London Vegan Festival: review

September 7, 2009

I found out about this at almost the last minute on The PPK and booked a coach the very next day after checking out the programme and pictures on the website. £14 seemed pretty reasonable to be able to be stood in a room filled with that many vegan cakes, brownies, biscuits…plus, like, stuff! So I packed my bag (extra jumper, pasta salad) and off went I.

Upon arriving, I did a quick sweep of the two main rooms, keeping an eye out for the PPKers, but somehow, magically almost, gravitated towards a cake stall. I’ve been disappointed by vegan brownies before, but this one was moist, squidgy and chocolatey. I ate it while sitting upstairs, watching the crowds mill beneath me. There were loads, and loads, of people there. I didn’t expect it to be empty, but it was difficult to navigate the stalls at times! Particularly around the chocolate stalls…


I spotted the PPKers after a bit, by Jojo’s bright pink hair and wandered down to accost them with a ‘I don’t mean to sound creepy, but are you from the internet?’ They were, and recognised me right back, which was handy. Most of them were hungry, so while they queued for burgers, Anesthesique and I went to see Andrew O’Neill, who is a funny, funny man, and vegan.
He is (genuinely) hilarious. We laughed hard and fast as the funny kept rolling, with brief musical interludes like the scat-nav as ‘sorbet between the jokes’. The man’s timing is impeccable, no doubt, and while his diet may be cruelty free, he certainly isn’t. ‘What super power would you have?’ ‘X-ray vision.’ ‘What, so you can see women’s bones?’ He railed against the anti-BNP campaign, ‘Hope not Hate’ as well, deeming it too wishy-washy. Needs more oompf, yeah. What about “Kill a Facist for Grandad”? I’m down with that…I could quote the whole set, but then you might not bother going to see him, and you’d only regret it. (Unlike these guys, who’re lovin it.)


Onto the food…the rest having already eaten, they highly recommended the bacon and cheese burger from Veggies, where we duly headed. I’m not a big fan of fake meat, but I figured it had been long enough since eating bacon that I wouldn’t notice. I was spared any comparison, since they were out of bacon anyway.


I had the Cheezley burger, sans bacon, regardless, and despite dropping half the salad while I juggled juice, burger and camera, it was yum. I’ve missed having a mouthful of meat, y’know? It wasn’t anything like a regular burger though. It was better. For a start, when you come to an oddly hard but smooth bit there’s no wondering ‘What the hell part of an animal was that?’ And guh, meat, cheese, ketchup…how I’ve missed you all smooshed together. Ode to the burger, over.


On to the creme egg! If there’s anything I used to love more than meat (and Oreo’s – which are vegan in American?!), it was creme eggs. I literally stopped short when I saw the sign and had to buy one, even at £1.20 a pop. It was worth it though; rrreally rich and took me about ten minutes to eat while we wandered around the stalls.

Amidst many an animal cruelty stand, and despite all the bakeries, I spent most time (and money) at the Active Distribution stall, browsing the books and flicking through the ‘zines. I picked up a few relating to Anarchy, so hopefully I’ll be running my own lawless utopia by the end of the week. The Secret Society of Vegans also had some wikkid stuff, from stickers, mugs and t-shirts to snack and goodies. Num. I picked up a couple of stickers, coz they got skulls and unicorns on.
Secret Society of Vegans

The PPKers had already spent too long at the Redwood Foods stall, but I was called in by Holley to give my verdict on the hot dawgs (as someone who might still remember what the meat versions tasted like. I’m pretty sure I was the baby vegan of the group) and they were almost exactly like regular over-processed hot dawgs – which I’m not 100% sure contain meat anyway. Tasty, though.


At the last moment I spotted a gap around the Concious Chocolate stall and snagged a Choca Mocha Magic – which I haven’t tried yet. I plan to hold a ‘dark chocolate off’ sometime soon and it may be entered as a contender.

Having made the rounds, the others left and I attended a workshop on ‘Veganism, Anarchism and pacifism’ run by Gerard Bane, who is from Ramsgate and introduced me to some Canterbury vegans. Hurrah! I had thought the workshop was a talk – I wanted to learn more about anarchy – but Gerard treated it like a seminar, asking leading questions and encouraging us to discuss. A couple of people staye don point, with one gent pointing out that anarchism is growing your own veg and darning your socks – giving a homemade finger to capitalism – and there was a brief discussion about animal issues vs human issues and how many people malign vegans for caring more about animals than humans. I didn’t feel that I learnt that much from the discussion, but i did realise that there is a lot of misinformation being purported in the Vegan community – one woman particularly began talking about how most alcoholics are meat-eaters and that their livers can’t cope with the carbohydrate-heavy nature of a vegan diet. It wasn’t really the right forum to point out that vegans doesn’t just eat pasta and potatoes, but hopefully she wandered the food stalls afterwards and noticed the almost complete lack of the above items.

Considering I went solely to purchase as much chocolate as possible, I did rather fail in that aim. However, I met some cool people, made some contacts and picked up some interesting literature, so it wasn’t a total fail. Oh, and discovered vegan cream eggs. I will learn the fondant secret…


Other People talking about the Same Thing

More Pictures
Haphazard Collective’s flickr