10th International Vegan Festival Report
By Ulla Troeng, Chairman, and Monica Engstrom, Member, Swedish Vegan Society
Skagen, Denmark July 30 - August 5, 2006
Translated from Swedish by Nicky Brown.
Day 1, Sunday, July 30
On this day, the 10th International Vegan Festival was opened at Skagen, the northern tip of Denmark. The organizers were The Danish Vegan Society, Vegana, in cooperation with The Nordic Vegan Union and Vegans International. The site of the festival was Diget, The Folk High School at Skagen. The facilities there are extensive: living quarters, a dining room, TV room, computer room, library, assembly rooms, and a sports hall. The assembly room in which we had our lectures is formed as a pyramid.
The festival participants are mainly from the UK and Denmark, but there are also some from the USA, Japan, Finland, Germany, Italy, and France, as well as us 9 from Sweden.
On the first day we had clear sunshine. The day started with the presentation of the participants and the vegan societies of the participating countries. Alex Bourke, Vice-Chairman of The Vegan Society (UK) made a historical retrospect and talked about some pioneers within the vegan movement. Then had 2 minutes silence in honour for those patrons, who passed over since IVF-9, Donald Watson, Serena Coles, Arthur Lings and Frieden Howard.
The site of the Festival, Diget, is near the sea, just a 600 m walk along a path down to the sand dunes. There the beach stretches out for kilometers in both directions. We are the only people within sight. The water is warm and clean. We manage to go swimming several times during the afternoon and before nightfall. The evening is completed with tea and fruitcake in communion.
For me, having participated in five other Vegan Festivals and numerous vegetarian congresses, it's tremendous to meet old friends and familiar faces. From the Swedish Vegan Society, there are Pia Lernborg, Monica Engstrom, and I.
Day 2, Monday, July 31
Day 2 started with yoga under the direction of the English yoga teacher Margaret Gunn-King. This took place in the sports hall. It is well equipped, including yoga mats. After an hour's yoga, we are ready for breakfast. Here we find big bowls with fresh fruit, soya milk, ricemilk, muesli, porridge, oat flakes, sliced hazelnuts, soaked dried fruit, fruit juice, bread, spreads, herb tea, ordinary black tea, and coffee.
After breakfast, Swedish Ilene Stensson held a lecture on living food. She had picked edible leaves from the surroundings, which she presented, and she explained how easy it was to enrich one's diet with chlorophyll-rich drinks. One just mixes the leaves one has picked with some banana and a bit of fruit juice. The leaves can be from wild nettles, dandelions, goosefoot, or from domestic cabbage and salad. She also told us about her pilgrimage in Northern Spain and all the animals that fared badly there.
Lunch was salads, cooked legumes, various bean pates, patties, potato salad with sweet peas and fresh basil, lasagne with various root vegetables, and freshly baked bread with herbs.
After lunch, English Alex Bourke held a lecture and showed the film "Animal Rights". Alex works for The Vegan Society and has produced a series of guidebooks, i.e. Vegan Paris and Vegan London. He is also the longstanding editor of Vegans International. Later John Morley held a lecture about the Danish philosopher Martinus and his cosmology.
We then took a long walk along the beach and also swam in the sea. Supper followed, consisting of rice, chickpea stew, salads, nuts, and raw vegetables in bowls. The dessert was a cream made of rice milk mixed with fresh strawberries, overlaid with chopped nuts and roasted oat flakes. Many of the participants drank wine with the meal. This was a strange sight for us Swedes, who are used to vegetarians and vegans not drinking alcoholic drinks.
Immediately after supper we were driven by bus to the birthplace of the Danish philosopher Martinus, who was a vegetarian. It is a cosy stone house consisting of a room with a kitchen directly linked to the barn. Here Martinus grew up together with eleven other children. We got a guided tour by a couple, who take care of the house.
From there we drove to the North Sea to enjoy the sunset. The beach stretches out immensely in both directions and is so wide that cars can drive on it. However, we only met two riders on horses. It was a great sight to watch the horses galloped off on the beach in the sunset. We drank tea and ate delicious cookies made of dried fruit and nuts rolled in shredded coconut. The place we were resting at was The Tversted Lake, a park with paths and a big dam with water lilies.
