Some thoughts on the vegan events and the current climate (Part 3 – Solutions)

15th December 2023



Some thoughts on the vegan events and the current climate (Part 3 – Solutions)



With the recent passing of Benjamin Zephaniah, such a wonderful & inspirational individual, and a stalwart and staunch supporter of so many vegan and animal rights related projects, and the announcement that Heather Mill’s V Bites is entering administration, it’s not been an easy time for our extended vegan community, on top of so much bad news and challenging climates recently. And to be truthful if there were obvious solutions to the ongoing issues we face not only as a vegan event but as a broader vegan community, they would probably have been activated by now. Where the issues are obvious but the solutions a bit shy to make themselves apparent, it requires a slightly different take to rectify any areas that need addressing, and a series of small but significant adjustments can add up to a reasonable overall solution that achieves both survival and then a growth period.

In some respects that is mirrored on a grander scale – the recent COP28 summit has at last acknowledged the part agriculture and food has to play in overall emissions, although it stopped short of addressing the issues in detail or indeed providing solutions, but the door has been opened and a combined global effort from interested parties can help open that door considerably wider before COP29 takes place. And with David Attenborough at last acknowledging the same issue and publicly calling for a shift to plant-based options, alongside Germany announcing bigger budgets for development of plant-based proteins, there does seem to be a ‘mainstream’ shift towards plant based that gives a significant glimmer of hope to a still growing global vegan and plant-based community. And with that in mind, the answers lie within our own communities to optimise and encourage growth from within, encourage collaborations and engagement on all levels and step up to the mark as communities & not just as individuals. Currently there are some really dynamic individuals within the movement but the need for stronger communities and more combined action has never been greater. And those already fortunate to be part of a vegan or animal rights community project absolutely need to step up and optimise and encourage what’s already good to get better, stronger and bigger. Together we become one big community, speak with one voice and get the job done a lot quicker as a result.

This is part 3 of a 3-part series, and Part 1 (Challenges) and Part 2 (Achievements) looked at the challenges and then some of the tangible benefits of our flagship vegan events. This is what some of the solutions look like, before announcing our 2024 schedule in more detail shortly. The simple fact is that post covid, for our shows attendance is down, traders are down, engagement is down, spend is down, team members are down, overall revenue is way down, and this is after enjoying 16 years of back-to-back growth years before Covid appeared close on 4 years ago. Meanwhile costs are up considerably, and credit is no longer available. How does a business survive and then prosper facing a big drop in revenue coupled with a big rise in costs and a cut off in credit? No easy solutions to that one but as already mentioned, a series of small steps can add up to a big one. To help rectify & stabilise in 2024 and initiate growth in 2025 again, these steps are being put in place.

Community Interest Company
VegfestUK Ltd is transferring its legal status from a Limited Company to a Community Interest Company and seeking to serve the vegan community in a more transparent and accountable way. This includes free support for a number of vegan and plant-based community initiatives, to be outlined in more detail in early 2024, and the development of a new free listings website to help serve the community.

Lower Pitch Fees
2023 saw an unprecedented drop in trade for so many of us, it was impossible to predict a year ago. I honestly thought the worst was over 12 months ago – no chance. So many traders have stopped trading this year it’s been devastating all round, and for (almost all) the rest of us a merciless struggle at times. But with hindsight, it’s essential to prepare for the worst (or more of the worst) for 2024. Moving forward it’s essential that we are able to reduce pitch fees significantly to allow more traders to trade at the shows. There will be some significant reductions announced shortly.

One Day Options
It’s not just the pitch fees – it’s all the associated expenses that have also escalated that make it so tough for traders. One day options can help reduce these significantly, and also reduce the risk factor, stress levels, workload and all-round output at a time when returns are diminished all round already, whilst concentrating both attendance and revenue over 1 days in place of 2. Our first show for 2024 is a one day only show, and our 3 further shows in 2024 will include 1-day options for those traders that require them.

Affordable Admission prices
For 2024 there’s a charge for attending all our events to help cover the expenses and especially to ensure our essential safety outlays are maintained to the highest level. 2023 saw a 5-figure investment into safety at the events, especially food hygiene and we are proud of our track record for overall safety. As the costs of venue hire, safety, electrics and other essentials continue to grow, along with other basic costs, we’ll be looking to spread these wider to ensure that our traders are not faced with them. That said we absolutely recognise the need to keep admission costs to an absolute minimum which in effect means single figures (i.e less than £10 regardless of the venue, and preferably half that or less), which is guaranteed for 2024 for all our events.

Free Tickets
Free tickets remain an essential part of our events for multiple reasons, but also because as they help attract people new to plant-based options. These include regular Buy One Get One Free options as well as free tickets to NHS team members. We are expanding this to include 3rd Sector workers alongside NHS, and some low-income families via our new free ticket partners Tickets For Good. Trade and Media professionals continue to get free passes on request

Crowdfunder, Match Funding and Grants
2023 saw some considerable deficits for our shows and its essential we avoid these in 2024. In order to help bridge the gap between reduced revenue and escalating costs, to help ensure stability moving forward, reduce stall prices, keep admission costs low, and to help fund our exciting new projects and celebrate our transition to a CIC, we are launching a Crowdfunder on April 1st 2024 – and the exciting news is we have MATCH FUNDING in place from a very generous and supportive donor. Becoming a CIC also opens us up to the potential to apply for grants from various sources including Council funding.

