In case you’ve been living elsewhere for the last few years (a farm, say), you’ll know that veganism is very much in vogue. According to the Vegan Society, year on year the number of vegans in the UK doubles; Google searches relating to veganism has quadrupled since 2012. In London, there are now vegan pubs, vegan salons and even dating apps for vegans.
Another development has been the rise of events marrying music and (vegan) munch. An antidote to the more traditional food markets, which tend to be quite meat-focussed, these occasions serve up beats and beets for like-minded Londoners and have proved massively popular.
Steve Paton, founder of Vegan Nights LDN, had the idea of bringing together London’s best vegan vendors and DJs for a nighttime event that would appeal to both vegans and carnivores. Almost immediately, he knew he was on to a winner.
“It was so well-received,” he says. “We knew straight-away once we announced the event how popular it was. It got a massive response online, so we knew there was an appetite for it there.”
A year on, after a series of sold-out events, they have recently celebrated their first birthday on September 6 with their biggest party yet. Speaking before the event, Steve said: “We have four separate stages of DJs. We tried to get all the guys we originally worked with back to celebrate with us.”
For JEY Flash, a DJ and creator of Camden and Greenwich-based vegan brand Plant Bass LDN, food and music have always been a winning combination. He says: “When we had Sunday dinner, there’d be music on in the background. Or barbecue: people go not just because of the food but for the music and drinks.”
Paton goes one step further, arguing that there’s a connection between music and vegan food in particular. He points to the example of vegan legend and bossman of Cook Daily – King Senathit, “who is surrounded by musicians and DJs making that choice like JME, Logan Sama and other DJs – and has always been immersed in music culture.”
The connection, he thinks, comes from a similar mindset: “People are making the switch and finding out there are exciting alternatives. I think those who look for points of difference in general in life like musicians and DJs certainly come from that school of thought as well.”
As well as regular events such as Plant Bass LDN and Vegan Nights LDN, ambitious one-off projects are emerging. Musician Jen Armstrong has created London’s first vegan music festival – the brilliantly named Vegstock – which will take place at The Piano Works on September 16. The idea is to mix veganism and music in the most organic way possible. Most of the bands are vegan, and like Armstrong make music-themed around the topic: “I’m a musician myself… in terms of my music I’m obviously talking about veganism and animals.” Fittingly, Armstrong says, she tries to “keep it as uncheesy as possible”.
What Vegstock, Vegan Nights LDN and Plant Bass LDN all have common is that they’re open to all and don’t exclude non-vegans. Perhaps that explains their respective success, and why we’re likely to see more events combining the two in the future.
“It’s about bringing people together and making people realise that you don’t have to be vegan to enjoy vegan – that’s our slogan,” says Flash. Armstrong agrees: “It’s not just telling people about it but giving them the opportunity to try it for themselves.”