During the bus drive and stops we managed to talk with several of the festival participants. There is the English festival cook Tony Bishop-Weston, who has received numerous prizes as cook and author of several vegan cookbooks. Stephen Walsh is an English medical doctor and author of a book on vegan nutrition. Finnish Merja Salo represented the Finnish Vegan Society. French Stephane Hennion has cycled all the way from France. I have met him at several other vegan festivals. Italian Franco Tedaldi's great interest is "biodance", which seems to be similar to releasing dance. Japanese Hiroko Tsuchiya is studying English in England. She told us that she has abandoned her traditional Japanese vegan diet, which consisted of miso soup, raw rice and tofu, to the benefit of living food.
We were replete with impressions and inspiration when returning to our room for the night. I took an extra fruitcake with me to enjoy while summarizing the day.
Day 3, Tuesday, August 1
We woke at 6 a.m. hearing the rain. It stopped after a while. We started the day with a spell of yoga. Today we worked a lot with our shoulders. That's relieving after sitting for hours listening to lectures. Breakfast was especially wonderful today, with homemade soya yoghurt with peanut flavour, plenty of fruit, nuts, seeds, freshly baked bread, muesli, porridge, and nut spreads.
The day's first lecture was held by Linda Gentille. The title was "Helping the animals around the world as an Animal Guardian Angel". Linda is a professional musician from USA. As a pianist, she performs all over the world. She has recorded several albums. China is the country in which she has performed most during the past ten years. She has taught herself Chinese, and now speaks it fluently. At each performance in China she starts with speaking about animals and their rights. Her organizers know that she eats only vegan food, and many of them now share the same food with her. She has adopted several Children's Homes in China, to which she donates funds, and at which she also performs. She showed us a film about her performances at several places in China.
Linda has promised to come to Sweden and perform for the benefit of the Swedish Vegan Society. That's something we want to elaborate further on. Hopefully it can come true in 2007.
During lunch, we talked with the Danish participants. They told us that there are only few vegans in Denmark. Several of the participants had never before met any other vegans, despite being vegans for years.
Scottish George Rodger is the chairman of The Vegan Society (UK). He travels several times a week to the headquarters in Hastings. He is also very active in the many undertakings of the Society. He took the car with him to Skagen, filled with books, shirts, and other material that is sold during the Festival.
Patricia Tricker works voluntarily for The Vegan Society. She is a professional translator, fluent in English, German, French, and Italian. Presently she does a lot of work for the Society.
Both George Rodger and Patricia Tricker emphasized the importance of cooperation among vegans. They sought more contact with us, so that we all can improve at running our various projects.
Lunch today was minced soya stew, Brussels sprouts au gratin, mashed chickpeas in filo pastry, beetroot pate, various salads, and boiled chickpeas, kidney beans, and lentils. As usual, there was freshly baked bread.
The outing of the day is to Raabjerg Mile (Dune). It is a so-called wandering dune, one of the biggest in Europe, about 1 km2, 35-40 m high, moving up to 30 m a year, depending on the wind, north-eastwards. The area looks like a desert. In the direction that the dune is moving, the trees in the forest as well as the houses are covered with sand. In order to get to the dune, we walk for about 3 km on small paths through the forest. Accompanying us is a teacher from the folk high school, who describes for us all the plants and sand formation. It is rather strenuous to climb up and down the dunes. For a while, the sky is dark blue and it rains a bit, but soon the sky clears.
The English cook Tony Bishop-Weston and his family have come along too. He has two teenage children and a baby. It's a pleasure to be with this family, as they all are happy and considerate toward each other. The teenagers lark about with their baby brother. Often they have him in straps at their tummy. Tony and his wife Yvonne have been in Sweden and are very fond of the country. Therefore they have employed several Swedish trainees at their restaurant. Tony helps out in the kitchen at the festival. His vegan recipes can be purchased over the net.
The personnel are very adept at preparing good and exciting dishes, and they're congenial. When we came back from our outing, we're greeted with tea and fruit muffins. There is both coffee, black tea and Danish herb tea. Many participants drink coffee. There is rice milk for the coffee and tea.
