Call to action
London. I just about survived running Vegan Christmas Market yesterday.
This blog post is not designed to moan about how hard I had to work, but rather to inspire you to take action and become personally invested and instrumental in the growth and sustainability of independent vegan events and businesses in your city. Don’t you want to be a part of the wellness of your community while you save animals from harm?
Thousands upon thousands of people turned up to Hackney Downs Studios yesterday. So many people attended that the food vendors could not feed everyone. Look at this photo I took just minutes after opening the event:
Yes, within minutes of the event commencing it was completely full with an instant queue of nearly 100 people for Temple of Seitan alone. The market was packed solid with close to 1,000 people instantly and stayed that rammed for several hours.
There were a few rumblings on social media that the event was poorly planned and/or vendors didn’t prepare enough food.
I won’t spend much time on that, apart to say that is bullshit. This artisan, independent food market was painstakingly organised to be a low cost local market for businesses to make as much money for as little outlay as possible. It opened on time, we kept lines organised and moving, and vendors prepped and cooked as much food as they physically could. And people got to enter for free.
What went ‘wrong’ is that thousands of people showed up for an event that realistically could handle 1-2 thousand.
And do you know why thousands of people showed up?
Because there should be multiple vegan markets going on all over London all the time but people aren’t doing it. London vegans have slipped into the trap of seeing value in being served, paying top money for it and not getting their hands dirty to make their community one that can grow while remaining inclusive.
London is tearing us apart.
The cost of living here is untenable for most and many of our citizens can barely afford the basics let alone the funds to start or maintain a business. The vendors at my market paid between £30 and £60 to trade, meaning they could maximise profits to help prop up their business in a brutal financial climate. I made about £2.00 an hour for my time, effort and physical labour across the months it took to organise including the day itself.
The market was free to enter because I didn’t want to exclude anybody based on financial means. No shade intended at the bigger exhibition shows because they have a space in our vegan world, but low cost and local markets should be all over the capital to encourage start ups, keep money in neighbourhoods, perform vital vegan outreach to non-vegans, help people create jobs and pay wages, as well as build social capital.
In a city drowning in a sea of Tesco Extras and coffee chain stores, we need a vegan revolution that works to share wealth. For instance, by supporting Club Mexicana with an inexpensive market stall we are helping an independent business employ close to 30 people while keeping profits in the local community.
When you sit there and call for bigger vegan events, more food, more options, multiple markets and just plain more, more, MORE served faster, you are perpetuating the very climate that is making London unliveable.
I want people to think outside the limited realm of being a consumer or only putting on an event that turns a huge profit. We are being driven from our private and public spaces by property magnates, meaning our community can’t even gather without it costing a small fortune. The rental fee of the venue where I held London Vegan Beer Fest in King’s Cross two years ago was £6,500 for one day which my partner and I had to fork out in advance. But of course nobody wants to pay the true cost of entry which instead of around £5 would be closer to £20 to ensure the venue is paid for, the costs are covered and I’d be able to draw a meagre payment for close to 6-months’ work.
Instead, I was left with a situation that found me breaking even the night before the event and walking away with £600 profit for 6 months’ work.
As my friend Faridah just wrote on Instagram, “this community should be one of active participation and cooperation, not mere passive consumerism”.
Get off your arse and do something.
Got no money? Start a potluck. I ran one almost every month for 4 years. It was low cost and served as a community hub for hundreds and hundreds of people over its run. Don’t have a lot of time? Too bad. You want a thriving and cared for community that works to include everyone? It takes your commitment. Not everyone has time or ability to run a potluck, but tens of thousands of us do. Do something!
I ran London Vegan Drinks nearly every month for 4 years, sometimes calling in volunteers to help when I couldn’t attend. It was free entry, low cost, social and inclusive. Do something in your neighbourhood. It doesn’t have to be 10,000 people strong to be successful. Your community needs you to take action. Do something!
