In January, Greggs released their infamous vegan sausage roll. Despite much controversy, it is said to have been flying off the shelves and proves just how present veganism is in 2019. Although I am not vegan, I eat mostly plant-based and, therefore, can squash the common stereotypes that vegans do not get enough protein or eat just leaves! It is for this reason that I decided, on a rainy Sunday in March, to go to Alexandra Palace to witness Vegan Life Live, a two-day festival all about veganism.
The festival advertised over one-hundred exhibitors, some of whom were vegan cheese makers, protein powder brands and eco-friendly clothing. Many of the people advertising their products were named brands that could be found in Whole Foods or Planet Organic. Whilst I do admire veganism, one of my big issues with the topic is that it is often equated with privilege and unattainable health goals. An example of this is Deliciously Ella, one of the brands that was presenting at the festival. Its founder, Ella Woodward, is a former model who, after being diagnosed with an illness, turned to veganism. Now, she sells nut butter protein balls and cookbooks with her smiling glowing face on the cover that sells a life in which we grow to enjoy dates just as much as a regular person enjoys a chocolate bar. However, I was happy to see that Vegan Life Live was not merely catering to the "Waitrose shopping" demographic. There were many diverse brands, including a Nigerian family-owned hot sauce company, Indian spice mixes and a Caribbean bakery. There was also a mass of vegan stereotypes from two different crystal shops, essential oils, CBD-infused everything and organic khakis being sold.
The people attending the festival did seem to come from all walks of life. There were the clichéd tofu-loving vegans, but there were also many families with small children, gym "bros" and a few teenagers that boldly stated that they were just here for the free food. Although they had a very valid point, Vegan Life Live was more than just food. While that is often what veganism is reduced to, the whole event proved that veganism is also very much about taking care of our planet and not just ourselves – it is a lifestyle! From charities supporting wild-life reserves, to eco-friendly and waste-reducing alternatives, to household products, it was clear that veganism also places a strong importance on sustainability.
Vegan activists also had their own stands, one of the most interesting ones I came across was by Alba Paris. Alba is an artist, whose art including slogans, like ‘feminism is living dairy-free’, have been used by PETA and other advocacy groups to promote veganism. When I talked to Alba, she was truly confident that her art had the ability to change people’s mindsets; she explained that countless people had told her that her art had made them think about veganism differently and even convinced some to quit eating meat and dairy. It does often feel as if vegans exist in their own world. Vegan Life Live also seems to fall into that trap as it marketed countless brands of vegan protein bars. Yet, it still showed that veganism can be diverse, and the countless vendors showed that you could still enjoy brownies and pizza and also eat plant-based. It is also about more than just the food you eat, it is the ethics involved and the fact that we should focus on the environment and not just ourselves.
One of my favourite parts of the event was a wall where people could write the reasons they were vegan. These messages highlighted so many different things, from the support within the community, to the knowledge that by eating the food you were eating you are making a conscious decision to care for the environment; whilst some just believed that vegan ice cream was the best thing on earth!
Edited by Evangeline Stanford, Digital Editor