Never having been to a vegan festival before, I really had no idea what to expect of my Saturday trip. Nonetheless I was rather excitable, and quite frankly couldn’t wait to be among so many fellow vegans. I wasn’t disappointed. From the very second that I walked in and saw the queue, I felt at home – part of something much bigger. It filled me with pride to see so many people trying to get into such an event, considering the daily bashings that one faces as a vegan.

The room was packed with everything you could think of – food, clothes, toiletries, cleaning products, contact lenses – you name it, it was probably there. And that was just the first venue. The festival consisted of rooms upon rooms full of stalls, as well as talks varying from ‘Why you don’t need dairy’ to ‘What Green party councillors can do for animal rights’.

It was awe-inspiring to see so many people coming together for the cause. I had never really experienced anything like it, so to be squashed in the crowd was more of a privilege than an inconvenience. On that note, it has to be said that the venue at Sachas Hotel on Tib Street wasn’t quite big enough, which eventually proved to be rather stressful and pretty sad, as apparently people were being denied entry as the venue reached capacity. Although this was a slight setback in terms of event planning, it was still incredible and really quite sobering to realise how many people cared about the cause.

Part of me was surprised by the size of the crowd and the other part not so much. Greater Manchester is renowned for having one of the best vegan communities in Britain, perhaps due to modern vegetarianism having been founded in Salford. There is no doubt about it that Manchester is the best northern city for vegetarian and vegan culture, as not only are there a range of vegan shops and restaurants, but even those not specifically vegan always offer vegan menu items, which certainly isn’t a universal feature and is greatly appreciated among the community.

The reason the community in Manchester is so strong could also be related to that communal nature of northerners to get together as a group. Its people want to speak and share and collaborate, and that can come out through any form – in this case, a passion for a lifestyle. It’s been the most welcoming, supportive group of people I’ve ever met.

The community continues to grow on a daily basis with the aims of educating people and bringing compassion to the forefront of conversation. As Laura Chepner, Ramsbottom’s Green MP who spoke at the event, said, “Veganism needs to stop being the elephant in the room”. Slowly but surely, we may be achieving that here in Manchester.

Sara Louise Tonge