The Festival of Life


Delicious buckwheat crepes!

Hello all good people out there! It’s been a long time since my last post. Between work, family and my son’s 2nd birthday party, I haven’t had a chance to write much. I’ve got many things I want to blog about, so I’ll dive right in with first topic:

On September 24 I went to a vegan fair, Festival of Life, held in London each year, in August and September. I was so excited to finally having a chance to experience live such an event and finding out more about trends in veganism, organic products, raw foods and nutrition. The description certainly looked very appealing: eco-living, arts and crafts, juice bars, kids space, raw food demos, nutrition, permaculture, activism, trance dance, meditation, yoga, healing, singing, live music, DJs, drumming, conscious partying.

So I took Aidan – my little accomplice in trying out all things new and different – and proceeded cheerfully towards the place of the event – Redlion Square, Holborn. Poor kiddie, he doesn’t really have a choice when it comes to adventuring with mummy far away from home. Well, relatively far away…meaning mostly Central London. But considering he’s only 2 (freshly upgraded from the infant to the child seat in the flight department)…visiting central London is quite an adventure.

Anyway, back to our sheep.

or… „The Festival of Life”

Workshop area

We arrived in the city centre after about an hour and a half of rambling through different parts of London. Reminder: train system in the week-end is crap. Everywhere you want to go, oops…engineering works.

Well, at least Aidan had fun and squeaked with excitement throughout the journey at the sight of the moving stairs and the huge poster ads on the tunnel walls; we danced to gypsy music – which my son ranked as “djezz” – played by a guy trying to win his bread somewhere between the Jubilee and Piccadilly lines to Green Park. (To Aidan any music is jazz music as this genre has been a constant presence his his life almost from the day he was born. He used to fall asleep on Billy Holiday’s soothing voice when he was about 2 months old. By the third song on the cd he was out like a light).

Holborn was packed and from up above, it probably looked like a huge demonstration was taking place under the warm autumn sun.

Once at the entrance of Redlion Square, I try to buy my ticket, but wait:

“We only take cash.”

Say what? ONLY cahs?

Ok, go back to Holborn station, find a cash machine, get the bloody money and go back again.

I arrived back at the door already irritated with the whole business and chiding myself for not thinking ahead. And then I wait. And I wait. And I wait some more. After about 10 minutes, I am still standing in a cue that is getting longer by the minute and am waiting for one of the five ticket sellers to venture in getting some change.

You see, the problem was that everyone had £20 notes from the cash point and the festival people had run out of change. Duhhh!

Finally I buy my extremely overpriced festival ticket – £ 15 all day, or 10 (I would get a £ 5 refund if I left before 7 pm, when the party started). Why do I say overpriced? Because in fact, the festival was taking place in the entrance hall and another room of the old building, where the organizers had crammed in too many tables for the participants to sell their products on – anything from raw foods and natural cosmetics to yoga books, coconut water, foot massages, yoga and spiritual services of all kinds. Down the corridor, there were other two rooms where the eager could take part in various workshops such as “Laughter workshop”, or some focusing on nutrition, becoming enlightened, and even one having to do with coping with the current financial crisis. Nothing festive about the whole gathering whatsoever.

Having Aidan with me, I decided to limit myself to the commercial area and skip the seminars.

The  rooms were packed with people walking around, trying stuff, buying stuff or looking for advice. The feeling I got when walking in there was being at some kind of badly organized carboot sale, with narrow, child-unfriendly aisles between the stand rows. After a while I stopped counting how many times I’d stepped on people’s feet and driven my stroller into their limbs.

One flapjack and a few cosmetic product trials later, I decided to try the Green Room in the small park across the road. There we had some lovely food and listened to African live music, while Aidan happily got himself busy drawing along other toddlers in the children’s tent.

