So, I’ve really enjoyed my day out at Vegfest, gobbling away at the sumptuous vegan food treats, networking with like-minded people, and feeling really inspired by the various truths and wonders of the vegan lifestyle. Now I’m thinking:
- How can I really make a difference to people’s lifestyle choices after Vegfest?
- How do I get my family, kids, colleagues and friends to go vegan just like I’ve done?
- How can I make people in my community take note and really promote the virtues of veganism?
- How can I get over to people the importance of going vegan whilst not scaring them away?
You’re certainly not alone. These are questions that we’ve received after a number of Vegfests and largely thanks to these kind suggestions, this year we’ve incorporated a selection of Vegan Activists Workshops into our programme of talks and cookery demos during the daytime at Vegfest Bristol.
With the majority of workshops being 20 minutes long with a small number lasting 50 minutes, these workshops were a gentle introduction to vegan outreach for budding vegan activists amongst our visitors who have understood the why’s and how’s of being vegan and who really want to make a difference in their communities. Nicely tucked away just behind the biggest Main Marquee of stalls, next to the lovely Harbourside, the workshops were set up to be small-scale and interactive affairs with a capacity of 40 for each, contributing to plenty of ebb-and-flow and dialogues between the speakers and the audience.
The workshops were seamlessly overseen by the energetic and enthusiastic vegan activist Dean Bracher from the West Midlands. An avid animal lover at heart, Dean has been assisting with a number of vegan campaigns in the Midlands, whilst volunteering for the Vegan Society and Animal Aid at the same time. Dean was also supervising the cookery demos next door and he was an absolute pleasure to work with – his attention to detail and warmth on the day without a doubt created a stress-free environment for our speakers and put them completely at ease with their talks ahead.
“Be a school speaker” by Viva!’s founder and director Juliet Gellatley on Saturday was in particular an absolute blinder with Juliet’s nous in vegan outreach dovetailing nicely with her expert delivery and poise. Juliet has been delivering similar workshops for Viva! at various locations throughout the country, and Alan from our team was one of her lucky attendees shortly after he went vegan in May 2012. There’re certainly plenty of budding school speakers in the audience who would no doubt be encouraged to spread their vegan seeds even further in their local schools after attending Juliet’s workshop.
Viva!’s food & cookery coordinator Jane Easton also gave a workshop on why we need more cookery demos in our communities on the Sunday. A cook-whizz since she was a kid and a determined vegan since a teenager, Jane has been delivering cookery demos all across the country for years while championing the cause for veganism, and she’s recently published a colourful and easy-to-follow vegan cookbook which suits all taste buds and habits. With her infectious passion for cooking and veganism, Jane really hit home the importance of showcasing live to people how feasible it really is to follow a vegan diet starting right in their kitchens, and passed on numerous useful tips to our next generation of cookery demonstrators.
Having given 100’s of school talks and cookery demos in the UK, Dean Bracher then explained in his workshop how those who understand the ethics of veganism can confidently and effectively educate the younger generation especially our kids.
Viva! also ran their hitherto highly successful 30 day vegan workshop on the Sunday. Hosted by Viva!’s deputy director Justin Kerswell alongside Jane Easton, the 30 day vegan approach was an easy and attractive gateway for many to the wonders of the vegan lifestyle. Basically, by signing up to Viva!’s 30 Day Vegan scheme, you’ll receive, for 30 days straight, a daily email from Viva! on topics such as vegan recipes, nutritional info, animal campaigns and contacts for social support. VegfestUK have also partnered with Viva! since July 2014 in offering a free ticket to the next Vegfest for each new signup to this wonderful educational scheme. If you’re still at a crossroads as to whether or not to take the vegan step, you’ll be hard-pushed to find a better collection of materials to follow for tips on going and staying vegan.
For vegan social events organisers looking to grow their activists communities, the workshop by Robb Masters, organiser of London Vegan Meetup, was a joy to behold. In the last 2 and a half years, Robb has grown LVM from 750 members to over 4,000 members. Robb certainly has more than a few tricks up his sleeves which he kindly shared with his audience before DJ-ing under ‘idiotech’ on the Saturday evening.
Then Ruth Hawe, author of the absorbing novel “Holy Cow” and passionate animal rights activist, shared her insights on Creative Writing as Effective Activism. Ruth’s infectious passion for the AR cause definitely shone through and there were more than a few aspiring writers looking to chat to Ruth further on writing for veganism after her short workshop.
