Vegfest prepares to meet fast-rising need

VegfestUK enters its tenth year in Brighton on the back of fast-rising numbers of vegans.

Tim Barford
Tim Barford

Tim Barford, founder and manager of VegfestUK, said: “We did our first vegan event in Bristol in 2003, and in Brighton we did our first in 2009.

“So this is now our tenth year there, and Brighton has been brilliant. We were in Hove and then we moved to the Brighton Centre, and the show has grown and grown. We now sell out the Brighton Centre over the two days.

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“Brighton and Bristol have always been natural friends to vegans and they both have a strong plant-based tradition in restaurants. There has always been a natural leaning towards whole foods. Why do some cities attract plant-based diets more than others? It is very difficult to say. But actually in recent years, London has overtaken everybody. It has been a real explosion, far quicker than anyone else.”

This year’s event runs on March 24-25 at the Brighton Centre

“I have been vegan for 34 years. When I went vegan in 1984, it was very much a step further. In the 1980s, there was a vegetarian culture in places. Someone like Jeremy Corbyn had been a vegetarian since the 1970s. My father, who has passed away now, was a vegetarian for about ten years from 1925-1935, and that was usual. My great-aunt was a vegetarian all her life from the end of the previous century. So vegetarianism as a culture had been around for a long time.

“But I would say that things have really changed in the past five years, since the horse burger scandal.”

Tim points out that the outrage amuses the French who would actually pay more for horse meat; but here there was outrage – and a change of habits.

“If you look at Google searches and graphs relating to veganism, really it has been since the horse meat scandal that things have changed. It was just extraordinary.”

For Tim, though, the turning point was the use of lamb for cattle fodder in developing countries: “My initial decision was on ethical grounds and an understanding of the misuse of lamb, and in terms of that misuse and awareness, I don’t think that understanding has yet become a part of British culture.

“But I do think that the way we treat animals and use animal products has actually become more a part of our culture, particularly with the millennials. There is a large number of young people going vegan on grounds of objecting to use of animal products.”

VegfestUK promises one of the nation’s biggest concentrations of vegan food and products in Brighton. In 2018, there will be a slight makeover of featured areas to go along with the usual mix of stalls and culinary delights.

“We are so excited to introduce a whole new world of vegan delights to everybody looking for more vegan options at our first event of 2018 at Brighton.

“New featured areas will include The Veganuary reunion party on the Sunday, with Veganuary participants, staff, ambassadors, friends of the campaign involved. The party will be open to attendees of Brighton Vegfest too.

“Returning to the Saturday part of the show is The FxEctive Factor competition with a range of talented vegan musicians pitting their wits against each other in the spirit of showcasing the unique talents we’ve got in the UK vegan community right now.

“Also making their debuts at VegfestUK Brighton 2018 are a trio of newly-themed talks rooms, namely The Vegan Academy, with a diverse range of topics on veganism for everyone at various stages of their journeys towards veganism, followed by a couple of talks rooms on the benefits of plant-based diets, one focused on optimum performance and the other focused on optimum health.

“And the Vegan Comedy Festival, which was introduced back in 2015 when VegfestUK made its first return to the modern, sleek and spacious Brighton Centre, will once again be a two-day festival featuring some of the most original vegan comedians in the country.

“Other exciting areas not to be missed include the cookery demos, the mature zone, the kids area, the stage, plus more to be announced.”

Advance tickets will cost £7 per day, plus booking fees, while tickets on the door will cost £10 for adults and £5 for concessions. Children under 16 get free entry as long as they are accompanied by adults.