Whether you’re interested in vegan values, enjoy trying new and organic foods or just after a way to support good causes and a healthier way of living, the Staffordshire Vegan Festival had it all.
The number of people that have adopted a vegan lifestyle has grown by over 350% in the UK in the past decade, according to reports, with consumer food brands like Nestle insisting that it is a trend that’s here to stay. Whether the lifestyle is for you or not, there are many facets to being a vegan that people can relate to (or decide to completely adopt) with the essence of veganism lying in anti-animal cruelty, eco-friendly products and plant-based diets.
And now it seems the trend is gaining even more momentum after a hugely-visited vegan festival took place in Stoke on Trent last weekend. Just like any other farmers or artisan market, the Staffordshire Vegan Festival featured independent business selling a variety of interesting products.
Our resident meat-free, dairy-free, cruelty-free gal, Lydia Eccleston went along to check it all out…
As soon as you walked into the Kings Hall, where it was held in in Stoke on Trent, there were a mixture of scents to entice you further – from perfumes to mouth-watering pastries and curries. The second thing you couldn’t help but notice on first sight was how jam-packed the place was, if anything goes to show the huge increase in the popularity of veganism, it was the sheer amount of people attending the festival, nearly all with bags of products or trays of food in hand.
Although veganism has often been dubbed a millennial fad, this was definitely not the impression I got when scanning the festival’s eager audience. There was no one particular demographic represented but a mixture of people all with the same aim – to enjoy the taste and texture of ‘new’ vegan foods, to enquire about how to make the transition to veganism easier or to simply pick up some lovely new products – that just happen to be ethically sourced too!
After perusing the stalls, I was surprised to find that there are many more products on the vegan market than I expected, from cruelty-free beauty to plastic-free alternatives and super-yummy cakes and pastries too!
As plastic pollution rises to become one of the biggest problems for this generation, I was keen to speak with Sally Walker who was representing the Norwex range of anti-plastic and chemical-free cleaning materials that reduce the need for harsh chemicals, such as makeup removing wipes and laundry detergent. Sally commented that the amount of chemicals in everyday cleaning products like detergent and surface cleaner are contributing to the rise of asthmatics and eczema in children, and there is a huge need to (as her stall stated in a flashy lightbox) #ditchtheplastic.
Chocolate, as expected, was a huge theme of the day, with many stands offering award-winning, ethically-sourced and dairy-free chocolate. I also had a chat to the creator of Seed Chocolate, who’s cocoa story began in his spare bedroom at his home in Longton, Stoke on Trent, which is now the main distribution centre for his Peruvian-sourced global chocolate company.
There were so many new things to be tasted and tested (and of course purchased) including a range of homemade nut butters, from raspberry to cashew nut and traditional peanut butters, all with amazing health benefits to boot. The owner of Butter Belle’s, who sells the eclectic mix of products, told me the business was inspired by a lack of chocolate and peanut spreads on the market for her daughter who has a dairy allergy.
If you could find your way past all the delicious treats, there were also many cosmetic and beauty stalls, all with cruelty-free, eco-friendly and natural products containing organic ingredients with no harmful chemicals. Many bathing products such as shampoos, scrubs and body washes were sold in bars, wrapped in paper bags after purchase to defeat any plastic packaging problems.
Many of the stalls were supporting charities, projects and causes by donating some of the money they make from the sale of their products. One such stall was the global organisation, Sea Shepherd. Sea Shepherd were selling everything from tea-shirts, phone cases, badges and bottles – all of which were great quality, made from discarded plastic and 100% biodegradable. The products themselves were attracting the crowds, but it was the cause that kept people talking; Sea Shepherd’s ‘mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world’s oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.’
The festival also had talks throughout the day by some insightful vegan activists, including ‘Psycho Syd’ aka Syd Barnes, a man who claims that a raw, vegan lifestyle cured his stage four mouth cancer. After being told he may only have six months to live in 2012, he was now standing proud two years later – cancer-fee and sharing his story.
Whatever your reason for visiting the Staffordshire Vegan Festival, it was impossible not to feel the sense of positivity and community within Kings Hall and to be excited about great new vegan products being brought to Staffordshire. Big thumbs up!
Did you attend the festival? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.