The first ever Vegan Festival will be staged in Derry next year, with organisers arriving in the city over recent days to secure the venue.
The founder of Vegan Festival, Gareth Edwards and his team have previously run several major successful festivals in Belfast, and he said he was delighted to be bringing the event to the north west for the first time.
“We thought we shouldn’t just think of Northern Ireland as being Belfast. I thought, it’s time Derry had something.”
Mr Edwards has now been confirmed that the Irish Vegan Festival in Derry will be held at the Everglades Hotel on Saturday, June 8, 2019.
The idea for a vegan festival came about as means to help fund the animal rescue charity Mr Edwards founded, ‘Farplace’.
“We started in 2013 at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland and the north east of England had never had a vegan festival,” Mr Edwards said.
The huge response of this and successive events in this region led to others across England and beyond and proved the demand for such niche events was there, at a time when market research across the world was finding that the number of people choosing to become vegan and vegetarian was on the rise.
“We staged one in the Ulster Hall. We had 2,700 people. We weren’t expecting that,” Mr Edwards added. “The two that surprised us were Cumbria and Belfast as they were seen as more traditional, farming regions and not viewed as vegan hotbeds .”
The events have now become so successful in the North that they have had to switch to larger venues, with the last one in April staged at the Europa Hotel and attracting thousands of people.
“We are back again there in October, and we are also staging festivals in France,” Mr Edwards said.
The festivals feature a wide range of local and visiting businesses and cottage industries who have developed food, drink and products that are not tested on animals and do not contain any animal products or by-products. The vegan goods on offer includes hot dishes and pies, elaborate cakes, desserts, houseware and bath and beauty products, with input from local restaurants, cafes, shops and traders, as well as visiting ones.
There is also information stalls on health, nutrition and well-being as well as demonstrations.
The festival venue will normally host a range of speakers involved in grass-roots activism, as well as screenings of films.
‘Farplace’ now has nine charity shops and they too are only stocked with vegan foods and staff, while they don’t have to be vegan themselves, are asked to eat vegan food exclusively within the offices.
Mr Edwards said that the growth in veganism is evidenced by the largest supermarkets now introducing growing vegan food ranges, with Iceland the latest to announce their range following on from Sainsburys, Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Marks & Spencers and Asda among others.
“All the big supermarkets are investing heavily in plant-based ranges,” he said. “They wouldn’t do that without the demand being there.”
He added that more farmers were also now seeking advice about transitioning their business.
Mr Edwards said that despite the plans for Derry having just being announced, there has already been interest from some locally based businesses specialising in vegan and vegetarian cuisine.
He added that he hopes some others will veganise a few dishes and join the traders from here and elsewhere at the event on June 8 next year.
To keep updated with the plans for the Derry festival, check out www.facebook.com/irishveganfestival/