Photos by Rob Tysall
Being Vegan doesn’t mean you miss out on the good stuff! Ann Evans discovered this to be so true at the recent Leicester Vegan Festival.
The Leicester Vegan Festival held at Leicester Athena over the weekend of 9th and 10th April, was a massive success with visitors eager to indulge in their favourite vegan products, or just as excited to be trying out something new in the vegan world. And there really was an incredible range of world class vegan foods – local and international cuisine, sweet and savoury produced by small family run businesses, passionate about their products.
And it certainly wasn’t only vegan food and drinks on offer. With more than 70 stalls there was all kinds of eco conscious products and services including clothing, bags, jewellery, ornaments, cosmetics and more. The great thing being this was a safe place for vegans to shop as everything was 100% vegan, so no need to check the labels. Plus, the majority of the goods on sale weren’t available in supermarkets – so a unique shopping experience.
On top of browsing the stalls there was a schedule of educational talks and inspirational cookery demonstrations running throughout the day – so plenty to keep everyone entertained. Additionally, there were a number of charity stalls such as Greek Animal Rescue (UK), Greenpeace, The Woodland Trust, Viva, Cats Protection, Anonymous for the voiceless, Challenge 22, Jacob’s Ridge Animal Sanctuary, The Humane Research Trust and Victoria’s own charity which all her profits from these events goes to – Miracle’s Mission. More about this charity next week here on B-C-ing-U.
Browsing the stalls which all seemed to be doing a brisk trade it was clear that everyone was eager to try the produce, and there were lots of gorgeous foods to try. There were queues at VDogs, 100% vegan sausages that Colleen and James were very proud of. They founded their company in 2015 and have been working hard over the years developing their products so that they match the taste of a real sausage without the use of animals. They are meat free, dairy free, egg free and palm oil free.
Nearby, Mel Tropical Kitchen, had the largest and most delicious looking fresh salads in bowls of vegetables leaves that looked so good – and so different. Her stand was brimming with freshly made Afro Caribbean salad boxes, wraps, cakes, raw vegan vegetables and more.
While the House Habesha were cooking up delicious and unique vegan dishes from Eastern Africa. Samson and Samuel are the creators behind this Eritrean and Ethiopian food culture. Their vegan dishes included a variety of delicious rich and healthy stews using chickpeas, spinach, red lentils, tomatoes, potatoes and more with lots of spices. Plus, to dip into the stews, they make Injera, a flatbread that dates back 4,000 years. Only two countries are now making this bread – Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Also doing a roaring trade was Simon Karam of MKS Food Distribution. Simon had two products on his stand – delicious olives which his family run business source from small farms in the Mediterranean area; and vegan Turkish Delight – made without gelatine.
What was particularly special about this festival was the number of small businesses who had started their businesses up just before Covid struck or during lockdown. Each story showed how they adapted to the situation and fought on through all the difficulties and adversity to make their business successful.
One such entrepreneur was Love Meg, a 100% vegan bakery. Meg has been vegan for five years and started her business during lockdown, selling on-line. “Once people started going out again, I followed them and started going to markets and fairs – vegan and non-vegan. Non-vegans enjoy what I’m making as much as vegans do. You can have the biggest meat-eater going and they will tell you they can’t tell the difference.”
Personally, I had to agree! And can truthfully say, the cookie dough, chocolate ganache slice was the most delicious cake I have eaten in a long time. Meg added, “Being vegan you should not miss out on the good stuff!”
It certainly wasn’t all foodstuffs at the festival, one of the many interesting stands that we stopped to admire was Devaiya organic self-cure oils created by Ruby Sagu. Her hand-made, organic oils have all been individually created to help with a specific problem that was affecting a real person – starting with herself.
Ruby explained that seven years ago she was in a car accident and suffered extensive whiplash injuries. Reluctant to take medication she sought a natural alternative and began researching and learning about natural healing and natural inflammatories. She came up with her first oil blend.
“To start with I only made this for myself,” said Ruby. “But I couldn’t believe how well it worked. I started to tell others who wanted to try it. My grandmother started to use it and it helped her aches and pains, my uncle found it made his bad knee more flexible. My family pointed out that I needed to be sharing this with others.”
Realising the true potential this blend had, Ruby threw herself into it heart and soul. She did the necessary cosmetic tests and got the packaging right. Her first oil blend was called Aches Away. This was home-made, 100% natural and relieved Ruby of her whiplash pain. When she shared this with other people she realised the true potential of her first oil blend.
“Then people started asking me to make specific cures for their ailments,” said Ruby. “So these were created, trialled and then tested to become official Devaiya products with every single one based around real people and real feedback – it was at this point that Devaiva Oils was born. Devaiya meaning Medicine in Punjabi.”
Devaiya Oil products continue to gain popularity through word of mouth and through this Ruby has learned more about the benefits of her products and the versatility of different oils. She says that customer feedback has been paramount in the journey of Devaiya. In 2016 Devaiya Oils became a member of the Aromatherapy Trade Council (ATC) and recognised as a responsible manufacturer of aromatherapy products.
Another successful entrepreneur in the beauty business was Siáma Scott from Essex who in 2019 started her own Vegan nail varnish business, Beau Polish. Siáma is a trained and qualified Nail Technician, but soon realised that wasn’t what she wanted to do. Her dream was to create her own brand of nail polish, experimenting with colours and ingredients, determined to hand-make her nail varnishes, as well as making them free from the ten whole ingredients usually found in nail varnish, vegan friendly, recyclable bottles and packaging where possible and cruelty free.
Siáma created her brand in October 2019 – then as everyone knows, March brought the lockdown. She focused on working on-line and persevered even though she felt that selling on-line became saturated with everyone doing it. But she persevered in getting her brand out there.
With a passion for colour, her tag line is: Brightening up the world one nail polish at a time. As her nail polishes are hand-made, she can create a wonderful range of colours from themed to seasonal, to one-off colours to match a company’s logo for example, or to match bridesmaid’s dresses. Siáma says, “Being a designer I have a strong connection with colour being used as an expression of self, because people deserve to know who you are! And you deserve to be seen!”
There were larger companies too such as Monat a family business that started in 2014 now recognised as pioneers in naturally based safe products that deliver results. They are passionate about anti-ageing skin care, hair care and overall wellness. Monica and Beata pictured here couldn’t speak highly enough about them.
So many great vegan products to discover. Look out for more Vegan Events UK:
Portsmouth – 14th May 2022
Manchester – 15th May 2022
Bath – 4th June 2022
Leeds – 12th June 2022
Bournemouth – 3rd September 2022
Leeds – 6th November 2022
Manchester – 20th November 2022
Bath – 26th November 2022
Further details from: https://www.veganeventsuk.co.uk