Thinking of attending Vegfest or another vegan festival?? VegfestUK are the organisers of multiple vegan festivals that take place in Brighton, Bristol, London and Scotland throughout the year. They involve a bunch of stalls, talks and foods in an atmosphere which supports vegans and provides a friendly, informative face to those considering veganism. You can see the full list of Vegfest and other vegan events here.
The scale of these festivals can be pretty overwhelming if you’ve not been to events like this before! I went to my first Vegfest in February (in Brighton) and I had a great time, but there were a few things I wish I’d known before I got there… So I decided to make this post to help others prepare better than I did!!
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Look out for the ‘buy one get one free’ deals
Vegfest often have deals on their tickets in the run up to the festivals. We went to Brighton Vegfest end of February and bought our tickets in the first week of December with the offer. With booking fees etc, it worked out at £6 per person for a weekend ticket – bargain! They will advertise when the offer will be on, so keep an eye out on their Twitter and Facebook pages in the run up to the events.
T W O
Download a copy of the programme before you get to the festival
They sell a hard copy of the programmes on the door which you can purchase (it was just £1 at Brighton) but they will upload an electronic version to the website before the event which you can download on to your phone/ tablet or print off. I was completely oblivious to the fact there were talks happening throughout the weekend, so I missed out on a couple of good ones on the Saturday morning. If you look at the schedule of talks in the programme before you go, you can easily pick out which ones you’d want to go to and plan your day/ weekend around that.
T H R E E
Take lots of money!!
I don’t usually spend a lot of money on foodie treats or products for myself due to saving for travelling. However, I knew that there would be lots I’d want to buy, so I saved up especially. I bought lunch and dinner both days, a juice, a necklace, two cheeses and a bunch of sweet snacks and spent around £100. I’d also recommend cash as many of the stalls won’t be able to take card.
F O U R
Wear comfortable shoes!
I didn’t realise just how long I was going to be on my feet – on the Saturday we arrived around 11am and didn’t leave ’til 6pm when the venue closed for the evening. The only time we sat down was for a one hour talk! The rest of the time was spent perusing the many stalls and chatting with the stall holders. These events are always huge, so you are going to be on your feet for a while if you want to get around to everything. On the Sunday, we went to a few more talks so we managed to rest our feet a little longer, but I’d definitely still advise wearing comfortable shoes!
F I V E
Take a non-veggie friend or family member
This might seem like an odd one, but bear with me…. Before Vegfest, I had assumed that the festival would be 100% vegetarian and vegan attendees, but I was surprised to find out that there were quite a few non-veggies. In a couple of the talks, the speakers asked the audience to raise their hand depending on whether they were vegan/ veggie/ omnivorous. In the talks I went to, around 10% ate meat and roughly the same number were vegetarian. I soon realised Vegfest is the PERFECT place to take friends or family members who are unsure of the vegan lifestyle, think the food is restrictive, or that you are most definitely malnourished (*cough* protein *cough*)… There are talks running every hour throughout both days covering everything from nutrition to transitioning, to the hard truths of the animal industry. There’s also lots of stalls with informative brochures, manned by helpful, friendly faces that are there to answer any questions. At Brighton, there was even a cinema room showing hard-hitting and factual documentaries such as Earthlings and Cowspiracy; both renowned for their powerful ability to create vegans overnight!
After I realised this, I was gutted I didn’t bring Gary with me – although he’s now 90% veggie and has recently swapped to almond milk (after watching Cowspiracy!), I find it really difficult to take all the information I’ve picked up over the last few months/ years and explain in an easy to understand, yet factual way. Vegfest would have been the perfect opportunity for him to see how much amazing vegan food there is, learn LOTS about nutrition and veganism and perhaps even watch Earthlings. Next time!
S I X
Scrap your diet and eat everything in sight!
There is SO MUCH amazing food – you are going to have to stop yourself buying one of everything! At Brighton there were pancakes, falafel wraps, bacon cheese burgers, fish and chips (incredible), Thai curry, mac and cheese, Caribbean, sushi, Chinese, kebabs, hot dogs, caviar, cakes and more… and that’s before you’ve started on the hundreds of free samples! It’s not often you get so many vegan options in one place, so make the most 🙂 It’s safe to say I was waddling by the time the weekend was over……
S E V E N
If you are going to a talk, turn up early
For popular talks, seats fill up fast so it’s worth getting there a little early (20 mins or so depending on the speaker). In a couple of the talks we went to, people ended up sitting on the floor or standing around the edges of the room once the seats were filled. For talks falling between 12-2pm, we would grab some lunch and eat it whilst waiting – this actually worked out pretty well because space to sit and eat within the venue can be pretty limited.
E I G H T
Research the location as soon as dates are confirmed
Brighton is known for having some great vegan eateries, so when I was researching where to eat in the evenings there were a few options we were keen to try. We decided we definitely wanted to check out Beelzebab in the Hope & Ruin pub for their hot dogs, kebabs and loaded fries, and Purezza vegan pizzeria for their incredible pizzas – including STUFFED CRUST! However, when I rang to book a table at Purezza six weeks before Vegfest, they were already completely fully booked for the whole weekend. With the sheer number of people that migrate to that one location (nearly 11,000 at Brighton Vegfest 2016!), it’s definitely advisable to do your research well in advance – it’s best to start looking as soon as there is a confirmed date. You could also search for top attractions in that location; you might as well use the time you’re not at Vegfest to explore a new place!
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Book your accommodation well in advance
On the same lines as the point above, you are going to want to get your accommodation confirmed pronto! If you are staying with friends or family, lucky you! If not, you are going to need to book something as soon as the dates are confirmed. We booked through booking.com because they allow free cancellation on most of their hostels and hotels. This also meant we didn’t need to pay until we got there either which was best for us. I spent a while researching the best place to stay and in the end we chose HostelPoint Brighton because of its location and price – directly opposite the pier and no more than 15 mins walk from anything (8 mins to the Vegfest venue) AND one of the cheapest options. You can read more about what I thought of the hostel in my Brighton Vegfest Review.
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Look out for vegan meet-ups happening the same weekend
To tie in with each Vegfest, there are always tonnes of meet-ups that happen over the same weekend. I already attend a Norwich Vegans meet-up, and some of the members met up in Brighton, but they definitely weren’t the only ones! There were loads of different meet-ups and events happening, particularly in the mornings and evenings before and after Vegfest each day. These are especially good if you are going on your own, as it’s a great way to meet people to wander round Vegfest with! It’s also great for finding vegan events in the evening when there isn’t any entertainment linked to Vegfest (I believe the Bristol event has live music into the evening). Check out meet-up.com or just google ‘vegan events/ meet-ups in ___’ and you are bound to find something.
I hope this is useful for anyone thinking about attending Vegfest or a similar vegan festival! I’m looking forward to the Kent Vegan Festival next which is on a much smaller scale, but based in my childhood city Canterbury so I can’t wait to check that out. It proved so popular last year that Vegfest UK are actually sponsoring this year’s! 🙂