I talked with Annika Ekvall from Goteborg in Sweden. She has been vegan and a member of the Swedish Society for over a year.
Swedish Eric Karlsson is well known in the Society as a self-healing doctor. For many years he has nourished himself with living food. He also likes walking long distances. When the boat gets him back to Goteborg, he will walk the remaining 200 km to his home in Lonsboda.
Suddenly it is time to eat again, this time with gratins and masses of salads. Afterwards we are off to the sports hall again to participate in a folk dance and a circle dance. Most people join in. There is a very friendly, familiar atmosphere here. It feels as if we have known each other for ages. We feel entirely at ease with each other and can play and make fun together. Believe it or not, when we take a break at 11 p.m., there awaits us freshly baked rolls and tea in the dining room. We then sit and talk with each other till late at night.
Day 4, Wednesday, August 2
Margaret Gunn-King, our yoga teacher, is really fantastic. Although she retired due to old age many years ago, she is still lither than most others. She is slim and has a facial expression that radiates energy and youth. She teaches yoga classes in her hometown. Today we practice shoulder stands.
After breakfast we packed our lunch boxes to take with us on the day's outing. It was amazing to see all the many things that were laid out for us: all sorts of salads, bowls with salad leaves, slices of cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, falafels, patties, and more. It was almost as if we needed provisions for several days. On top of it, we were treated with bread, fruit, and fruit and nut sweets.
The bus took us to Skagen, first the old town, where we were guided around, and then along the beaches on each side of the town. We visited The Sanded-up Church outside of the town as well as the castle that the Danish royal family once had as their summer residence. At Skagens Museum, we looked at paintings by Anna and Michael Ancher, P. S. Kroyer, and some other painters. There was also an exhibition there called "Artist Couples", with paintings by Carl and Karin Larsson, and Sigrid Hjerten and Isaac Grunewald.
From there we went further out on the top of Skagen, where we walked the last stretch barefoot to the spot where the two seas meet. At the Sailors' home hotel by the harbor, we ate the lunch we had packed. We then went to see the exhibition "The Earth Seen From The Sky". It had already been shown in Sweden, but one just can't get enough of those fabulous photos.
Thereafter we had an hour, in which we could do what we wanted. I visited two health food stores. None of them had groceries or vegetables. They had mainly cosmetics, nutritional supplements, and candies. In Brugsen, a small supermarket, I could buy Castus fruit bread, which consists of dried fruits and nuts. It is sold in shapes like sausages. You can cut off thin slices that you put on bread or eat just like that. You can also get it in slices in smaller packages.
Back at the vegan festival, the English doctor Stephen Walsh conducted a workshop on B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Simultaneously Alex Bourke had a workshop on "How to get your message out", in which he explained how one can run campaigns, produce flyers and books, and meet the media.
Supper was pasta with various salads.
After supper we were treated to a lecture by Jasmijn de Boo on WSPA, the World Society for the Protection of Animals. We heard about their many campaigns and projects. After the great tsunami, they ran several projects to help animals in Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka. They have a project in Romania for the rehabilitation of bears that have been wrongfully trained to be so-called dancing bears. They have built a veterinary hospital in Jordan. They run campaigns against whaling, animal transport, as well as educational projects for youth and children in Africa and Asia. Jasmijn also told us about a new political party called Animals Count, which now has 2 members in the Dutch Parliament and we can only hope that this party will be represented in many countries. The next country will probably be England, where she will work hard for the getting the party known.
Late in the evening we held a formal meeting as Vegans International to discuss future vegan festivals. The Indian Vegan Society had offered to organize a festival in Goa in 2007. Instead we proposed that we combine our next festival with the European Vegetarian Union (EVU) congress in Vienna in April 2007. For 2008, EVU is planning a congress in Dresden. Maybe we Swedes can organize an EVU congress in 2009? Our Italian participants told us that there is an Italian vegan society (www.viverevegan.org.) There is also a vegan group in Torino that organizes a vegan festival every year with thousands of guests.
