Words and Pictures by Katie Renker
For vegans, not unused to going out for a meal with friends and having to be satisfied with a side of fries and some lettuce served with a healthy side of fun-poking, City Hall last Sunday had become a wonderland. Inside its marble halls and between its great columns waited ice-cream by the cone; cupcakes and cheese; pies and pizza, burgers and Booja Booja and all of it cruelty free!
Returning to Cardiff in 2019 for its second year, Welsh Vegan WinterFest – Gŵyl Aeaf Feganaidd Cymru- promised to offer up “the best in ethical Christmas gifts, vegan street food, baked goods & savouries, festive drinks, workshops, children’s activities and so much more”. And deliver it did. With over 60 stalls to explore, there was something for everyone and the novel freedom of being able to approach every stall, safe in the knowledge that no animals had been hurt in their making? I almost didn’t know what to do with myself!
Among the plethora of standard vegan classics and delicious treats on offer at haunts like Simply V, this year’s Winterfest also proved the perfect spot to seek out those harder to find alternatives to old favourites. It made sure there was to be no feeling left out while your family tuck into feasts without you! Eggless eggnog? Checked. Have an insatiable craving for authentic Bavarian snack? Bavarian Bites. After an afternoon spread? Why not partake in a vegan scone tea from Secret Scones, complete with jam and clotted cream! And what about that beer you were so fond of until you found out it was filtered with a fish’s swimbladder? Bang on Brewery has your cravings covered.
And the food was only the beginning. You see, veganism isn’t just a diet. We aim to avoid animal byproducts in all elements of life (wherever possible) but the pesky things somewhat inexplicably seem to end up in the most surprising places. Finding cruelty free cosmetics can be a bit of a struggle. Those we find that may not contain animal products, are still often produced by companies that test on animals so to find not one but several stalls (Bohemian Chic, for one) stocking everything from lipstick to face cream (and even vegan beard products from Manmane!), was wonderful.
As someone who is trying to minimise their environmental impact and avoid plastic wherever possible it was heartening to see the emphasis the festival placed on sustainability. Many of the stalls advertised eco-friendly products (e.g. Eco-Kiddles vegan foodwraps) and the organisers actively encouraged visitors to come prepared with their own containers. That being said, several caterers offered biodegradable packaging and I was pleasantly surprised when I presented my lunchbox for a delicious red-velvet cookie and was reassured that, for those less prepared, their packaging was eco-friendly anyway! Most vegans, by their nature, just try to be conscious consumers generally and so the fact that so many of the companies on offer had a focus on ethical and sustainable practices was a welcome, if not surprising, sight.
This made the festival, as promised, a perfect place to stock up on some unique Christmas gifts that would leave neither your loved ones, nor the planet, feeling cheated. I found myself especially eyeing up the beautiful wares on display at The Healing Pear (exquisite handcrafted carved gems) and the extremely instagrammable, Jyngl but for those looking for an easy gift idea for any occasion, a couple of stalls even offered custom vegan-boxes packed with goodies that potentially even had the power to convert.
Speaking of, this years event also provided an important platform for many important advocacy groups, charities and activists fighting vegan causes (from the Dean Farm Trust to Cardiff Vegan Action and South Wales Hunt Saboteurs); spreading awareness, raising funds, recruiting passionate new voices… and for those a little more shy, there still remained the option to purchase some of the trendy, vegan-themed apparel on offer and Wear Your Voice.
Overall, the Welsh Vegan WinterFest was a well-curated, thoroughly enjoyable affair and my hat goes off to the organisers. In addition to the stalls, ran an exciting lineup of “cookery demonstrations and informative talks” and, with a family room complete with free-face painting, it was no surprise to see what an encouragingly diverse demographic was in attendance. I only wish my free time, wallet and stomach capacity had been on a large enough scale to sample it all! Even within my limits however, in addition to some great nosh and a swanky new eco-friendly dish-sponge (from Dash Vegan), the Welsh Vegan WinterFest provided a great opportunity to familiarise myself with some fantastic independent businesses providing some great products and services all while raising funds to help Protect a pup; spay and neuter to save lives. If the queues outside were anything to go by, it’s all only going to get bigger! So listen to your inner hipster and get in on the scene so you can say you were there before it was cool.