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Free Vegan Food Fair
in Lichfield

On Saturday 12th April 2008, Lichfield tasted it`s first ever free vegan food fair when Midlands Vegan Campaigns rolled into town, intent on shattering misconceptions about vegan cuisine.

Lichfield`s Guildhall, on a busy street in the heart of the city, was the perfect setting for the event. Big signs were displayed outside and shoppers were handed leaflets/food samples to encourage them inside. But even without this publicity on the day, a good turnout was virtually guaranteed thanks to several excellent local press articles promoting the event and announcements on local radio.

We were overjoyed to see so many people flocking into the Guildhall, particularly during the first 2 hours. The queue for the food went out the door and the 26 metre long hall became so crowded that everyone struggled to walk round!!

We had thought that the sheer amount of food on offer at our first food fair in Kings Heath could never be beaten, but in Lichfield, we surpassed ourselves with an even greater amount and variety of scrumptious vegan options! There was chilli, raw sushi, pizza slices, tofu kebabs, spicy chick pea curry, mini quiche, quinoa salad, sausage rolls, savoury nut loaf, fudge balls, chocolate truffles, coffee & walnut cake, tea loaf, mincemeat & almond cake and many, many more to choose from. Despite the hungry crowds flocking to the food table throughout the day, our endless supply of delicious delights lasted the distance!

"I don`t doubt that many a feast has occured in the Guildhall over its history, but how many of those feasts were vegan?" - Quote from article in Lifescape Magazine

Thanks to the efforts of our 30+ volunteers on the day, not only did MVC welcome and cater for 100`s of visitors, we also ran a separate cake stall, info table, tombola, recipe stall, eco-vegan display etc. The remaining space in the main hall was filled with stalls from national campaign groups and local organisations/companies of interest to anyone considering a change of diet/lifestyle. Click here for a full list of stallholders.

A whopping 26 companies and organisations either sponsored the event or provided free samples of their products! Special thanks must go to The Vegan Society, ethical holiday makers Veggie Snow and the ever generous Redwood Foods and Beanies Health Foods. For a full list of the companies & organisations that sponsored the event, Click here

It wasn`t just the free food that was flying off the table - hundreds of pounds worth of cakes were sold. Burgers and refreshments also went well, and our tombola was a real moneyspinner, which all helped to recoup the cost of the free food.

Free recipes were available for all the food samples, and they too were going like hot cakes! Literally hundreds of them were taken resulting in us running out before the end of the fair! Lots more freebies, including nutrition factsheets, vegan product information, health magazines, guides to going and staying vegan were all snapped up. A wide variety of revealing leaflets, left visitors in no doubt that veganism is not only the best choice for their own personal health, the benefits for animals, people and the planet are equally indisputable.

Fair goers were invited to fill in short questionnaires which asked them what they thought of the food, to describe their current diet and whether they were considering changing their diet. Every visitor who filled in a questionnaire, received a free chocolate bar or similar treat. 137 questionnaires were completed, which have revealed that over 50% of fair goers were meat eaters! Click here to see some more interesting results that we`ve compiled.

In a smaller room, Liz Hughes of Birmingham Vegetarians & Vegans showed off her culinary skills to packed out audiences at 2 cookery demos. Titled `Meals in Minutes`, Liz demonstrated how to prepare some simple tasty dinners, before everyone had the chance to sample the delicious results and ask questions. Neatly sliced between the 2 demos, Amanda Baker, media officer for The Vegan Society, gave a talk and answered questions about basic vegan nutrition. Amanda explained why you don't need expensive supplements or exotic ingredients to enjoy all the benefits of a plant-based diet.

During the weeks leading upto the fair, there was much discussion amongst the co-ordinators, regarding what we should call the event! We had been informed that Lichfield is a very conservative town and therefore very different to Kings Heath, where we held our first food fair back in November. There was serious concern that the word `vegan` would be very off-putting which could result in a low turnout and that we should consider calling the event a Veggie Food Fair or Healthy Living Food Fair instead! As things turned out, we`re delighted that we stuck with vegan. Not only did we attract far more visitors than we ever dreamed of, the huge amount of local publicity acquainted many thousands of people with veganism and it`s benefits!

Many thanks to our wonderful team of cooks, food servers, stallholders, leafletters, waitresses, washer uppers, drivers, lifters and carriers, photographers etc etc!! You know who you all are! We simply couldn`t stage events like this without you - you`re all stars, thankyou!

