Veganism is one of the fastest growing lifestyle movements in the UK. And it's never been more evident than in the country's capital. From Club Mexicana's loaded vegan nachos and burritos to Temple of Seitan's popcorn chick'n and mac 'n' cheese, there's an abundance of mouth-watering free-from businesses setting up shop all over the city.
And now there's a vegan festival to boot. Founders, Judy Nadel and Damien Clarkson have been involved in educational vegan campaigns since 2015. Inspired by the results they saw, they struck out on their own with nothing more than a loan from parents. Fast forward two years, and they're about to host the second Vevolution Festival at the Royal Institution on 25th November.
Describing the festival as an 'exhilarating plant-based educational extravaganza', Damien promises festival vibes, but with more educational talks and more food. From vegan TED talks and workshops to their 'Pitch + Plant' entrepreneurial Dragon's Den scheme and of course, more vegan street food than you can shake a bunch of kale at.
We spoke to Judy and Damien to find out more about the ethos of Vevolution, the challenges they faced in finding an affordable venue in London and what they've got in store for the future.
What was the catalyst that inspired you to start Vevolution?
We’d both been inspired by the work of Jane Land and Matthew Glover, the founders of Veganuary. Damien worked on the communications for the very first Veganuary campaign and Judy went vegan after taking part in Veganuary 2015.
We felt that we wanted to create a focal point for people passionate about creating positive change in the world. We realised there was a gap for highly produced events that were future focused and we wanted to put the stories of plant-based pioneers in the spotlight.
Both of us had worked in digital, arts and with social justice causes. We recognised that there was a new type of ‘vegan’ emerging who perhaps had more holistic reasons for being vegan. This type of person cared about animals but also was concerned with health, environment and using skills they had acquired in their life to-date to create a movement for positive change.
What's the ethos of Vevolution?
Vevolution is all about accelerating the creation of plant-based/vegan culture. We feel like it is a place for people to come and discuss how we work together to shift the world to a plant-based future. It’s a place for those who want to create the next Cowspiracy or start the next BOSH! or Veganuary.
We also wanted to reach beyond the ‘vegan’ bubble and create an inclusive and non-judgemental space for people to come and get inspired. Real change doesn’t happen in an echo chamber. Over the next couple of decades the plant-based/vegan movement will rise as a real force of positive change in the world. For us to understand how best to make our communities better we need to be integrated into them, not existing in our own little silo.
We are inspired by TED talks and want to create a similar home of excellent thinking for the plant-based movement.
We also recognise that not everyone can come to our events, which is why we film our main stage talks at our festivals and make these available for free online at www.vevolution.co/videos
"WE WANTED TO REACH BEYOND THE ‘VEGAN’ BUBBLE AND CREATE AN INCLUSIVE AND NON-JUDGEMENTAL SPACE FOR PEOPLE TO GET INSPIRED."
What have been some of the biggest challenges coordinating this amazing event and how have you overcome them?
Finding a venue willing to work with us has been really difficult. The prices for event hire in London are really astronomical especially once you get above 200 people. When you say you are a start-up people instantly assume you are rolling in venture capital money. At the moment we are still a self-funded start-up so we have to work very hard to make this event a possibility.
Throughout this year we are really lucky to have had the support of The Trampery in Shoreditch in delivering our Vevolution Topics series of events.
To overcome the challenges we have faced in putting on Vevolution Festival 2017 we have had to be flexible and were lucky to find a great venue eventually in the form of the Royal Institution where this November’s festival will take place.
We are also very grateful for the support people have shown us and tickets for this November’s Vevolution have sold out over four weeks in advance of the event!
Can you tell us what to expect from this year's Vevolution festival? Who are some of the main speakers and who are you looking forward to hearing most?
We expect the festival to be the most exhilarating plant-based educational extravaganza the UK has ever seen!
It’s a coming of age moment for the vegan community in the UK. The outside world is now watching our movement and looking to us to outline a positive vision of the future where we move away from using animal products.
The Royal Institution where we are holding the festival has had 15 Nobel Laureates associated with the institution over the past 200 years. The main stage will be the 400 person funnel theatre - the atmosphere is going to be electric.
All the speakers are amazing. I think people will be excited to see the likes of Heather Mills, BOSH!, Lucy & Tiffany Watson and the inspiring The Happy Pear and John Lewis (Badass Vegan) will all be flying over especially to appear at Vevolution.
Think of it as a music festival where you have multiple stages happening at the same time with loads of buzz in the air - there will be two stages with inspiring talks and panels, tons of workshops, a handful of sponsor and food stalls, a VR experience room and of course lots of yummy vegan food!
We love that you're actively supporting entrepreneurs through your Pitch + Plant scheme. What inspired this concept and how have you seen it impact the winners' lives?
Our lives are short and we all yearn to make the most of our time here. Technology has unleashed a new wave of entrepreneurship and so many of our friends are crossing over from tech, art, advertising and creating vegan businesses. They are passionate about giving people choices and making living a plant-based life more easy.
We got together with our friends at BRAN Investments who put up the prize money and mentorship to make Pitch + Plant a reality.
When we started this business we borrowed the deposit for the first Vevolution event from our parents. We know a lot of people may have a great idea but are too early to raise a round of funding and don’t have the financial backing to give their business the kickstart it needs.
We know the Pitch + Plant winners will benefit massively from the mentorship being offered by BRAN Investments. The £1,500 prize money could help a early stage campaign launch a PR campaign or buy camera equipment to tell their story.
"THE OUTSIDE WORLD IS LOOKING TO US TO OUTLINE A POSITIVE VISION FOR THE FUTURE WHERE WE MOVE AWAY FROM USING ANIMAL PRODUCTS."
You host a range of workshops at Vevolution - how important is it to encourage a hands on, educational experience of veganism?
Our festival is about learning, being inspired and creating, so having workshops as part of the line-up is integral to this. These workshops are being facilitated by professionals within their field so it is a great hands on experience for attendees to learn new skills and get an insight into a new area that they maybe hadn’t come across before.
We believe that humans are creative species. So many of us don’t get to use our hands anymore. Our grandparents' generation made things and were probably more creatively fulfilled than many of us. We love the idea of people getting stuck into art workshops at our festival. We want to inspire people to follow their dreams and talk about this movement for positive change through the medium that best calls out to them.
If you could dispel one vegan myth what would it be?
That we are somehow perfect. We are just normal people who have made the choice not to eat and use animal products. Being vegan isn’t about being perfect; it is about choosing a better vision of the future for yourself, animals and humanity.
And finally, what do you hope to achieve with Vevolution and where do you want to take it to or develop it next?
Unsurprisingly we have some big plans centred around accelerating vegan culture which we will reveal at Vevolution on the 25th November.
What we can tell you is to expect a lot more events and exciting collaborations. Our residency of events Vevolution Topics will be returning in early 2017, so keep your eyes out for that.
We will be looking to raise our first round of funding to help make all of these dreams come to life. So if you’re interested in supporting us, feel free to drop us an email at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org