Louise Simpson is the founder of Surrey Vegan Events, a community hub that aims to show just how easy, delicious and nutritious veganism can be. In our interview, she discusses the reaction to opening the first vegan market right here in Epsom & Ewell, as well as what’s in store for the future…
What did you hope to achieve through creating Surrey Vegan?
Originally, I hoped to unite vegans and encourage people to find out more about what being vegan is all about. To be honest, that is still the core mission, but I also want to change people’s perception of veganism as there are often people who don’t understand the lifestyle or have a negative view about it.
How has it developed since it was first established?
Surrey Vegan has developed from hosting just one annual fair, to now hosting 2-3 markets every month in different locations. We also won two industry awards in the category of innovation, which was mind blowing. We then went on to be nominated by VegFest (organisers of the UK’s biggest vegan events) for best vegan market, which was really amazing – even if we didn’t win this time!
What has the response been since opening in Epsom Market Place last year?
It has been overwhelming. The first event saw all of our food traders sell out within a few hours. That was when we knew Epsom was ready for a vegan market. Since then, we have ensured that all our traders bring more food and more options.
What can we expect at Epsom’s next Surrey Vegan Market?
You can expect some more from our regular traders, but also some brand new traders that are keen to showcase their vegan food and products to the people of Epsom & Ewell. We always like to showcase new traders and provide a platform for small, independent and local businesses.
What would your advice be for those locals taking part in Veganuary?
My advice for anyone doing Veganuary is to experiment with the wide variety of food available and to eat out at some of the amazing places offering a vegan menu – and, of course, check out our markets! Also, don’t beat yourself up if you slip up or eat something that you didn’t realise wasn’t vegan. It’s a journey; it takes times to adjust to reading labels.
How can we make a plant based diet a permanent lifestyle choice?
We can all adopt a more plant based lifestyle and by educating ourselves on where our food comes from makes it sustainable all year round. I am grateful for things like Meat Free Monday, but to truly help the planet, our own health and the animals, we need to be doing more. Like I said, it’s a journey, sometimes people take longer to adjust but don’t give up or feel it’s too hard. This is what our group is all about, we want to support people along their journey and offer advice without judgement.
Where would you like to take Surrey Vegan next?
I would love to expand the markets to other parts of the area and also create a festival in the Summer. I’d also love to find a really cool evening venue in Surrey because it seems a shame that all the good stuff is mostly in London. Why travel to London when we have a huge community here in Surrey?
Where are your favourite places to wine and dine (vegan style) in Epsom & Ewell?
In Epsom, we have the lovely Organico vegetarian and vegan café, which is right on the Market Place. My other favourite is Pizza Express; they have a great vegan menu!
For more information and dates, check out their website surreyvegan.co.uk