Please read on for the questionnaire results, details of stallholders, list of sponsors and the Lifescape Magazine article

Photo Gallery and Film

Don`t forget to view our gallery with 30+ photos and also our 5 minute film of the event.

Questionnaire Results

We estimate that approx 5-600 people attended the event. 137 of these completed a questionnaire which asked them what they thought of the food, to describe their current diet and whether they were considering changing their diet. These are some statistics compiled from those questionnaires:

Of the 137 people who completed the questionnaire:
  • 51% were meat/fish eaters
  • 36% were vegetarian
  • 13% were vegan
Of the 70 meat/fish eaters who completed the questionnaire:
  • 61% said the quality and taste of the food was excellent
  • 30% said the quality and taste was good
  • The final 9% either thought the food was satisfactory or they didn`t answer this question
  • 23% are either thinking of or definately becoming vegetarian
  • Another 7% are thinking of going vegan
  • The large majority of the rest said they would eat more vegetarian/vegan food in future
Of the 49 vegetarians who completed the questionnaire:
  • 78% said the quality and taste of the food was excellent
  • 22% said the quality and taste was good
  • 24% are either thinking of or definately becoming vegan
  • The large majority of the rest said they would eat more vegan food in future
Many people wrote comments on their questionnaires, including the following:

"Surprised how tasty vegan food is - very enjoyable." - meat eater

"This exhibition was superb! Well done." - vegetarian

"Very well organised event - a credit to everyones efforts." - meat eater

"The food was fantastic. It really made me question why i even eat meat." - meat eater

"Very well presented, wonderful food, very informative. Thankyou." - vegetarian

"Was surprised and impressed by the range of vegan foods available. Have previously had an impression of vegan food being bland!" - meat eater

Stallholders

The following campaign groups, organisations and businesses held stalls at the event:

Viva! (Vegetarians International Voice for Animals) - Probably the world`s biggest vegetarian/vegan campaigning organisation, see www.viva.org.uk

The Vegan Society - The national vegan advocacy group of the UK, who have recently relocated to Birmingham, see www.vegansociety.com

Animal Aid - Campaigns peacefully against all animal abuse, and promotes a cruelty-free lifestyle, see www.animalaid.org.uk

Lifescape Magazine - Your essential read for a more cruelty-free, fair trade and organic life, see www.lifescapemag.com

Cats Whiskers Rescue - Based in Great Wyrley, they rescue and rehome cats across Staffordshire and the West Midlands, see www.catchat.org/catswhisk/cgibin/prtoc.cgi

RainbowSpan - Barbara Staples is a Birmingham based holistic therapist who practices the Aura-Soma Colour System and also Palmistry Hand Analysis, see www.rainbowspan.co.uk

Organic Planet - Shop in Aldridge offering fresh fruit & veg, groceries, Fairtrade gifts, an organic box delivery scheme and lots more, see www.organic-planet.co.uk

Fair Trade Stall - A local supplier of fairly traded Traidcraft products, see www.traidcraft.co.uk


Food Donations & Sponsors

We are extremely grateful to the following organisations & companies for generous donations of food and sponsorship, without which this event could not have taken place:

The Vegan Society - www.vegansociety.com

Veggie Snow - www.veggiesnow.org

Lifescape Magazine - www.lifescapemag.com

Redwood Wholefood Company - www.redwoodfoods.co.uk

Beanie`s Health Foods - www.beanieshealthfoods.co.uk

Bute Island Foods - www.buteisland.com

Plamil - www.plamilfoods.co.uk

Cauldron Foods - www.cauldronfoods.co.uk

Clearspring - www.clearspring.co.uk

Granovita - www.granovita.co.uk

Doves Farm - www.dovesfarm.co.uk

Safe to Eat - www.safetoeatfood.com

Natural Balance Foods - www.naturalbalancefoods.co.uk

Soyfoods - www.soyfoods.co.uk

Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard - www.englishorganicwine.co.uk

Humdinger Foods - www.humdinger-foods.co.uk

Hotel Chocolat - www.hotelchocolatcorporate.co.uk

Blue Lotus Products - www.bluelotusproducts.co.uk

Essential Trading - www.essential-trading.co.uk

Montezuma Chocolate - www.montezumas.co.uk

Yaoh - www.yaoh.co.uk

Hipo Hyfryd - www.hipohyfryd.co.uk

Booja Booja - www.boojabooja.co.uk

No Moo Cow Chocolates - www.moofreechocolates.com

Khazana Restaurant - www.khazanarestaurant.co.uk

Sibila`s Restaurant - www.sibilasrestaurant.co.uk


Lifescape Magazine Article

The following report of the event was written by one of our members and published(alongside 4 event photos) in the June 2008 edition of Lifescape Magazine, one of the stallholders at the fair.

