Having been to many vegan festivals over the past 12 years; I've not frequently them so much recently.
I find it difficult to get excited about of bunch of stalls in an overcrowded room. Isn't that what the Internet was invented for?
Samples are good, but products are either available in shops or they aren't, and it's cheaper to just buy products to try them out than travel across the country to get an eighth of a mouthful for free.
Festivals are and always have been an excuse to meet up with some folk you don't get to see often, pick up a few bargains and then go for dinner. I used to enjoy the London vegan festivals back when there was a bar and a group of people I knew who'd all get smashed at 2pm and we'd sit around outside for the afternoon.
Visiting a couple of West Mids vegan festivals in Wolverhampton is enough to put anyone off for life. Far, far, far too many people, half of whom appear to have randomly wandered in off the street to eat an entire meal in free samples; blocking off anyone else's attempts to get to the front. Both times I didn't make it past 15 minutes before it was time to leave!
I realise this probably makes me sound like a complete snob, but so be it :) I've met many lovely vegans over the years in other circumstances, but at festivals it just turns into a fake cheese frenzied mob. There's no form of politeness or queuing system - it's everyone for themselves in the rush for the samples.
It wasn't until just before 12pm that we decided that Vegfest was in fact enough of an excuse to drive 150 miles for a meal at Terre a Terre. The weather was shite and we've run out of places to visit within 50 miles of Veggie World now. We booked dinner for 6pm and arrived at about 2.45pm.
We did a particularly crap job of meeting up with various people we know, but ran into a few anyway. We stayed for about an hour, then headed into Brighton.
I gave up waiting for the Vegusto stand. I tried a few times, but each time there were people hogging the samples, with clearly no intent of letting anyone else near. I did get to the Bessant & Drury stand though. @cherrivalentine thought it was disgusting. I thought it was edible, but in no way a threat to Swedish Glace.
Seriously; why recreate what already exists and is readily available, when what the UK is really crying out for is US Turtle Mountain style icecream?
I picked up a box of spacebars (£15 for 20) and a fake kebab. It was good, but not up to Vebab standards (a company that appeared at the '05 Birmingham Vegan Festival and hasn't been seen since):
We got some half price Yaoh suncream (the current bottles I have were bought in 2006 - that's how sunny it is the UK) and a load of Jason baby products. The Jason guy didn't seem to be on the same planet as everyone else - it was difficult getting any info out of him about their products. His maths skills were also questionable - 4 for £20 is not a better deal than 2 for £10. Still, £5 a bottle is better than normal.
Overall though; Vegfest was actually not that bad. There were a decent number of influential vendors there and it wasn't too crowded. I'd question whether it's worth traveling a large distance for, but as excuse to go to Brighton before/after it's perfect :)
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