We are actively seeking sponsorship from a multiple number of potential partners to help alleviate the burden of costs, whilst recognising that there is little money for marketing budgets in 2024. Cost effective and generous promotional packages will reflect the current market.

Optimise from Within
The combined reach and enthusiasm from our traders, speakers, campaigners, entertainers, contractors & venue and visitors should ensure a vibrant coverage and attendance to match, not only at the show but at all the talks, performances and panels. The input from some has been notable and appreciated warmly – the absence of any input from others presents a challenge to help motivate and encourage better promotion in advance, & uptake on complimentary tickets from within. We’ll be proactive in encouraging this to a lot bigger degree during 2024, including advance sessions for new traders to discover how to optimise their appearance at the shows.

Promote Special Offers & Freebies
With the current cost of living crises showing no immediate end in sight, encouraging and then collectively promoting our combined special offers and freebies to a wider audience in advance of the show can play a significant part in attracting new visitors and encouraging return visitors and increasing the average spend per visitor at the show, as well as helping highlight our traders and their products and services in advance of the shows, whilst also providing some fabulous savers and bargains for our visitors. With so many supermarkets and high street outlets providing plant-based options, this can become a unique selling point for the events once more, as it was a decade or so ago.

Campaigns Focus
The campaign groups and charities have always been a mainstay at our events and in 2023 we saw a significant move towards effective collaborations and partnerships between many groups, including a number of panels at our Brighton, Bristol and London events focusing on Animal Rights Activism and collaborations. For 2024 there’s a new show in place to focus on campaigns and activism with the specific remit to encourage further movement unity and broader engagement & support for campaigns and activism, whilst celebrating this essential core part of the movement.

Vegan Artistes Collective
Plenty of opportunities for live music, comedy and performance at all our shows in 2024 as well as free promotion for the collective via the new website planned.

People with Disabilities
Venues are accessible but there’s some work to do to increase the inclusivity of the events, including better BSL coverage and pre planning at the shows, and some livestreaming and filming for those unable to attend in person. Our autumn conference will aim to livestream the entire schedule, the new website will focus on effective & inclusive online & home-based activism, and advice is being sought from activists with disabilities on how to improve our inclusivity.

Councillors, Local Government and Institutions
We’ve enjoyed some success in 2023 in attracting local councillors and representatives from various institutions to our shows, specifically to embrace the benefits of plant-based options for food security and environment reasons. This work will continue and increase and benefit from better planning and coordination in advance – already underway

Media & PR
In 2023 we achieved a total of 68 local and national media pieces and 8 radio interviews all promoting veganism, animal rights, benefits of plant-based diets and our events to a broad section of the public and trade. Given the amount of misinformation currently peddled by those with vested interests in maintaining the killing of animals, it’s even more essential to increase our media presence as a collective, and our events present prime opportunities to achieve this. It’s a considerable investment but one we aim to increase in 2024, not decrease, despite the economic challenges

What’s New for 2024?

All our shows will be announced shortly plus some exciting new additions in the pipeline.

Plans are afoot for the following

  • Becoming a Community Interest Company (January 2024)
    New Podcast focusing on Campaigns & Activism alongside artistes and performers starting in February 2024
    Crowdfunder running in April 2024
    Event in Spring 2024 (TBA Jan 24)
    New Free Listings Website launching summer 2024
    Summertime Event (TBA Jan 24)
    Autumn Conference, includes livestream and filming for global access (TBA Feb 24)
    Winter Event (TBA March 2024)

The new website will allow a range of free listings from within the vegan community to help promote our collective and the regional vegan events as well as campaigns and petitions to a wider audience, as well as serving as a directory for the growing vegan artiste collective. The new Podcast allows us the opportunity to explore movement initiatives and issues in more depth with a series of exciting and stimulating guests, panels and discussions. The new Conference is really exciting and includes livestreaming to ensure accessibility and optimise engagement. And our 3 other events are well under way – and look forward to sharing more details in the very near future.

2024 presents a unique opportunity to really come together as a movement and celebrate what we have whilst fulfilling areas of considerable need to help rebuild the whole collective to pre covid levels. There are so many new initiatives, new events, new artistes, new campaigns, new vegans and new traders and together that can really grow and fulfil the genuine needs of this collective to a point where we can become a mass movement, and the goals of animal liberation combined with a mass shift to plant based food systems, and all the associated benefits of such a shift are tangible and achievable with a collective shift to fostering and encouraging community growth and development. VegfestUK hopes to continue to play a compact but bijoux part in this process and will welcome your wholehearted support as we do just do that.