Impressions of the London Vegfest

We attended the two-day London Vegfest, held at Olympia in West London, on Saturday 22 October. As one of the speakers in the Mature Zone run by Vegetarian for Life (www.vegetarianforlife.org.uk) Paul was fortunate enough to receive complimentary tickets to Vegfest, but the admission price of £12 (concessions £8) for tickets bought in advance was entirely reasonable given the large number of speakers, cookery demos and information stalls at the event. We even received free gifts, which turned out to be bottles of low-calorie chocolate sauce, and there were plenty of free samples and savings to be had on the various stalls. For example, Bute Island Foods (www.buteisland.com), manufacturers of the Sheese range of dairy-free ‘cheeses’, were selling 3 packs of hard Sheese for just £5, considerably less than the £7-50 or so that you would expect to pay for the same quantity at your local health food store.

Vegfest offered a convenient opportunity to ‘do all your vegan shopping in one place’, and we took the opportunity to stock up on VEG1 dietary supplements at the stall run by the Vegan Society (www.vegansociety.com) and renew our adoption of two sheep at Fleecehaven animal sanctuary in North Devon (www.fleecehaven.org.uk). We also visited the stalls run by some familiar names such as Vegusto (https://vegusto.co.uk/), manufacturers of vegan gourmet foods, and Pana Chocolate (www.panachocolate.com), manufacturers of Galina’s favourite brand of raw chocolate, and attended a talk on essential fatty acids given by Professor Tom Sanders of King’s College London. The last stall we visited before leaving was that run by the Organic Spirits Company (http://www.junipergreen.org/) sellers of organic (and vegan) spirits including Juniper Green Organic Gin and the excellent Utkins UK5 Organic Vodka. Luckily there was room in our rucksacks for a bottle or two!

The event was not perfect. Locating the various stalls and lecture theatres wasn’t easy and the floor plan given to visitors on arrival was so tiny as to be unreadable. You also have to question whether events such as this promote a healthy vegan diet given the preponderance of stalls selling fast food and chocolate. There also seemed to be a dearth of information leaflets on stalls such as those run by the Vegan Society and Animal Aid (www.animalaid.org.uk), as if the stall holders had decided in advance that visitors were already vegan or headed that way. Whether or not this is the case, it is essential at events such as this to remind visitors why adopting a vegan diet is so important. Lifestyles are often ephemeral, and if you’re not fully aware of (and convinced by) the case for veganism it’s all too easy to revert to old, non-vegan habits outside the exhibition hall. Nevertheless, the London Vegfest is clearly a popular and worthwhile event, attracting around 13,500 visitors over the two days, and we enjoyed a valuable if hectic four hours at the show.

Paul & Galina Appleby

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Oxfordshire's local veggie group

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