Peterborough’s Christmas Vegan Success

Crowd an stall shot of Thrive 3 - Peterborough Vegan Christmas Festival

Thrive Peterborough Christmas Vegan Festival was another success for the Thrive Tribe.

Held on Saturday, November 23, in Peterborough, it was the third Thrive event following a ticketed summer gathering.

I am, of course, a member of said Thrive Tribe and one of the four organisers of Peterborough’s number one vegan Christmas festival – along with Kim, Nicola and Kelly.

I wanted to give you an insight into the organisation and motivations behind such an event.

Work actually began back in June when the Thrive summer event was still being planned. Even starting so far ahead, we were unable to find a venue in Peterborough available on the Sunday we wanted, hence we had to hold it on a Saturday this year.

We did, however, find a bigger venue next to an out of town shopping area with free all-day parking.

Parking and the venue being too packed were the common complaints from the first vegan festival we put on (I blogged about it – https://veganonadesertisland.com/2018/11/27/a-citys-first-vegan-festival-an-insiders-view/ ), so we listened to people’s views and booked a similar number of stalls in a larger hall.

This worked very well – accessibility is an important issue to me – I want everyone to be able to come and enjoy the day – parents with pushchairs, those in wheelchairs and people who aren’t good in crowds included – I think we succeeded in this aim.

One of the pleasant surprises for me was the number of local independent vegan businesses who applied for stalls – and it was great to see how well they did on the day.

We don’t have an estimate of the number of visitors at the time of writing, but I’d say it was slightly fewer than the 2,000 who visited last year – I put this down to it being held on a Saturday. More people work Saturdays than Sundays and more events are also held on a Saturday.

Booking stalls was surprisingly easy. We posted the event on Facebook and Instagram and the applications began to roll in.

I designed an application form and a list of terms and conditions and we set about organising meetings to discuss applications.

We then started to confirm vendors, promote them through social media and collect public liability and food hygiene certificates.

Things like not blocking fire escapes, electrical requirements (we had to hire two generators after discussions with an electrician) and what the venue would and wouldn’t allow all had to be taken into consideration.

For a small group of people working voluntarily, a lot of work goes into putting on such events – and we were working on the day too – marking out the floor for stalls, making sure everyone was OK, dealing with any issues and overseeing the volunteers, workshop rooms, photo booth and kids’ craft areas.

In the weeks before the event, we went on a PR drive, sending out press releases and printing flyers to hand out to businesses which were likely to attract interested customers. There’s no point in putting on an event if people don’t know about it – and we wanted everybody who might be interested to know about it.

A huge plus for us on the day was the presence of Hench Herbivore – a well known social media star who proves how fit and strong vegans can be.

Stalls at the event included doughnuts, cakes, cheeses, dog treats, candles, toiletries, pressure groups, skincare, food, drink and so much more – people forget how big veganism is now – it really has become an economic force to be reckoned with in the modern age.

However, my main reason for getting involved is simply to spread the vegan message in Peterborough. At the time of our first vegan festival, nobody had done it here before and I wanted to see that change. I travelled to vegan fairs and I wanted one on my doorstep – therefore, if nobody else was doing it then why shouldn’t I? And when Kim came to us with the idea, I jumped at the chance of getting involved (I already co-ran the Peterborough Vegetarian and Vegan group with Kim).

In conclusion, the hard work is worth it – but if you want to bring a similar event to your town on a DIY ethos, talk to people who have put of similar events – there’s a lot to think about before going ahead. But vegans are friendly people and vegan business owners are among the friendliest of all.

Crowd an stall shot of Thrive 3 - Peterborough Vegan Christmas Festival

Do people really hate vegans?

Vegan protest

A recent article in The Guardian attempted to explain why people hate vegans.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/oct/25/why-do-people-hate-vegans?fbclid=IwAR1Y_ZIehJTDu-REZWpqTCnnpOz_MgS2wRim2D2gA7eZOKjU3rUwY2q-cHw

With a provocative headline, the article is rather long, in-depth and, despite being full of history and good points, low on answers.

People dislike trends, there’s always a backlash against them and veganism is definitely a growing trend. People like to fight online and love the number of “likes” when they criticise veganism – Piers Morgan helped Greggs sell millions of vegan sausage rolls through giving them free publicity and sparking a debate. In a world where news sites like to post as many stories as possible during a day, veganism has become a buzz word which is seen as gaining an instant reaction.

News pages know veganism – like fox hunting – is a contentious issue and they like to fuel the fire with negative and provocative headlines – because the more comments, the higher their page “hit” rates – and this, in turn, makes them appealing to advertisers.

People don’t like their conservative world shaken up and veganism challenges the safety of what they have been taught and grown up with. “I like the taste of meat” really has become a convenient reason for not giving up meat.

It also must be said that there are a fair few climate change deniers in the world, and veganism is inextricably linked to battling man-made climate change.