Veganuary, which invites people worldwide to try the vegan lifestyle during January, has been making huge waves ever since their debut in January 2014 – this year a total of over 12,000 people have signed up and a large proportion are opting to stay vegan after January. The Veganuary website is an absolute beauty with a wealth of resources to help people #TryVeganStayVegan, and lately they’ve added a new vegan activists campaign #VegansMakingVegans. Despite being short-staffed at the Veganuary stall for the event, the lovely co-founder Jane Land still found time to prepare an engaging workshop on utilising social media as an effective digital tool for vegan activism. Those who attended her workshop were left with no doubt as to why Veganuary has been so successful and we absolutely love Jane’s warm personality in speaking 1-to-1 with a number of enthusiastic members of the audience afterwards.
A range of social media tips for promoting veganism were also explored in the workshop by indefatiguable Lizzi Shaw, who runs her own Bournemouth Vegan Fair and Dorset Vegan online vegan resource group as well as her own social media communications agency Lizzi Shaw Communications. Lizzi is a huge fan of utilising each individual’s unique talents for the vegan cause. Donning a sharp Dorset Vegan T-shirt throughout the event, Lizzi shared her digital toolkit and also explained her own tricks in organising her own steadily growing and very popular vegan fair down on the South Coast.
The thread of effectively sharing with others what you enjoy (and in particular following a vegan lifestyle) was continued by the Vegan Society’s senior campaigns officer Andrea Speranza, who has more than 15 years of experience in social and environmental campaigns at local, national and international level. Andrea succinctly provided her audience with a range of easy-to-follow tools for successful pro-vegan campaigns which aim to make vegan living more commonplace in our society.
The Vegan Society have always had a happy and well orchestrated army of volunteers at all the events they do, and if you listen in to the workshop by their volunteer manager Alex Douglas, it’s easy to understand why. Always wearing a lovely smile on her face and being hugely enthusiastic at all times, Alex is a joy to converse and work with, and her joint workshop with Dean on volunteering for the Society gave us a nice run-down of the active roles in which you can play a huge part.
Then in late afternoon on the Sunday, our own Tim Barford, who has been a vegan activist for over 30 years, gave a barnstorming speech on how to deliver a consistent and global ‘Go Vegan’ message on the Sunday. In his workshop, which was delivered with gusto, aplomb and conviction albeit largely impromptu, Tim drew upon his vast experiences in outreach avenues from putting on events (needless to say) and writing to local media to radio interviews and charity collections. He hammered home the importance of carrying a clear and unambiguous ‘Go Vegan’ message in vegan marketing materials, and highlighted the fact that the majority of VegfestUK’s new flyers carried a clear ‘Go Vegan’ message which underlies our heavier emphasis and higher urgency on vegan education from this year onwards.
In view of the heartbreaking situation in which almost 8,000 stray and abandoned dogs were put to sleep in council pounds last year, Protect a Pup’s guest speaker Lisa Tenzin-Dolma explained how neutering and spaying could help, as well as its pros and cons, and also how you could resolve your dog’s behaviour issues using ‘positive’ methods.
The lovely Emma Fry from Veganbnb Travel had also pre-edited a short video for us on her inspiring self-guided and guided tours in South America and Spain which are 100% vegan-friendly. Despite traces of technical hiccups at the start, we eventually managed to show this nicely condensed video with a soundtrack which takes us in spirit to where Emma was (sunny Spain!) during the event. Her documentary teaches us how to plan our own vegan adventures so that we can actively promote the availability of a lifestyle in which animals, people and the environment are not exploited, one holiday at a time.
All in all, these workshops provided plenty of inspiring bite-sized chunks of information for activists to take in. Moreover, so far our survey results from the event (to be published in full in a later blog) are showing that our visitors are responding positively to these new activists workshops, with many saying that they feel empowered to carry out their own outreach in their communities after attending some of the workshops.
The Vegan Activists Workshops are a prelude of what we have in store for our upcoming events in London (Oct 10th 11th) and Glasgow (Dec 5th 6th). At each of these events, there will be a full scale People’s Vegan Activists Summit on the Sunday with a number of keynote speakers from across the globe giving us the lowdown on how to effectively influence a pre-vegan world. Speakers already confirmed include:
(for Scotland) Dr. Melanie Joy
with more TBC soon.
Big thanks to all our speakers at the workshops in Bristol - we wish all of you luck in delivering ‘go vegan’ messages in your communities in the hope that more people go vegan for animals, for the planet, for the people and for sustainable food production. Of course we also hope to see many of our visitors at London and Glasgow soon.
VegfestUK team xxx
from Vegfest UK