Northern Vegan Festival: the UK’s first vegan market after the pandemic

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The Northern Vegan Festival brought together many traders from different sectors, including clothing, cosmetics, sustainable materials, and, of course, food.

It was the first weekend with measures eased in England. And in Manchester, a vegan market flush with sunrays provided some much-needed respite. Vegan Events UK celebrated its first event in Manchester, the Northern Vegan Festival, with many traders of all kinds — clothing, cosmetics, activism and food.

Victoria Bryceson, the head organiser, believe in a holistic approach: “Veganism is about ethical living and treating everybody with mutual respect and fairness. My aim with the festivals is to show people how incredible, varied, healthy, easy and affordable veganism can be.”

Due to Covid-19 concerns, the event was celebrated at the parking lot of a convention centre in Trafford. The weather was pleasant, and it was possible to enjoy a great Saturday knowing all the options a vegan and sustainable lifestyle have. There is no such thing as the perfect vegan, but here’s the thing: veganism doesn’t need a bunch of people who don’t consume any animal products, rather many who avoid them as much as possible.

Lucia, 26, has it clear. She says she called herself vegetarian in a transition towards veganism, but like many others, cheese is something that is still hard for her to give up. “It’s complicated, and I mix it. I buy vegan cheese, but if I see regular cheese from a sustainable source, I’ll buy it.”

Tyne Chease, a family run business in the northeast, has many different vegan cheeses. There is a huge range of artisan and handmade cashew-based products that resemble smoked Applewood and Ethiopian spicy cheeses. “We don’t try to replicate dairy cheese; we just have vegan cheese in their own right,” Amy Deen told me as I tasted them.

“These are not the kind of melty cheeses you can get in the supermarket for a pizza or burger. It’s luxury cheese for a wine-and-crackers evening. All these are quite soft and creamy with a lot of flavours.”

Besides stands of cheese, organic juices, marinated olives, and other edible vegan products, traders are pushing veganism further than just with food. Viva La Vegan is a clothing brand that performs activism with the garments we wear. Its founder, Jay Charlton, used to work as a fashion designer for the high street. She knows firsthand how notorious fast fashion can be. To fight against it, she created her own brand — organic, ethically produced, and completely vegan.

Charlton thinks veganism and fashion are a way of activism too. “Not everybody is confident enough to go out to a protest or approach people in the street, but with fashion, people have the message across the chest.”

Another stand, The Sierra Foxtrot, had inspiring clothes with animal theme drawings. All of them designed by vegan artists, with foxes as the main characters. Its founder told me about its social role, too: “We donate 5% of profits to Jacobs Ridge Animal Sanctuary in Spain.”

Vegan Events UK donates 100% of its ticket proceeds to animal charity Miracle’s Mission. It works with sick, injured and disabled animals worldwide.

Cosmetic products were also present in the market. More and more people want to highlight their features in the most sustainable way, with the vegan cosmetics industry expecting to grow by £2.5 billion between 2020 and 2024.

Julia, from Root Vegan Skincare, had a beautiful stand with organic beauty products. “All from mother nature,” she says. “Veganism is how we should all be living. We don’t need to use anything from animals. There are so many alternatives now. Veganism is a lifestyle.”

However, veganism is food, too. So, at the end of the day, we stop to fulfil our vegan tummies: some delicious vegan fish and chips and a vegan hot dog. This is just the beginning of summer and the first weekend after the lockdown. There will be many other vegan markets, and hopefully, something will always be close to your town.

Juanele Villanueva
Juanele Villanueva
Juanele Villanueva is a freelance journalist passionated with Environment Affairs. He is originally from Spain and started to be interested in the Environment and sustainability when he was in his masters at the University of Salford. His goal is to share stories which change the general belief that being eco-friendly is just for wealthy people. Moreover, the vegan diet is the easiest step that everyone can do to reduce its environmental footprint. He is also interested in conservationism, recycling, renewable energies and environmental policies