Day 5, Thursday, August 3
Today's yoga lesson concentrated on stretching legs, hips and backs. The type of yoga that Margaret Gunn-King teaches is called Iyengar yoga. At home in Stockholm, I take lessons in power yoga and ashtanga yoga, which are more physically demanding. Iyengar felt very good here.
Breakfast was freshly made soya yoghurt, sliced hazelnuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and fresh fruit.
Next was the lecture "I Do Extreme Vegan Sports", by the Australian veterinarian Andrew Knight. He told us how well trained vegans can be and how much fun they can have. Some do long-distance running, some cycle across countries. Many Australian vegans enjoy a sport called rogaining, which is a type of orienteering that can last up to 24 hours. Vegans also climb mountains, jump from cliffs, and investigate caves. A group of some 40 vegans started nude jogging in Pamplona in 2004 as a protest against bullfighting. They ran naked along the same stretches as the bulls that traditionally were tortured. In 2005 there were 400 naked joggers. At that time the organization was much better, with tents having sleeping accommodation, vegan cooks, and book stalls. In 2006 there were over 1000 participants.
At our festival, a new sports discipline has been introduced: dune hopping. The competitors are to climb to the top of the highest dune, 41 m, and then make their way down, partly hopping and partly rolling. The whole festival assembly participates in the voting. The winner of the competition is Italian Steffano Mazzarano.
Andrew Knight then lectures about his experiences as a vegan vet and how one can avoid experiments on animals in education and academic work.
I took the opportunity to purchase several packages of Veg 1, the nutritional supplement that Stephen Walsh has developed in cooperation with The Vegan Society. I also bought books, stickers with the vegan symbol, and a poster showing all food items and nutrients that a vegan needs. I came here with my suitcase packed with issues of our Swedish vegan magazine. Now my suitcase was heavy with all these other things.
There are several festival participants who have requested to become members of our Swedish Vegan Society, even Danes. I talked with Martin Lake from Kingston upon Thames. He told me about a vegan group in the area that meets once a month to eat a vegan meal at different restaurants. American medical doctor Jules Oaklander represented both the vegan organization Earth Save and American doctors for vegan/vegetarian nutrition. This afternoon Ilene Stenson continued the workshop on living food, and Alex Bourke told more about making a vegan book.
Food was central here at the festival. Breakfast, lunch and supper were really excellent. This afternoon, Swedish Ilene Stenson showed us how fast one can make a healthy breakfast of bananas, various berries, and avocado sauce. She also made a "birthday cake" with these contents, decorating it with a real rose instead of one of marzipan. She believes that everyone could benefit from an energising drink of wild plants, as they contain a lot of chlorophyll. She mixed a drink containing yarrow, dandelion, goosefoot, and other edible plants that she had picked outside of the building, adding maple syrup and apple juice. It tasted just great. She also recommended that one had a Clysmatic colonic kit at home and explained how to use it.
The day before yesterday, English Kathy Silk showed how to prepare good desserts, i.e. a vegan cheesecake. She has performed in many food programs on TV and has written a vegan cookbook. She also showed how one easily can make a "living foodcake" consisting of mixed dates and figs with fresh fruit as decoration.
Today Swedish Eric Karlsson spoke on "the science of self-healing". He finished his education in Australia in 1992. Self-healing is based upon the conviction that under optimal conditions, body and soul will naturally work together to heal the person.
In the evening American Linda Gentille, dressed in a beautiful long red evening dress, gave a piano concert. She not only played wonderfully but also astonished everyone by her ability to remember the 10 melodies, which we had chosen. The concert was very well received. Afterward we were treated to a delicious chocolate cake that Tony Bishop-Weston had prepared to celebrate the 82-year birthday of Danish Elsie Helland. Then we gathered in front of the fireplace, where we sang songs, accompanied by guitars. We sang until well after 1 a.m.
Day 6, Friday, August 4
Margaret's morning yoga lessons had become more advanced. This time we had to try to stand on our heads. She also showed us how to use walls and chairs to get a maximum stretch. Breakfast was tremendous, and the homemade yoghurt quickly took an end, as usual.
