If I’m honest (and why wouldn’t I be?) I very nearly didn’t go to the London Vegan Festival. I was tired and was quite sick of public transport by the end of the week. I doubted whether it would surpass Vegfest, I wondered whether there was really anything new the London vegan scene could offer me at a collection of stalls, and if so, I didn’t want to go through the “I want to buy everything” anxiety that would necessarily beset me.
But I had a last-minute look at the list of stallholders, and realised many names were new and unfamiliar to me. I also knew I would regret sitting at home all day more. And, frankly, it was comforting not to be so rabidly excited about vegan baked goods – maybe I could remain somewhat civilised.
This very nearly threw me though:
That, my friends, is the CocoaFeliz stall. I think the picture speaks for itself. I didn’t even consider buying any as I knew I’d never be able to choose. Plus, I’d have wanted to go for the 24 for £24 deal as being the best value, but did I really want to spend £24 on something I would probably eat within 24 hours?
This did make my resolve more difficult:
It was hard to pay much attention to the poor Koko stall opposite…
After considering stocking up on handy items like vegan parmesan and condensed soy milk at Ananda, we stopped to admire the adorable miniature cakes at Compassion Cakes. I made Ben consider a scone, but it was still too early in our exploration to be buying food.
We wandered into the main hall which although cramped and windowless did contain some treasures. The first stall to catch my eye (after Vegan Runners UK, which made me wish I was a runner or that Ben was vegan) was A Fine Choice, whose website I had admired for the first time the night before.
I love the colourful patterned water bottles and bags, and that little pot of moisturiser was silky gorgeousness, but I was there for the glass straws! As cute as the little decorated ones were, I played it safe with a straight, smoothie-width clear straw. So excited!
I’m not going to lie. One of the main reasons I got excited about going to the festival at all was the photo Dori of The Rabbit Hole vegan hair parlour posted of her stall on Instagram.
I saw sleek bottles and an offer on nail polish and I was sold! I’m loving that nail polish is now a “thing” of mine, after a decade or two of chewed nails. The only problem was making a choice… But the lovely Dori was helpful as always and recommended the new matte sparitual polishes, particularly in deep blue and copper. They were a fantastic choice… I couldn’t even tell you which my favourite is.
I was excited to see The Vegan Tart, knowing it was their last appearance and having heard many good things. Ben was finally swayed by a scone, but unfortunately he has been making many delectable scones at home lately and these didn’t quite live up. I would argue that they could probably have been perfectly redeemed by a bit of heat, cream, and jam.
Meanwhile, I found myself drawn to cosmetics stands which is odd as I don’t use anything except oil on my face in the evenings, Superdrug shampoo and conditioner, the Neal’s Yard moisturiser I was given last year, and plan to try to make my own products if I find myself needing any. Plenty of nice things, nothing overly interesting to a grub like me.
I Am Natural (above) were chatty, The Soap Deli had a pretty stall, Heavenly Organics engaged Ben in conversation about massage lotions and as I felt guilty for lingering I didn’t turn down their offer of 3 lip balms for £3. Always handy to have a stick lying around (though all three of them seem to keep finding their way into the same bag, and never the one I have with me).
Beauty Without Cruelty remain my favourites with their attractive packaging and enticing array of products that I will never actually understand how to use.
It’s funny, I always try to avoid the mainstream brand stalls knowing I can get hold of their products anytime, but I drifted towards the Clearspring stall where I purchased my first ever sachet of matcha green tea powder. Besides the facts that I have wanted to try matcha for ages, know Clearspring to be a reliable company, and that they had a show offer on (£8 for 30g I think), my purchase was facilitated by a stallholder who didn’t pointedly ignore me.
The 1066 Cake Stand stallholder was also very personable and I love their idea of a monthly cake club subscription. Very clever on their part – and also a very good idea to display intriguing rainbow-coloured confections on their stall to catch my eye.
Will’s Vegan Shoes had some really sleek shoes on display – I am a much bigger fan of this latest collection, particularly in the men’s shoes, than I was of the last one – but it was hard to get close as the usual crowd was swarming around his wares.
Despite my best intentions, I also couldn’t get anywhere near the Rainforest Creations stall due to the huge queue. The food looked good but I couldn’t guarantee it would blow my mind, and after a long wait there is nothing worse than even slightly substandard food, so we followed the rumours of burgers upstairs. By this point I had tasted a sample of Ananda Foods marshmallow, a couple of samples of vegan jerky from the Oriental Vegan and Vegetarian Foods stall, and a few crumbs of Kizzy’s Cookies which, incidentally, are delicious.
The vibe upstairs was very different. I lingered around a stall selling moringa seeds as I have started seeing them around lately and was curious, but nobody seemed to want to engage me in conversation so I wandered off. I took a photo of the Organic Livity Co stall but when I saw the look on the stallholder’s face and asked – mainly out of politeness – if they minded they told me that they didn’t allow photos, and accepted my offer to delete it. On their Facebook page you can view photos of their stall… The treats looked very appetising but after that I sort of lost my mojo and wandered into the pushup competition hosted by Vegan Bodybuilding (dot org). It really annoyed me that the host insisted on a pause at the bottom for the men but not for the women, so the least said about that the better. I gave the stalls another try by admiring some jewellery which I may well have been talked into buying as it was discreet and decently priced, but again I was pointedly ignored by stallholders so I took that as a sign.
By this stage I was hungry and starting to get mildly grouchy (in case you couldn’t tell from the write-up!), so we left the competition in search of the appetising burgers we had watched people walk around with… They didn’t jump out at us and ultimately, I think we both just wanted to leave, so we said our goodbyes and wandered off into the fresh air. It was a nice little day out, and I was very excited with my fun new toys.
Now here’s a paradox for you to ponder: how do I attend a vegan festival, take mainly photos of cake, and return having neither eaten nor purchased any cake?
I still haven’t figured that one out.