Every year on October 1st, World Vegetarian Day kicks off a month of parties, potlucks, presentations, food tasting displays and festivities. For those new to vegetarianism, it may be a culinary, as well as an educational experience. It may be an opportunity for vegetarians and those moving towards plant-based diets to celebrate healthy, compassionate food choices.
World Vegetarian Day was established as an annual celebration to promote the joy, benevolence and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism. The day was originated by the North American Vegetarian Society in 1977 and endorsed by the International Vegetarian Union in 1978. October 1st is the official date, however festivals are organised around the world on or around this date.
After a successful VegfestUK London 2015 showcasing 220 stalls and visited by around 12,000 people, VegfestUK announced the dates for VegfestUK London 2016 to be October 22nd and 23rd, 2016, at Olympia London. As a result of the notable amount of visitors who attended the festival in 2015, the organisers of this year’s event decided to expand into the first floor of the West Hall of Olympia in addition to levels 1 and 3 of the Central Hall, which were in use for VegFestUK London 2015. With an expanded venue, the festival organisers aim to offer this year’s visitors a more pleasant experience with sufficient space and seating for everyone to relax and enjoy the event. The festival’s programme consists of full information on stalls, maps, speakers, schedules of all talks, cookery demos, kids activities and performances.
Full categories and nominees for the prestigious VegfestUK Awards 2016, which celebrates the best of a vegan lifestyle in the UK, have also been announced. There are altogether 16 categories with 10 nominees each aiming for the top spot. Running since 2007, the awards, an intrinsic and valued part of the UK vegan community, may be one of the highlights of the festival for the numerous vegan businesses, organisations, projects and people who attend the event, with tens of thousands of votes cast each year. Startup vegan businesses and charities in particular may benefit from the marketing and prestige the awards create.
In connection with this year’s VegfestUK Awards, the organisers have stated: “The VegfestUK awards 2016 reflect both the quality and diversity within the vegan market today, and to be nominated for an award in 2016 is a huge achievement in itself.”
Earlier this year, over the weekend May 21st – 22nd, around 13,000 individuals visited the 14th edition of the VegfestUK Bristol vegan festival at the Amphitheatre, to enjoy a mosaic of food, festive music and entertainment. Tickets for future events, such as the upcoming VegFestUK in Scotland, scheduled for 3rd – 4th of December 2016, Brighton, March 11th – 12th, 2017, and Bristol, May 20th – May 21st, 2017, are already available for purchase from authorised vendors.
Around the world, vegetarianism is viewed in different lights. In some countries, there is cultural and even legal support, such as in India and the United Kingdom where food labelling is in place, which may make it easier for vegetarians to identify foods compatible with their diets. According to the NHS, an estimated 2% of the UK population is vegetarian, which represents more than 1.2 million people with teenagers making up the highest proportion.
Vegetarian food festivals such as VegFestUK may be an opportunity for those embracing this lifestyle to explore a variety of vegetarian foods, share information about the benefits of vegetarian diets with the people in their local communities, as well as support and link individuals and organisations practicing and promoting vegetarianism.
How may food festivals encourage healthy culinary choices?