You have some money but don’t think you have skill/time? Invest your money into your community. Support vegans who are doing crucial work to build community and protect animals by raising awareness. Give me a few pounds a month if you can/want. Donate money to or pay for classes at Made in Hackney. Shop for pantry staples at GreenBay or FareShares. Find out who is selling vegan food in your area and dine with them. Open a vegan business. Partially fund a vegan business. Buy gifts for independent vegan businesses. Ask them if they need any vital equipment that they can’t afford. Give a vegan food truck a pre-paid fuel voucher. Put your money where your ethics are, support us and don’t always expect the world in return. Do something!
What not to do?
Do not come to a free entry event filled with independent traders and say it should be bigger. Do not expect someone else to always run your events for you. Do not think your community is not your responsibility. Do not take the hostile corporate takeover of London gently. Do not become a vegan consumer with no activist or political concerns.
Reclaim vegan spaces. Make new vegan spaces. Champion independent business. Create social opportunities that don’t cost the Earth. Consider value outside of what you can own or consume. Train yourself to see the worth of not always making the most money in the room. Care for vulnerable vegans. Remember animals.
Be kind. Be aware. Be active.
Extra note: today just happens to be the 6th anniversary of this blog. How time flies when you are being sanctimonious, huh?! LOL. xx
This may be the best post you have written Sean. It leaves me with a lump in my throat and cogs turning in my brain with thoughts of how I can do more.
This is perfect.
This is an awesome post. I couldn’t get enough of it. Like others, I am going to post something on http://www.streetlife.com to see where the Vegans are here in West Sussex.
Your Vegan Market sounds awesome too. I would have loved to be there with my vegan and organic skin care, but I have not considered doing anything London way as it seems to far from here. But who knows, maybe in the future.
Thanks again for the kick up my butt – on a mission!
This X infinity.
I’m in the planning stages of starting a vegan company; I’m broke and I’m scared but I WILL try.
I saved my money to attend and support the traders yesterday and to attend the vegan fayre at Dogstar Brixton today.
We’re supposed to be in this together, lovingly but I see so much awful, inconsiderate and plain greedy behaviour at vegan events that it’s easy to get discouraged but I do my yoga, play with my fur-companion and face another day of trying my best to make this world a little better.
Thank you for being awesome. Thank you for educating. Thank you for caring. X
Hi Ishen 🙂 I organised The Dogstar Vegan Fest! I’ve just been idolly
googling records of my fests & thinking about websites to return to,
to let people know about my next fest, last boost of publicity & just
happened upon your lovely comment ~ The next Dogstar Fest is on Sunday
2nd April 🙂 Do pop by if you have leaflets ready or any info about
your planned business ; my themes for this upcoming fest are
supporting New Businesses, New Vegans & Vegan Art! Email me at my page
facebook.com/RamblingVeganFox 🙂 All the best 🙂
I love this. You are 100% right.
Fantastic work, Sean, and the event was clearly a roaring success in many ways, not least in illustrating the massive pent-up demand there is. What you had were basically local producers catering for the whole of London descending on them. They all did fantastically well. In an ideal world, you’d have a vegan cheesemaker in every London village, easily able to satisfy local demand on quite a small set-up. They say that everybody who bought the Velvet Underground’s first album started a band, so let’s see if everybody who was at the Vegan Christmas Market starts a vegan business. 🙂
I loved the dedication to quality, with Essential Vegan now producing a delicious cheese that takes one month to mature, so that following this sell-out the next batch is expected in late January. And that Vanessa went home and baked two more cakes. I didn’t see them arrive but they were probably snapped up in about ten seconds.
When people queue for this long, you know they’re on to something good.
I came to your event. It was super successful. I’m thrilled everyone sold out of everything they brought with them- who wants to leave an event with some stock left over? And you’re right we should all do more. I run a local vegan group and I’ve been thinking lately about putting on a vegan event in a local church hall. I haven’t much of a clue how to go about it, though. Mostly I tend to support others in their ventures, either with money or by attending.
Too successful! Waah!
Great work Sean. Agree with the whole piece.
I agree, this is the best post ever, and bearing in mind you’ve just posted about the opening up of a vegan chicken shop in Hackney, that’s saying something.
there are hundreds and thousands of people who are doing just as you say, and they are not the ones complaining about long queues at a hackney xmas market. I’m glad you’ve not let that get you down.
thanks for this post, and for everything you’ve been doing.