Our first guest blogger is Paul Benton who helped organise one of the best vegan events of the year. Please checkout Paul’s blog- https://veganonadesertisland.com

Peterborough’s first ever Christmas Vegan Festival – in fact, Peterborough’s first ever vegan festival period – was born, took root and Thrived within a two-month time frame.The city’s Vegetarian and Vegan Group gave birth to the Thrive Tribe in September 2017, at the end of November of the same year, Peterborough’s Christmas was well and truly veganised.

The idea for the little baby Thrive was conceived and nurtured by the group’s host Kim Coley. I help to run said group and all the typos on our social media posts are my fault – Kim and I were joined by Jodie Sullivan and Nicola Mills to head up the “core tribe”. We were challenged with organising the festival, drinking lots of coffee and dealing with a mountain of emails – a challenge we accepted, a mountain we climbed and a success we gave birth to with very little kicking and screaming.

We were very lucky with our first event in that Kim already had a venue in mind; the price was right, it was available and a site visit proved it was perfectly suited to our needs. The wheels had been set in motion, this was really happening.

The bulk of the publicity work was done on social media. Jodie set to work on designing a poster, a social media banner, a T-shirt as Nicola excelled Excel, Kim kept on top or organising the speakers and workshops and I kept in touch with traders wanting to trade.

Well over half of the stallholders came to us – responding to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts about the forthcoming festival – people seemed genuinely excited that Peterborough was, at last, catching up with the rest of the world as far as veganism goes.

The core tribe all had our own personal “wants” as far as stalls go, and so we did approach a number of traders and organisations – we didn’t get them all, but we were happy with those that did confirm – and, in fact, we had such a fantastic response, we were actually making a reserve list as the deadline loomed.

And much of this was down to social media. A couple of local magazines and BBC radio gave us some publicity, but all in all, we aced the promotion through Facebook.

We had a nice mixture of independent stalls and larger organisations – a mixture, I feel, many larger events lack. It’s important to me to give the little guys and gals a voice and not to price people out of veganism – I utterly despise the fact that veganism is seen as a “middle-class trend” – I’m so working class my blood is actually made from coal!

We also wanted a mixture of animal rights, well-being and environmentalism – a blend we managed to strike; Kim runs Soul Happy, a Well-Being centre in Peterborough – Jodie has an interest in the health and well-being side of things and Nicola runs the Peterborough Animal Rights Pot Luck nights – the Vegetarian and Vegan Group’s sister event. Me? I’m an old school vegan/animal rights activist and cynic – my well-being comes from a glass of whiskey and a plate of chips and mushy peas!

This balance, coupled with our down-to-earth approach really worked with the success of the event. Traders said we were a happy, helpful bunch and really approachable – well I was by the time I was on my third coffee!

We couldn’t believe the fact people were already queueing by the time the doors opened, but they were, and we were blown away with the success of it all. Kelly had come on board to run some kids’ activities and that too was an overwhelming success – in fact, people were already saying “you need a bigger venue next time”.

We already knew there would be a next time – and there will – the Tribe has grown with Kelly and artist Max now on board – so watch this space….