Interview: Portsmouth Vegan Festival organizer Victoria Bryceson

Portsmouth is getting its very own vegan festival, taking place at Portsmouth Guildhall on Saturday 25th February, with over 100 stalls.

The day will encompass cooking demonstrations and fascinating talks, and the cuisines on offer are from all around the world, including Italian, Chinese, English, Malaysian, African, and more — not just enjoyable for vegans!

I spoke to Victoria Bryceson, the festival’s organizer, to ask her a few questions about the event.

Why did you choose Portsmouth as the city for your vegan festival?

I am looking to introduce vegan festivals in cities and towns where there aren’t currently any. Portsmouth was an area that didn’t have anything like this going on, and I felt like it had been left behind a bit, as there are lots of veggie/vegan businesses in the area so I guessed that the demand for a festival would be there too.

The national charity Viva! held a vegan festival in Portsmouth a couple of years ago as a one-off event, and it was a huge success, so it seemed a shame for there to no longer be a festival here in Portsmouth. I really wanted to get people in Portsmouth excited about the event, and bring in a big festival for both vegans and non-vegans to come along and enjoy.

What can vegans and non-vegans alike expect to enjoy at and take away from the festival?

There is an absolutely huge range of choice at the festival. We’ll have 100 stalls with 10 world food cuisines including Mexican, Italian, Caribbean, Chinese, English, and Indian. There’ll also be lots of cold food stalls for takeaway foods, from cakes and chocolates to healthy salads and raw foods.

There are gonna be clothing stands, skincare and beauty products, jewelry, gifts, charity merchandise stalls, and, people will be pleased to hear, free samples!

What do you love about vegan lifestyles?

Mostly, I love that being vegan means we’re not harming animals. I also love how people are realising that being vegan is healthy, affordable, and fun. A few years ago it was a very common misconception that vegans were unhealthy, had no choice in their food, and had to spend a lot on food.

Now, people are starting to realise that being vegan is amazing! There is a vegan version of everything, so we miss out on nothing at all. There is so much choice that often I don’t even know what to eat, and I have never felt healthier than when I became vegan. It is a fantastic lifestyle to live.

Are you hoping to bring Portsmouth Vegan Festival back in the future, perhaps annually?

I would absolutely love for this to be an annual festival. If it works well and is popular, we’ll be here every year! It’s a really great area, people are so friendly, and it would be an amazingly fun place to host a festival ever year.

Other than food and drink, what else will the festival be offering?

A lot of people think the festival is just about food. There will, of course, be lots of food here, but there’ll also be all-day cookery demos highlighting the very best aspects of living a vegan lifestyle, and informative and inspirational talks that are open to anybody who would like to come along and watch.

When you’re not organizing events, what do you do?

I have three loves in life: helping animals, organizing the festivals, and my four rescue dogs, so when I’m not working on events, I’m running around in a field somewhere with my gorgeous dogs or having cuddles with them at home.

I also run an animal rescue centre based in Borneo, in Malaysia, where we rescue stray dogs and cats, treat their injuries, spay/neuter them, and re-home them. Plus, we educate people on how to look after animals, and explain why animals should be looked after.

Portsmouth Vegan Festival takes place on Saturday 25th February from 11:00am through 5:00pm. Entry is £3.00, payable on the door on the day. Those aged under 16 are welcomed for free.

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