At 10 a.m. the English doctor Stephen Walsh held his second lecture on vegan nutrition. He presented recent investigations that showed that vegans on average do not live longer than meateaters, an unexpected and unfortunate fact as seen from our perspective, and further, the investigations showed that lactovegetarians live longer than both meateaters and vegans. He has attempted to find an explanation for these surprising facts. He discovered that vegans have relatively high concentrations of the amino acid homocysteine in their blood. This could be a reason why vegans are hit just as often as meateaters by strokes and heart attacks.
When the European Vegetarian Union held its congress in Italy in 1997, many of the participants were checked for their homocysteine contents. It turned out that the concentrations in their blood were significantly higher than those of meateaters and lactovegetarians. This was surprising considering their healthy lifestyles. A plausible explanation is that homocysteine combines with B12, so if a person has a relatively low B12 content, s/he doesn't get rid of superfluous homocysteine. Therefore vegans should take B12 supplements.
Stephen Walsh went on to present documentation to prove that dried nuts should be nutritionally just as good as fresh nuts. He also discussed the importance of omega-3 fatty acids. The audience was very attentive.
At lunch, several new delicacies were served, of which we had our fill. After several grey and rainy days, the sun peeked out of the clouds. Ilene Stenson invited a little group of participants to follow her outdoors to a small green oasis just outside of the high school. We discovered a wealth of nourishing plants in nature's pantry: thistles, fleaworts, dandelions, and other so-called weeds that in reality can give us humans masses of energy and that Ilene advised us to mix into energy drinks every day. Unfortunately we got a lot of horsefly bites too. With us Scandinavians, who are used to horseflies, it hurt when they bit, but the ensuing itches and boils were minor. On other people, the bites flared up. Ilene had some arnica with her. She dabbed a big boil on an Englishman with it, and after a few hours, the pain and itch vanished.
Some people went swimming. As I didn't have my swimsuit with me, I went back to the high school and listened to the last part of Eric Karlsson's lecture on self-healing.
After tea and cakes, English Brian Jacobs held a lecture on hypnosis. An interesting discovery was that people who have the need to control are not as affected by hypnosis as other people. Therefore also hypnosis therapy is more difficult with them.
Then Margaret Gunn-King led a laugh meditation, where we all laughed and relaxed. Several people outside the building stopped in their tracks and wondered what was going on.
For the farewell dinner, everybody dressed up. A very colorful and tasty buffet had been laid out. People were in high spirits.
Several participants officially expressed their gratitude to the activists who had made this festival so memorable, particularly thanking Kirsten Jungsberg, who was the chief organizer, and Tony Bishop-Weston, who had taught the kitchen personnel how to make tasty and nourishing vegan food, something that they had no experiences with before.
After the dinner, in accordance with the traditions of our vegan festivals, we planted two fruit trees in the garden outside the building. The first tree was planted by Jules Oaklander (USA), George Rodger (Scotland), Brian Gunn-King (England), and me (Sweden). After the tree planting, we sang and ringdanced. We also took some group photos.
Concluding the festival, several participants performed spontaneously: English Barbara Jackson had written some vegan texts, Dutch Jasmijn de Boo sang and accompanied herself on guitar, Scottish George Rodger sang. To honour the evening, George had clad himself in a Scottish kilt. Danish Andrea Forman had written some vegan songs, which she performed. Linda Gentille played some pieces on the piano. She also brought together some participants in a band to practice a song that after half an hour was performed in full. This was acknowledged with great applause. Lastly, Ilene Stenson did a Swedish "murder tango".
We finished off a wonderful evening with a cup of tea and cakes. Then we collected our items and went to bed.
Day 7, Saturday, August 5
Our well-known delicious breakfast buffet was laid out. Today, as we were leaving soon, there was an additional buffet for making lunchbags. A new course had started at the high school, and a few of the participants had arrived. Accordingly, there was a third buffet on which there was written "Non-vegan", with milk yoghurt, cheese and margarine. It was a strange experience for us to see this after having gotten used to having only our own delicious vegan buffet.
At 8.30 a.m. the bus came to take us to our respective ferries and trains. We said goodbye to each other. Many participants expressed a wish to come to Sweden sometime and therefore hoped that we Swedes would organise a vegan festival soon.