a mooch around at all the fabulous veganness too, of course, and surround myself in vegan vibes.
Now - I want to launch into schoolyard language and use works like 'awesome', 'wicked' and 'mint' to describe the festival. But I'll plump for "yo people, it was the biz".
Yeah. I mean, vegan doner kebab? Crazily I didn't manage to try it myself (I was so full up on all the freebies!), but my son tucked hungrily into one and said it was top banana. Well, he didn't say "top banana" but he did make noises which led me to believe it was utterly delicious.
As it was the first thing I spotted that looked amazing when I arrived on Saturday, starving after my long journey, one thing I did try was the mahoosive stuffed chilli, from Aunty Jee. These were the size of a 6in Sub and for a mere £3.50, I could not miss having a taste. It was plenty too, and I ended up saving some for a light evening snack! Oh and contrary to its appearance, it was also gluten free, being made with gram flour (chick pea flour).
Yet even more fabulous-looking food that I did not manage to get a taste of (why oh why?!) was the vegan sushi on the Yumtum Sushi stand. It looked amazing, and again - the prices were not bad at all. I think a 7-piece box of sushi was £4.50? And this is the thing with the veggie food festivals - the stallholders usually offer great deals on their goodies and products while they are there. So if you've never been to vegan food festival, it's most certainly worth popping along (I will list some of the next festivals coming up at the end of this post).
There were amazing cupcakes and sweet treats wherever you looked, as well as gluten free vegan beer from Green's, for just £1.70 a bottle. I managed to drink a couple of these (not like me, I know, but you have to go wild once in a while, bahahaaa!), and that's my dad's birthday present sorted too. Plus chocolate, chocolate, everywhere!
And lots of tasters available on the Redwood stand, which is a vegan meat-free meat company that I am especially fond of. They were selling off some 'duck' & orange style pate at the end of the Sunday for a mere 50p each! (I have just tried this on crispbreads for my lunch and it's very tasty!).
It wasn't just food at the festival. There were stalls from various animal charities and campaigns, and vegan rescues like Hugletts Wood Farm Animal Sanctuary (because here's the thing: why rescue some animals, and eat others, as many people who run shelters do? It doesn't make sense in any way, shape or form - it's like giving money to the NSPCC, but beating your own kids. Wake up people - ALL animals need to be free from suffering, not just the cute ones!).
And there were people promoting vegan organic growing, as well as clothes and shoes. Yes shoes, and that means trendy ones too! No Jesus-sandals for me, I ended up splashing out on a pair of gorgeous, glamorous, ethically-made heels from Neon Collective (at a bargain sale price).
There was a huge programme of entertainment for both the Saturday and Sunday too. I didn't manage to see an awful lot of this, and missed a couple of things that I had wanted to catch (I had really wanted to hear the Dr Melanie Joy lecture - "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism") but I managed to watch the vegan 'body building' contest which was fun, and I loved comedian Andrew O'Neill.
It was great to see the familiar face of the wonderful and self-proclaimed, queer vegan poet Dominic Berry too - a friend and fellow Manchester resident. He came all the way down from Manchester to perform at Brighton VegFest on Sunday afternoon, and considering he had no microphone (and a head-case heckler who seemed to forget she was sat in a room of vegans), he did an excellent job of engaging the audience with his brilliant poetry.
Soon after seeing Dominic's performance, I had to race off to catch my train home. But not before grabbing a quick taste of the north in the form of a vegan cheese & onion pie, made in good old Wigan. Sadly, I didn't get the name of this company but I will find out, as their pies were WICKED!
In all - I came home late last night, tired but buzzing from all the positive vegan energy, and overjoyed that clearly, from the festival turn-out, people's attitudes ARE changing (apparently, the number of people attending the festival was an all-time high, probably helped by the horse meat scandal).
Veganism IS evolution. It is the ONLY way we can take our species and our world forward without further destroying what we have, while recognising our moral responsibility to the other species of the planet. The connections I've made while at the VegFest will hopefully help me in my own mission to be part of this.
Watch this space as there WILL be more to write about (some reviews will be coming up including where I ate on the Saturday night, and more great giveaways as a result of chatting to people I met, including a fabulous raw recipe book - Shine Inside and Out - by Rebecca Kane)!
More vegan vibes at other festivals around the UK:
Missed the Brighton VegFest? Not to worry, there's a host of veg festivals coming up around the UK over the next few months. And I will be attending and writing about more.
Here are some 2013 dates for your diary:
23rd March - Vale of Evesham Vegan Fair, Worcestershire
13th April - Northern Vegan Festival, Manchester
24th-26th May - Bristol VegFest, Bristol
29th September - The Welsh Veggie Show, Cardiff
5th-6th October - London VegFest, London Olympia
27th October - West Midlands Vegan Festival, Wolverhampton