People don’t like being told what to do – with climate and veganism whey ignore the message like a little petulant child with their hands over their ears shouting “I can’t hear you, la-la-la” despite the fact that what they are being told is totally based on facts.

Veganism really does threaten two whole industries – the meat and dairy industries, so, naturally, those involved in those industries are going to react badly to vegans – especially when we openly savagely attack the way they make their livings. Even our very existence through our purchase power is a threat – and our marketing strategies are heavily attacked and countered by their advertising campaigns and PR departments – look at the NFU’s reaction to the latest Tesco advert https://www.livekindly.co/watch-tescos-controversial-new-vegan-sausage-commercial/

I found the reaction both chilling and a beacon of hope – chilling because it shows that those who use aggressive marketing themselves are prepared to try and suppress their competitors – the history of animal product marketing was highlighted in The Game Changers too (my review – https://veganonadesertisland.com/2019/09/22/the-game-changers-vegan-movie-review/ )

I see hope because it shows that the rise and rise of veganism continues and it does pose a threat to those very industry which it is designed to threaten. Let’s be blunt, if we oppose the consumption of animal products then we want to see an end to the industries which profit from said products. Of course, the likes of Tesco who are cashing in on veganism also sell a vast array of animal products – maybe that’s exactly why farmers are fearful – think about it.

Finally, it has to be asked do people really hate vegans?

Behind the safety of a keyboard, I think may commenting on social media threads come across as anti-vegan, in real life, however, my experience is one of gently Mickey taking rather than full-on hostility. Certainly, there’s the backlash from the expected sectors of society, but on the whole, people I’ve worked with are considerate when it comes to going out for meals etc – after all, it has to be said, most people are still not vegan. We still have the freedom to protest in this country too, so vegans highlighting abuse and cruelty where they see it is carrying on this right and tradition – such protest just receive more publicity in the era of social media and as protests are more in people’s faces they have a greater impact – and more of a backlash. I don’t believe it’s anything personal.

A Lincolnshire sausage for a vegan Lincolnshire lad

Linda McCartney Lincolnshire Vegetarian Sausages

The widely-available Linda McCartney Vegetarian Sausages are considered the benchmark in veggie sausages. This has pleased many who, up until the last couple of years, have found they’ve been the only vegan-friendly product in the supermarket freezer.

Since 1991, Linda McCartney foods has been the major player in vegetarian processed foods. They are the go-to vegan staple for barbecues, unimaginative relatives and, to be fair, vegans who want cheap bangers and mash or vegan breakfast.

The Red Onion and Rosemary variety is even nicer – and I adored the Red Onion and Rosemary plait and I was absolutely gutted when it disappeared from the shelves.

The Chorizo sausages were the last new vegan sausage product I tried from Linda McCartney, and they’re divine.

I had heard about the legend that is the Vegan Lincolnshire Sausage from the kitchens of Linda McCartney but had yet to find said bangers.

But a trip to my local Morrisons has changed all that.

They were just staring at me from the freezer – and the only cost £2 for a packet of six – I was sold.

The reason for being obsessed about finding the sausage grail is simple – I’m a Lincolnshire lad.

Linda McCartney Lincolnshire Vegetarian Sausages

The first thing to notice is that they’re made of pea protein and soya-free is you have an allergy.

The pea protein gives them a softer interior to the other sausages – this offers a very pleasant sensation when eating them – as does the nice, but not overpowering hit of spice once you bite into them.

The skin is very much a Linda McCartney sausage, but the inside is very different – in a good way, a fantastically brilliant way in fact – it’s soft and delicious but gets very hot – temperature-wise. It’s the delicate hit of black pepper that does it for me – they are my new favourite sausages.

The Linda McCartney brand has pledged to go plastic-free by 2021 and its products are 96.4% plastic-free according to its website with a commitment to make the plastic they do use compostable – they also have a commitment to sustainable palm oil.

Linda McCartney is, of course, one of the big players when it comes to vegan and vegetarian food, so the fact they have serious eco statements on their website is great news.

https://lindamccartneyfoods.co.uk/our-food/vegan-range/

Linda McCartney Lincolnshire Vegetarian Sausages ingredients

Vegans vs plastic packaging

Bekind Kitchen's herb refills

We all know veganism is better for the environment than a vegetarian or omnivorous diet, but why are so many vegan processed foods packed in plastic?

For instance, the Iceland No Bull range comes in a cardboard box with a pointless plastic window to help you see the frozen product inside – it actually looks similar to the picture on the box – so why do it? Iceland has actually committed to eliminating plastic from their own brand products, making this most curious – https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/iceland-plastic-free-packaging-own-brand-products-recycling-pollution-environment-a8161081.html

Iceland's No Bull Burgers

The main issue I have with Iceland is that there is no recycling information on the packaging – so, do they like us so much they want us all to email them and ask them? Do we guess and recycle anyway (this can contaminate a whole load of recycling), or tear off the plastic bit and recycle the box?

