North East Vegan Festival (Nevfest) returns to Sunderland

Lesley Stanbury from Free from Freak at a previous North East Vegan Festival

Thousands of vegans are set to swamp out the Stadium of Light as the North East Vegan Festival (Nevfest) returns to the home of the Black Cats.

Scores of stalls selling hot and cold food, cosmetics, clothing and crafts will set up shop in the stadium on Sunday.

And a busy programme of talks, films, and even a demo on how to make egg from flaxseed, takies place throughout the day.

The festival has become of the biggest events in the city's calendar attracting businesses and visitors from across the country.

It was set up in 2013 by animal rescue charity Farplace as a way of raising funds, as well as giving vegans and non-vegans a chance to sample and buy products.

Kerri Turner, events manager for Farplace, said: "We're really excited about bringing the Nevfest back to Sunderland. The events here have been such a success we're now running similar festivals all around the country.

A previous Nevfest at the Stadium of Light

"But this is where it began, and it's always an amazing day for vegans and everyone else who comes along."

Veganism has been seeing massive increase in the North East and throughout the UK in recent years.

Figures released by The Vegan Society last year showed there were more than half a million vegans in the UK - an increase of 360% from 2006 to 2016.

But Kerri said the event is definitely not just for vegans, and many vegetarians and meat-eaters are expected to attend - either with vegan friends and family, out of curiosity, or because they are considering taking the plunge.

Gareth Edwards, founder of Farplace Animal Rescue

"Everyone is very welcome, whether they're vegan or not. It's a great chance to try some amazing food and drink, and meat-eaters are often surprised just how tasty vegan dishes are - we certainly don't miss out," she said.

"There'll be stalls selling everything from vegan hotdogs to cakes, sweets, and food from around the world. The football club is also switching its bar to be fully vegan for the event."

A number of groups will also be hosting stalls offering information and advice on their campaigns and activities.

The programme of events running alongside the stalls includes screenings of the groundbreaking film Cowspiracy, and Animal (De)Liberation, which will be introduced by the filmmaker, Jan Deckers.

There will also be talks on the vegan lifestyle, nutrition and cookery demos - including making egg from flaxseed and cooking vegan muffins in mugs.

A Kids Zone will be set up on the third floor of the stadium, which will feature a puppet show especially designed for animal lovers.

The return of the vegan festival comes after the previous NevFest was hit by disaster when a power cut struck the stadium during the Sunderland vs Hull match in November - the day before the festival.

Farplace founder Gareth Edwards was forced to cancel the event, which was due to take place the day after, but said he was heartened by the support organisers received - including generous stallholders who donated their fees despite the event not going ahead.

:: The North East Vegan Festival takes place on Sunday, February 12, at the Stadium of Light from 10.30am to 5pm.

Tickets cost £3 on the door, or £2 in advance via www.northeastveganfestival.co.uk/tickets.html

There are also VIP ticket options available.

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