What I liked

I don’t want to sound like a total ungrateful and malicious being, so here are the things that I liked:

  • Bare Skin Beauty  eye cream and cleansing serum samples that I got from the lovely Juliette. I’ve been using the creams since then and I love the way they feel on the skin. Especially the magic orange serum – the moment I put it on, I feel like a breeze of cool, fresh air washes over me. I am planning to go visit Juliette in the Greenwich market, where she is selling more of her lovely organic skin care products.
  • Athene Skincare – 100% fruit and vegetable made cruelty free, vegan skincare products – that smelled so yummy, I nearly bit my hand when trying on the cream.
  • Mung bean sprouts, buckwheat pancake with apples, cinnamon and honey that I shared with Aidan. We tasted all of the above and they were divine.
  • A lot of information about upcoming events and courses such as: The Yoga Show, Reiki courses, raw living courses and body image and shiatsu courses taking place this autumn in the British capital
  • A wonderful place called Healon, a web directory for London’s local organic cafes and restaurants, shops, wholesalers, therapists, fitness, healthy holidays and holistic health courses

What I didn’t like

  • Ticket too expensive and poor organization. I felt like being in a flea market, with people not having a clue about their business. And I don’t mean the producers present at the event, but the ones orchestrating it. Due to poor organization, the memory of the festival seems fuzzy and blurred, because I was too busy trying not to bump into people and trying to get out of their way. I would have liked to talk to the vendors, ask them more about their products and services, buy some goji berries an other wonderful foods. Instead, I rushed through everything and only found out so little.
  •  Looking at the pictures from the Romanian autumn vegan fair posted by Ligia Pop posted, I believe my festival looked like a bad joke. Hearing such a name as Festival of Life makes me think of clean, green and bright spaces. Instead the place looked old and shabby, the tents outside dirty and unwelcoming.
    • As I sat there watching  people move around, I noticed a lot of Yogi-wannabe’s all dressed in the Indian fashion or coming right from the 60s, with dreadlocks,  barefoot and looking downright dirty. All this may have been attractive in another lifetime, but I couldn’t shake that weird feeling that I somehow had ended up in the middle of a religious cult event. I have no doubt that I wasn’t the only one thinking that and this would be a good reason why many people would stay away from such a gathering. As much as I love doing yoga and eating healthy, being surrounded by strong smells of incenses and men displaying the Jesus look that was probably cool 30 years ago, is not necessarily my idea of a party.
  • The fact that you could not buy products with the card is again a minus. No one walks today in London, with more than 20 pounds in his pocket. And raw and vegan products are not the cheapest.
  • To top it all up, when I asked for my fiver back around 4pm in the afternoon, I managed to get myself into a fight with a bigmouthed lady at the entrance, who kept asking for my green bracelet back. Insisting that I hadn’t received a green bracelet in the first place fell on deaf ears. She kept claiming that I had volunteered to pay the whole ticket, so I wasn’t entitled to any money back. Instead of the bracelet, I had gotten a stamp that wiped off while trying on the cosmetic products. In the end, I got my fiver back and left the place in a bad mood.

Apple Juice Machine


Of course, we live in a seemingly free world, in which we dress, think and express ourselves in the manner we see fit. I don’t mean to be disrespectful and judgemental towards anybody, but I just couldn’t write this blog post without expressing my bewilderment and my mixed feelings about feeling trapped in a time warp. From my point of view, it was a wasted chance of casting a bright light on the whole vegan, ethical living and holistic trend. Shame, really.

To my knowledge the vegan and vegetarian movement dates way earlier than the 60s and 70s. And Pythagoras was the first to express the ethical argument against eating animal products. Therefore, I think an image update is imperative for  The Festival of Life. And while we’re at it, hiring a web designer to improve their online presence, would do them much good. The latest photos on there are from 2008!

I appreciate what I have seen, but we do live in a world where “packaging” counts, where people are not necessarily keen on identifying with a specific trend – say the Flower Power movement – but adopt and adapt more, according to their own personalities and tastes. An while I have nothing against the 60s fashion and style, I still like to think I am living in London 2011, where a contemporary upgrade is a must.



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Discussion about this post

  1. […] I had to name one good thing that came out of my experience of Festival of Life last summer, then that must be coming across the Bare Skin Beauty product range and meeting […]

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