IN recent years the number of people following a vegan lifestyle has boomed.

Figures reveal more than half a million people in this country are eating a plant-based diet only and 350,000 of those are adopting a vegan philosophy meaning as well as shunning meat and all animal by-products, they are applying this to all aspects of their lives.

Adopting a vegan lifestyle means avoiding anything produced by an animal, or made using them, and this includes all dairy products and ingredients in a number of household products.

This month many people will have followed Veganuary, a challenge set out by animal rights group Viva to follow a vegan diet in the hope they will continue to do once the time is up.

And for the second year running Colchester will host the Essex Vegan Festival at Charter Hall on Saturday, March 3.

Organiser Victoria Bryceson, who runs similar events up and down the country, says around 2,000 people attended last year’s event and it is proof the days of uninspiring options on restaurant menus and limited choice in shops are a thing of the past for vegans.

Around 100 stalls are once again booked, ranging from cakes, savoury food and sweets to clothing, bathroom products and jewellery.

“I’ve been vegetarian for 22 years and during that time did not eat any eggs, then I cut out milk ten years ago,” says Victoria.

As well as running the festivals as a business Victoria spends a huge amount of time in Borneo where she carries out voluntary work in her own time.

She helps run an animal shelter there as part of her charity Miracle’s Mission.

Victoria set up the animal welfare charity having rescued tiny pup Miracle from the Malaysian country at just a week old.

she adds: “They will be highlighting the very best aspects of living a vegan lifestyle and there will be free samples and nutritional advice.

“And I hope non-vegetarians and non-vegans will attend too because I think it will be a great day out regardless of whether you consume meat and dairy or not.

“The idea behind the festival is not to push people into becoming vegetarian or vegan.

“It is to educate and inform and offer support to anybody who would like it.”

But Victoria says it has transformed her own life, believing she has never been happier and healthier.

“It is all about trying new things and opening people’s eyes to new possibilities.

“Cutting out meat and dairy from your diet can seem extremely daunting and many people are increasingly looking for alternatives as they want to live more healthily and ethically but they also want to do it affordably and without it being boring.

“The festival will educate people on how to do this,” she says.


Food on offer will an array of plant-based hot and cold dishes, including Asian, Mediterranean, Indian, Greek, Hotdogs, Burgers, Street Food, Raw Food and Gourmet Food.

There will also be a huge range of pies, cakes, chocolates, cookies, doughnuts, sandwiches and salads to take away as well as alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks, juices, smoothies, tea and coffee alongside skincare products, candles, crafts, clothing, footwear, homeware, gifts and charity merchandise.

Essex-based stallholders will include Leon’s, Beauty by Nature, Essential by Nature, The Humane Research Trust, Norwegian Bakers, The Natural Kitchen Co, Essex Pig Save, Veggilicious, Munchy Seeds, Organic Alex and Health Foods for You.

Victoria adds there will also be live music, inspirational talks, cookery demonstrations, workshops and children’s activities.

Entry into the festival, between 10.30am and 4.30pm, is £3 (under 16’s free) and includes entry to all areas and activities.

Standard tickets are purchased at the door on the day. VIP tickets, costing £15, include fast track entry and a goody bag and can be bought in advance by clicking here.