Last November, we saw the cruelty free message spread even further in Scotland with the launch of the very first Dundee Vegan Festival which was held at the Chambers East. Fast forward a year and event organisers Barry Mackie-Conlon and Jamo Kidd are still taking stock of the massive success it proved to be, whilst also shaping the look and feel of this year festival – it’s one that promises to be bigger and better all whilst remaining completely non-profit!
“I’m from Dundee, but I’ve lived in Glasgow for 17 years. One of the reasons I left was because of the lack of anything happening. Not just vegan events, but in general. It all seemed to happen everywhere else.” said Jamo – “Why can’t we do the same in Dundee? I thought to myself”. Whilst the owner of popular vegan pie company Cool Jerk Vegan brain stormed ideas to himself, Barry – who has called Dundee home for numerous years now – was hosting popular educational film nights and realizing himself the potential that his home town held for an event normally only seen in bigger Scottish cities, and so it was they connected after meeting at the first Vegan Connections and the rest, as they say, is history.
Through the film nights, Barry could see there was a space for further growth. “Dundee is a big cultural hub. It’s a very diverse city. I knew there were vegans that existed here; there just needed to be something to bring them together”. The success of the first event even managed to outweigh the expectations of the duo though, as 800 people came through the door over the course of the day – people were actually queuing outside to get and grab a taste of exactly what the festival had to offer. “Everyone was well behaved – but we did almost operate a one out, two in system!”
That overspill of people flowing into the 200 cap venue has meant this year’s will be held at the far larger Bonar Hall. “Admittedly, it was difficult to get stalls in last year” admitted Barry. “People were unsure if it could be successful for them. Dundee had never had a vegan event before; it was a complete unknown, so a lot of them came on board based on Jamo success with Cool Jerk”. Come the end of the day though, some stall owners even commented it was their “best ever” festival they’ve been part of; in turn, this year’s event has had a wave of interest from business owners, which is only good news for all involved.
With success though always comes the added pressure of hosting an event that is as enjoyable as the one previous, but it’s a pressure that they both go at with fresh ideas that remain within the boundaries of their original ethos. With the plans to have speakers from all over the world via Skype and other forms of technology, it promises to be an event that covers as many angles as possible and doesn’t limit itself to one ideology.
“Dundee is a very working class area. It’s about making an event where you’re giving people the tools to be the person they want to be. We want to come at people from all different backgrounds. The baseline is supporting a community, but it would be nice if it changes thoughts on people’s diets and if they use it as a mechanism for change. It wasn’t our mission statement to be different, but I suppose it’s gone that way”.
At the time of writing there’s six months of planning to go and the duo are still continuing to collate feedback on what the community they are building still want from a Dundonian vegan festival. Although not all of it can be implemented “We had one person suggest it would be a good idea to have some stalls with meat. We try to cater for everyone but I don’t think that is something we’ll be taking on!” laughs Barry. In regards to describing where they are at in the planning stages, Jamo has an interesting comparison. “Planning a festival is like planning a wedding!” – a comparison the entire table, myself included, seemed to laugh at in agreement. Jamo continued “it’s similar in the sense that there’s so much to do, but you can’t do much of it till closer to the day. So in terms of planning, it’s as planned as it can be. Although it’s nice to have so much excitement around the event already”
“We definitely hope to inspire other people to do their own charity festivals in their own cities. It can be done and we hope that our festival showcases that to people.”
With the event due to be taking place on Sunday 3rd December this year, the excitement and sheer numbers that it plans to generate mean it seems Dundee has found a home for its vegan community, whilst generating a scope for inspiration to others and we can’t wait to see how much this can continue to grow!
Dundee Vegan Festival takes place on Sunday 3rd December and you can follow all the news in the run up to the event here: