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Interview with Tim Barford by Casey Taft PhD of Vegan Publishers

Interview with Tim Barford by Casey Taft PhD of Vegan Publishers

| by Dr. Casey Taft

Dr. Casey Taft of Vegan Publishers interviews Tim Barford, manager of VegfestUK, on Tim’s personal vegan story, the history and future of VegfestUK as well as some new features at the shows.



1. Can you tell us about your personal vegan story?

Going veggie in 1981 aged 18 was an act of rebellion: anything to piss off my mum and dad. I heard about the idea from one of my brothers’ pals from the squat in North London. In 1984 I was living as a new age traveller on the convoy when we came across this anarchist collective in Leeds, who were also all vegan. I went vegan immediately. I was always an ethical vegan – but on humane grounds, more concerned about sustainable food supplies for humans than animals. It was only earlier in 2015 that I became vegan ‘for the animals’ and embraced the whole concept of veganism as a philosophy, not just a dietary or lifestyle choice – 31 years into my vegan ‘journey’.


2. How did VegfestUK came to be? 

Originally a good excuse for a big party, the first Vegfest in 2003 was just for the crack really, and included Bez from The Happy Mondays DJ’ing at our after party. It was most certainly a deliberate attempt to put a bit of rock n roll into the UK vegan movement and rev it up a bit, and try and make it a bit more attractive to the mainstream. In 2007 we did our first big outdoor vegan festival, and that was immense. Huge stage and live bands as well as loads of vegan stalls.


3. We've noticed that there has been a lot of interesting talks and debates at the VegfestUK events focused on ethics which is not often seen at other Vegfests. How did that come about and how has it been going so far?

Vegfest was very much about attracting new people to the vegan movement in its early days, and whilst that is still the case today, it’s also moved on to help cater for existing vegans in more depth too. Talks like ‘Why You Don’t Need Dairy’ and ‘How to Veganise your Favourite Dish’ have been staples of our shows for years, but of course once you are vegan, they have less interest. So the debates and summits are designed to help stimulate vegans especially to look a little more closely at their own lives, their own activism (or lack of), and especially at any campaigns they are involved with, and to help evaluate more effectively the work of the animal movement and how best to participate in this. The feedback so far has been incredible. It’s just what a lot of people are looking for. And of course if it’s not your cup of tea. there’s plenty of other things going on at Vegfest to keep you happy. Namely cake. Well, and food generally. And plenty of entertainment, cookery demos, raw prep zones, kids’ stuff, cinemas and what-have-you. All the usual stuff that has helped build our events to become flagship global vegan festivals.


I think the UK is really ready to bring the ethics of veganism back to the forefront of the picture – which is where is started. Veganism is being seen more and more in a social justice context and especially amongst young people. It’s the least we can do, not just a dietary choice or lifestyle interest. VegfestUK has a responsibility to ensure that we deliver a justice for all clear unequivocal vegan message, and there’s a big appetite in the UK right now for this approach. I would expect to see a rise in grassroots volunteer led regional vegan outreach over the next couple of years as people move away from traditional and more problematical campaigning methods of protest, anger and hostility to more effective calm peaceful creative vegan education. This is already visible in the huge rise of regional grassroots volunteer-led vegan events springing up across the UK – one of the most effective forms of activism imaginable, and way more effective than yet another embassy protest, boycott, disruption or petition.


4. What is your vision for the future of VegfestUK? Where do you see things going?

They are growing rapidly. We keep having to take more space at our venues. Brighton and Bristol are full to capacity and cant expand currently....London we have taken an extra 4,000 square metres exhibition space at Olympia London for 2016 to cope with the demand, and Glasgow continues to grow too. My vision is for the day we won’t need events like this, because the world will be vegan. And that’s an achievable vision.


5. Tell us a bit about the Pro-Intersectional Vegan Conference in October’

We are thrilled to be hosting the UK’s first Pro-Intersectional Vegan Conference this October in London. There’s a lot of very prominent speakers coming over, as it happens, and quite a few that are connected with your own ‘Vegan Publishers’. Reading ‘Circles of Compassion’ recently was a big inspiration in putting this summit on, and we look forward to welcoming many people to this important summit.


6. What's your favourite book? 

Kahlil Gibran – The Prophet.

The Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu.

(and probably) The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger.

L’étranger, by Albert Camus, is another favourite.


If you wouldn't mind sending us a brief bio and photo, we could include that with the article. 

Born 1963 in the UK, I went to live in Greece in 1970 aged 7, and returned to the UK in 1974. I went veggie aged 18 in 1981, and went vegan aged 21 in 1984, having got out of school and joined the ‘’University of Life’’ in squats and on the peace convoy. I founded the UK early hemp companies and started the Vegfests in 2003. I recently become a grandfather. And I’m very happy thanks. I’m a massive soccerball fan and I’m working hard on my guitar playing. 


Get Involved! If you have a great Vegan news feed, blog, podcast or video channel that you’d like us to include in The Vegfest Express, or if you have any ideas of new Vegan topics that you’d like us to focus on in the site, then please just contact us at with details!

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