I’ve just returned from my first ever Vegfest and to say my mind is blown would be an understatement! Taking place in multiple locations across the UK and Europe each year, this festival involves an array of stalls, foods and talks covering all things vegan. You can go along on the Saturday or Sunday, or (as I did) opt for a weekend ticket that allows entry across both days.
After four hours travelling, and copious train snacks, I arrived Friday afternoon and checked into my hostel. I then spent the whole weekend exploring Vegfest, quaint lanes, the famous seaside pier and Brighton’s colourful nightlife. I’ll describe below what I got up to, where I stayed, what products and foods I tried, what talks I went to and what I thought of my first Vegfest!
My friend Emily and I decided to stay in a hostel over the weekend, to keep the cost down (so we could spend more money on food!). We chose HostelPoint Brighton mostly because of the great location but also because it was one of the cheapest options. The hostel is right on the seafront and overlooks the pier, which makes for some pretty awesome views. It was also only 8 mins walk away from Brighton Centre, where Vegfest took place, and no more than 15 mins from attractions in the town centre. We paid £21.50 ($30) per person per night for a four bed dorm room. The rooms were OK – clean enough! Although the hostel as a whole was rather grubby. We had a couple of issues – we were placed in a six bed room when we’d paid extra for a four bed and the tap in our room dripped constantly which was pretty torturous at night. However, when I explained the room situation to reception, they apologised and we were given a refund of the difference in price between the rooms. Breakfast was included, which was a very basic selection of two types of cereal and some bread with jam or chocolate spread. There was some squash and coffee too, but we forgot to buy soya milk so we just skipped breakfast to eat more at Vegfest!
CONCLUSION: This hostel is perfect if you want centrally located accommodation at a very reasonable price. However, don’t expect much from the breakfast or the interior – it’s a case of ‘you get what you pay for!’. There’s not much in terms of a chill-out area but if you are just using it as a base and somewhere to sleep then it does the job just fine! It’s a popular place, so you’ll need to book ahead – I booked our stay around six months in advance and looking at upcoming dates, we were pretty lucky they had space!
On the Friday evening, we decided to head to a quirky pub called Hope & Ruin, which is home to Beelzebub. In two words: DONAR, KEBAB! This place was insanely busy when we rocked up about 7.30pm but after about half an hour of intense table watching, we managed to nab ourselves a spot. The menu here includes their donar kebab, hot dogs topped with a selection of different ingredients and loaded fries piled high with various forms of ‘meat’! We went for the Dirty Kraut hot dog (tofu sausage topped with donar meat, sauerkraut, crispy onions, gherkin, mustard, ketchup and chilli sauce) and shared some ‘pulled pork’ (BBQ jackfruit) fries. We loved it so much that we actually went back again on Saturday evening, this time trying the battered gherkins (yes, really) and chilli cheese fries in addition to another helping of the pulled pork. I can’t even tell you how amazing it all was!!
The food at Vegfest was also UNBELIEVABLE! There was so much to choose from that it was overwhelming. I managed to try a few different things from food stalls, along with a lotttt of free samples! I’ll list below some of the amazing goodies we munched our way through……
Alkalizer Juice made with courgette, cucumber, apple, spinach and lemon (for the hangover; worked a treat) – from Damage Limitation
Giant ‘farmhouse’ hot dog topped with onions, ketchup and mustard – from Vegusto
Vegan caviar – from Veg Caviar
Vegan donar kebab – from VBites (demolished too quickly for a photo…)
A curried carrot falafel wrap twice the size of my head – from World Foods
Two savoury juices (basically gazpacho!) made with tomato and pepper/ beetroot and apple (DELICIOUS!) – from Cho!
Fish and chips – from The Loving Hut (crazy good)
Bacon cheese burger – from The Loving Hut (also demolished too quickly for a photo…)
Huge chocolate muffin and salted caramel pecan cookie sandwich – from Ms Cupcake
… and lots of samples of chocolate, cheese, coconut water, yoghurts, chocolate goo pots, kale crisps, crackers, biscuits, cakes, sweets and some healthier snacks (even tried beetroot & ginger muesli, which was surprisingly good!) .
Also took home some chocolate caramel marshmallows, Vivani chocolate orange bars, Vegusto ‘melty’ cheese, toffees by ‘Good Heavens it’s Jeavons‘, beetroot and ginger muesli and last but by no means least – smooth cashew cheese from Vegan Cheese Lovers Club which tastes INCREDIBLE! Sadly they are only a small company and therefore can’t deliver – but I’d definitely recommend grabbing some if you ever spot them at events like this.
We didn’t attend many talks – I wish I’d have looked at the programme on the Friday to plan my weekend as I missed a couple that I would have loved to have gone to. We went to four talks in the end, and also watched a couple of the acts in the comedy festival which took place on the Sunday. Emily went along to a talk by Will Tuttle called ‘Joyfully Vegan: How to Share the Message of Compassionate Living‘ which she thought was really good. It was related to a popular book he has written called The World Peace Diet – I haven’t read it yet, but am told I should!
We also went along to a couple of nutrition talks – one by Darren and Georgie from Vegan Fitness about their journey from drug addicts to healthy vegans, running marathons with amazing times, and now focusing their attention on fitness competitions. The other talk was by David Evans and Agnes Electra Chlebinska from The Transformers titled ‘What all Vegans Need to Know About Nutrition & Health‘. They were both great speakers and truly motivated us both to assess our diet and health. This included making sure we are getting the right nutrients, and focusing on a more natural plant based diet, rather than using meat substitutes and processed foods. Needless to say, we both felt very guilty, sat there full of cakes, donuts, pies and everything else!!
Whilst in Brighton, we had to make the most of being at the seaside, so we spent one morning walking along the seafront and pier and checking out the arcades. We also zig-zagged our way through the lanes, ooo-ing and ahh-ing at all the cute shops and quirky bars. On the Friday, we pub-crawled our way to a dingy club called Fun Fair (I think…) and on Saturday we ended up spending the evening in a drag queen cabaret bar, which was a lot of fun!
Overall, it was a great weekend and I’m gutted this is the first (and last!) Vegfest I’ll be going to for a while with my travels coming up so soon. I’d definitely recommend every veggie/ vegan attends something like this – it’s great to be surrounded by so many like minded people and SO much amazing food. It’s great for non-veggie/ vegans too as it’s really informative, with loads of brochures and talks on everything from nutrition to farming practices. They even had a cinema room at Brighton, which was showing some of the classic movies highlighting what goes on within animal agriculture, and the effects meat is having on us and the planet.
Did you go to Brighton Vegfest?? What were your highlights? 🙂
PS. If you are heading to a similar event soon, here’s my top 10 tips for making the most of a vegan festival!