I went to the London Vegan Festival held at Kensington Town Hall on 17th August. I’d never been to Kensington Town Hall so I was surprised to find 70s brick civic centre rather than Victorian mock gothic. It did mean that everything was nicely accessible, but they need to get the air conditioning fixed – the rooms were very hot.
There were three main exhibition rooms with a good showing of the usual Three Cs – Chocolate, Cosmetics and Campaigns. I come at Veg*nism from a food perspective, so the food stalls are all par for the course for me, but I will admit to being a little startled at seeing hunt saboteurs stalls.
Stalls that stood out for me as I shuffled round in the crowds (it was very busy!) were:
I kept on my personal campaign to find a vegan ‘cheese’ that doesn’t taste of sick. Vegusto had a stall and I have to say their cheese isn’t bad. It tastes of processed cheese, which is a step up on most of the competition I’ve tried. I came away with a tube of their No-Moo Melty. This does go soft when heat is applied and tastes like processed cheese. I wouldn’t rush back to it, but if you’re desperate for something cheesy this might fit the bill.
In addition to the stalls there were talks on various subjects related to veganism and animal rights/welfare. I went along to one given by Paul Gravett on “How Special Branch spied on the Animal Rights Movement”. Paul gave a good talk (mercifully powepoint free!) about his experience of the members of Special Branch who infiltrated the animal rights movement in the 80s and 90s. It was interesting and a little chilling to find out just how plausible these infiltrators were and deep they were in the organisations they were spying on. They weren’t just sitting in meetings and taking notes, they were organising the meetings, running the mailing lists and driving people to demos and actions. As a side note, if you’re running any kind of movement, watch out for helpful men with vans – this was a common factor in several of the infiltrators.
One thing that struck me at the festival was not only how many people attended, I’m sure it must have been over a thousand, but the range of people. All ages, all classes (by the clothing) and all ethnicities. Any idea that veg*nism is a white, middle-class thing can be completely dispelled by standing outside and watching who goes in. This is a far more diverse movement than you might think from press coverage.