Vegan Fair

Lichfield, a beautiful city, a historical treasure trove and home of the first dictionary, but what has this got to do with veganism? Verity Hunt-Sheppard reports.

The historical Guildhall was recently the setting for a free vegan food fair whose success exceeded all expectations.

Lichfield's Guild Hall is truly beautiful. With good weather on the day the stained glass windows were vibrant with colour. I don't doubt that many a feast has occurred in the Guild Hall over it's history, but how many of those feasts were vegan?

We were glad a local church hall we first asked turned us down, saying we were being biased against meat eaters - the Guild Hall did us proud! Veganism is becoming a widely adopted and a more accepted way of living, with vegan events regularly occurring the length and breadth of the UK. Free Vegan Food Fairs invite the general public to try a wide variety of delicious vegan foods completely free of charge! As vegan readers will know, people may turn their nose up at 'vegan' but rarely do so at 'free'.

The recently formed group Midlands Vegan Campaigns (MVC) were the organisers behind the event and they had the pleasure of seeing people fighting to get into the building before the fair had even started! The sight of free sandwiches being given out at the door was very tempting! Fair goers were treated to an array of vegan foods that included spicy chick pea curry, shepherds pies, mini quiches, pizza slices and Thai noodles and if that wasn't enough there was a fabulous selection of cakes including chocolate, fruit, and lemon drizzle. As well as free food, savoury burgers and cakes were on sale for those either wanting more food, those wanting to take food home to share with their family or friends, or for those already vegan who supported the event.

Why Lichfield?

After the success of MVC`s Birmingham based Free Vegan Food fair some months back we decided the message of compassionate living should not be confined to areas where success is virtually guaranteed. So it was decided that next time MVC would move out of Britain's second largest city and into new territory! The Guild Hall had everything that was needed for a Vegan Food Fair: a kitchen, main hall and a smaller room for talks and cookery demonstrations. Once the hall was booked it was all systems go. A room plan was drawn up, sponsorship applications were made and food companies were contacted with a polite request for donations. Organisations such as the Vegan Society, Animal Aid and the Fair Trade Foundation were invited to have stalls in the main hall, as was Lifescape Magazine. Cooks were enlisted and recipes selected. Cookery demonstrations and a nutritional talk were booked for the smaller room as it's vital to provide people with practical advice on making the switch to a healthy and balanced plant based diet. A Free Vegan Food Fair can be organised by a small committee as long as you can enlist plenty of volunteers on the day.

Once the doors closed there was lots of excited talk about how well the event went and how interested people were! An estimated 500-600 people filed through the doors. Those attending the fair were invited to fill out a questionnaire and we found there was a huge pile of them to analyse, plus hundreds of free leaflets and booklets about veganism were taken too.

MVC`s next project is a BIG vegan festival in Wolverhampton on November 1st, on World Vegan Day! Please try to be there! If you would like guidance on organising your own Free Vegan Food Fair contact MVC: info @ www.veganmidlands.org.uk or telephone MVC on 01527 458395. www.veganmidlands.org.uk


Photos from the event
For many more, larger photos, see our gallery and also see our 5 minute film of the event. The venue was the magnificent Lichfield Guildhall Crowds flock to fill their plates with vegan delights! Desserts, cakes and lots more!! The magnificent Guildhall was crowded from start to finish! Local organic shop and veg box scheme, Organic Planet Not content with the mountain of free cakes on offer, people queued to buy cakes too! Whilst eating their food, people filled in questionnaires, providing invaluable feedback Display exposes the devastating environmental impact of meat/dairy production People help themselves to the wide variety of food on offer An MVC volunteer takes time out to enjoy some delicious cake In a separate room, Liz Hughes of Birmingham Vegans hosted 2 cookery demos Both cookery demos were packed out, as was a talk on vegan nutrition The Viva! stall offers info & products for anyone considering changing their diet for the better Crowds kept coming, despite the food starting to run out Another photo of those gorgeous cakes!

 

 

 

 

 

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