The weekend, and a trip across London to Alexandra Palace to visit VeganLifeLive.
I was looking forward to visiting VeganLifeLive at Ally Pally on Saturday. As it turned out, it was a wet and miserable day and it took an effort of will to leave the flat, let alone traverse London to the northern swings of Islington. But I’m glad we did. VeganLifeLive was packed full of vibrant stands and stalls offering all sorts of new tastes and experiences designed to fit with veganism. We were greeted nicely, and with limitless free bottled water.
There were goodie bags on offer but we declined the long queue in favour of quick access to the exhibition area. Unfortunately the key speaker we were most keen to hear, Paul Captain Watson, was a no-show but there was enough else going on to keep us happy and interested for a good few hours.
Food and drink were the definite stars of the show, with lots of new tastes and fresh combinations on offer. Our favourites were a vanilla fudge that really did taste fudgy (so much vegan fudge doesn’t) and the wonderful range of African-inspired chutneys and hot sauces from the rather wonderful Madame Sunshine. Madame Sunshine claims to be ‘on this earth to make food that brings a smile to your face’. She certainly did that for us. Her sweet chilli chutney packed out our morning baguettes the next day! The expected exhibitors, such as Abel & Cole with their home-delivered veggie boxes, were there too. Next to a marvellous little tea stand, offering refreshing samples of a range of green teas – including one that had the distinct flavour of a black tea – and a delightful selection of teapots and ceramic cups.
There were some exhibitors outside the food and drink area – one offering high end vegan shoes (which all looked like leather to me), several vegan clothing retailers, a travel operator offering vegan cruises and tours and the such like. The enormous hall was packed, and it would have been easy to become stressed among the crowds and jostling, but there were massages on offer and singers and entertainers to keep one calm and happy. I listened to a an intriguing talk and cookery demo from a small company making seitan – a wheat protein which looks and tastes shockingly similar to meat when cooked. I didn’t like the product but the guys behind it had interesting stories to tell.
All in all though, it was an exhibition which lacked the festival atmosphere we’d been expecting. There was little on offer to help explore the pros and cons of veganism and almost nothing to encourage activism or community engagement. I suspect even those in search of basic facts on the impact of veganism would have left disappointed. I didn’t – revived by tea and Madame Sunshine, and sustained with a fabulous Ethiopian curry at lunchtime, I came home happily clutching fudge and tea and hot sauces. But VeganLifeLive was a missed opportunity to expand the vegan mind and settled for being a trade fair for the already enlightened.