More concerning, the tough plastic bags the likes of the No Chick & No Porkies Paella come in doesn’t have recycling information either.

Farmfoods’ burgers and sausages just come in a cardboard box like Linda McCartney sausages – surely this is the best way to go? But the bags the Meatless Balls come in at Farmfoods say “recycle with bags at larger stores” – in other words, if you have nowhere to recycle plastic bags in your area you have a problem – unless you become a plastic bag hoarder – something I don’t recommend.

Iceland vegan Meatballs packaging

Vegan cheese packaging has long been a bone of contention for me. Some vegan cheeses come encased in a plastic coffin and you literally have to stab your way in using knife strikes which put your fingers in mortal danger. It also renders storage impossible, so you have to down the cheese in one vegan cheese munching session – that isn’t really healthy for you or the environment.

 

Tesco’s own brand of plant-based cheeses come with a peel-back top, so the stabbing drama is avoided – but they do state they are “not yet recycled”.

Yet?

They don’t give an estimation as to when the packaging will be recycled -that might be helpful. Maybe if it said “not recycled until October 2020” be could hoard our empty packets for a while – or just not buy the product until then? Or, maybe that’s what they’re scared of happening? Either way, it isn’t good news.

Every little really does help when it comes to the environment. The climate emergency is killing off animals and as vegans, this is something we really want to do everything we can to halt. Going vegan is a huge start, but looking at the packaging of our food makes a huge difference.

For example, I buy my mock meat in a tin from my local Chinese supermarket (also available at https://www.orientalmart.co.uk/ ) as tins are easily recyclable and better than a mass of plastic packaging.

Vegan chicken in a tin

It is also worth checking out your local zero waste independent traders – take your own refillable containers to replenish your hers, spices, rice, flour, soya chunks, muesli, Sos mix and more – local to me, for example, Spice of Life health food shop in Bourne (https://www.facebook.com/spiceoflifebourne/), Backyard Food (https://www.thegreenbackyard.com/backyardfood/) in Peterborough and Be Kind Kitchen (https://bekindkitchen.com/), also in Peterborough all offer this service.

Some packaging that appears to be non-recycling friendly actually is – for example, VBites products look heavily encased in plastic, but one look at their website (https://www.vbites.com/frequently-asked-questions/) tells you it can be recycled, so my advise is either check or ask.

Much has been written about zero waste products in the bathroom and getting rid of plastic straws etc, I now believe it’s time to get our house in order when it comes to vegan food packaging. Most of the plastic wrapping is unnecessary – and alternative products are available to consumers. Maybe we should start informing manufacturers exactly why we’re choosing not to purchase their products when the plastic wrapping is not as cruelty-free as the product it houses.

Suma wrestle with our taste buds again

Suma’s Baked Beans and Vegan Sausages (reviewed here: https://veganonadesertisland.com/2016/09/11/review-suma-baked-beans-with-lincolnshire-style-meat-free-sausages/) in a tin received a lot of publicity when they first went on sale, their new Meatballs in a Bolognese Sauce and Baked Beans with Vegan Burgers were released quietly on to the market – but they have been noticed by vegans lucky enough to have an independent health food shop nearby. I am such a vegan

Suma is one of the biggest ethical companies in the UK, so I’m always pleased to sample their products and support their business.

DSC_0151

The meatballs excited me most as I love vegan meatballs and often have them with pasta.

These make it quick and easy to cook such a dinner. You simply heat through and throw it on the pasta – taking care not to splash it all over your white shirt of course.

They do have that food in a tin taste – it’s hard to explain, but I swear it is a thing. The meatballs are nothing spectacular, but they are nice – just not overly spiced. You can solve that by throwing a few chilli flakes into the sauce yourself – I added some veg to bulk it out because you can’t have pasta without mushrooms. But those who dislike spicy food will be pleased with them as they are.

The Bolognese sauce has hints of tomato – which shouldn’t really come as a surprise, and it works. The meatballs are small – but they come trapped in a tin, so what do you expect until they invent Tardis tins?

DSC_0154

The same goes for the burgers – they’re more like baby birds with awesome baked beans. In fact, the baby burgers’ ingredients don’t differ greatly from the meatball ingredients, but I preferred the Bolognese sauce to compliment them over the baked beans. The beans come in a rich sauce and the burger bites are meaty and not overly spiced, but they’re nice – just not as enjoyable as the Vegan Sausages and Baked Beans – but nothing in a tin comes close to that!

What this does do is give students, those in a hurry and vegan campers a choice of three different meals in a tin and that has to be a good thing.

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Baked Beans with Vegan Burgers ingredients
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Vegan Meatballs in Bolognese Sauce ingredients

http://www.suma.coop/