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Our first Vegan Festival! An honest review...

Imagine spending a weekend in a beautiful setting close to nature... lots of trees to give shade in the summer sun, a stunning lake to swim in, three marquees full of entertainment to choose from and so many choices of food to try...

"Where did you go?" I hear you ask. Well, last weekend we had tickets for The Vegan Campout!

It was the first time we had been to a vegan festival. We didn't really know what to expect apart from a few people we recognised from the line up. It was a long drive up from Dorset so we hoped that it would be worth enduring the motorway traffic but we weren't disappointed. We converted our Belingo back into a campercar for the weekend and parked in the campervan parking field. Pretty surprised at the amount of van's there! There were hundreds! I had to hold myself back from asking for van tours; I love looking inside campervans! Any way, we settled ourselves in after putting up our awning, and had a little walk round to get ourselves acquainted with the site. The camping field was huge, anyone who wanted to camp in their tent had loads of space so no need to be on top of each other. There were lots of posh loos and a few shower blocks near the camping field

(although probably not enough to cope with the extremely hot weather we had that weekend) The festival site was really well organised, lots of small businesses selling vegan products in individual gazebos as you walk in through the entrance. There were organic clothing stalls, handmade soaps a few charity/volunteering information stalls, a jewellery and home stall and a small mini market where you could buy snacks which was a great idea although we had already packed snacks just in case. I did think the festival would have benefited from a charity shop type clothing stall, where you could purchase reclaimed items...and maybe a workshop area where you could learn how to alter clothes... that could end in a fashion type show to display all the reworked eco clothes. Actually a craft tent with eco activities for adults and children would be good. Haha now you can see how my mind rambles. There were loads of food outlets at the festival. So many, that you would have to be there for two weeks to sample them all! We tried a delicious vegan sushi by Happy Maki; a small business based in Brighton and a Carribean bowl piled high with loads of different salads with home made falafel from Mels tropical Kitchen! Much of the food there was gluten free and it was refreshing not to have to hunt for 'the single vegan option' on a menu. The three marquees were huge and provided another escape form the searing heat. One marquee was for the music. Our favourite musician there was Zak Abel, he had a great voice and all his self penned songs were fab. The only gripe I had about the music tent was that as they had the volume pumped up loud, it interrupted the main stage which was a bit annoying. Maybe next year it would be an idea to move it further away or turn the volume down a notch That makes me sound like a fuddy duddy!

Our other favourite musician was someone who had written a song for Camp Beagle.. It was beautiful and made us stop in our tracks as we walked by. I didn't catch her name but would love to know so we can look up more of her music. Camp Beagle is an activist group who are desperately trying to save Beagles bred by Marshall BioResources (MBR) in Huntingdon for scientific experimentation . Up to 2,000 Beagles are bred at the facility each year; they are sold at the age of around 16 weeks to be used for drugs and chemical testing.) I had a look on their website, they actually also breed cats, mini pigs, ferrets, mice, guinea pigs and various mongrels/hounds. Animal research has always made me feel sick to the stomach! I do realise the need for testing drugs but I'm sure the pharmacutical industry could pay willing human subjects, but I suppose if human subjects were kept in small confinements, prodded with needles and cut open at varying intevals, there wouldnt be many takers! The main stage highlights for us were so many! I dont know why but I thought The Vegan Campout would have some cooking demonstrations but it wasn't like that at all. The chefs that came...The Happy Pear, Gaz Oakley and Matt Pritchard talked about their journey, how they got to the point they are today which was really interesting to hear. Other favourites were listening to Evanna Lynch who played Luna Lovegood in Harry Potter, Preacher Lawson a comedian from America, Nimai Delgado; the worlds first vegan body builder who has never eaten meat in his life. (His story about being brought up in the Hare Krishna community was so interesting.) and of course Earthling Ed, the headliner of Sunday evening. Favourites of the other stage were Jamshed Jumshed from the Facebook group 'We Are The Earth' and Dr Alice Brough - 'The vegan pig vet' was inspiring too. It took me well over 40 years to realise that the food I had been consuming throughout my life had been gathered through the pain and suffering of animals. I dont know why it took that long, and I have felt awful guilt ever since which is very hard to shake off. But I have learnt from listening to all these people over the weekend, not to blame myself too much, everyone has their own journey. And I am very thankful to my daughter Beth who talked to us about it and encouraged us to research where our food comes from. xx



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