Next Saturday 16th November, Vevolution Festival 2019 returns to the BFI on London’s Southbank for its 4th annual installment. Founders Damien Clarkson and Judy Nadel discuss plants, power and positivity ahead of what they hope will be their biggest event yet…
What is Vevolution and what was the inspiration behind starting it?
Damien – Vevolution is now a movement of people from all across the world driving forward the plant-powered movement and creating positive change throughout society. Initially it started because wanted to create a professional and inclusive platform focused on education which concentrated on the new vanguard of plant-powered people driving forward change. Over the years it has evolved into a global community of changemakers where we discuss so many of the big issues society faces.
Judy – Vevolution is an acceleration platform for the plant-powered positive change movement. We create events and multimedia content to showcase incredible people, stories and ideas that are creating a better world. We were coming across a new wave of people who were smashing the vegan stereotype and who were all doing something creative and innovative to find solutions and fix the problems of the world. We wanted to platform these people to provide inspiration and empowerment for others to feel part of that positive change and for an idea to be sparked.
Were there any businesses/people that gave you advice or inspiration?
Damien: A lot of people have been really generous with their time and helped us massively along the way. I remember in the early days Judy and I sitting down with JP and Alex, the founders of allplants, and going through our first pitch deck. There have been so many people along the way but our friend Loui Blake has been an incredible source of advice and support as well as Jamie Combs, co-founder of Natural Balance Foods and Matthew Glover, co-founder of Veganuary – all incredible people changing the world.
Judy: In the early days we were very inspired by TED and how they spread such inspiring and positive ideas. We felt in those early days there were some incredible talks happening, but the ideas and information were getting lost after the event as no one was capturing the content. This is why we put so much into recording the content for our podcast and YouTube as we felt that these ideas deserve and need to be kept alive to reach as many people as possible. It is the power by fusing the offline (our events) with the online (our multimedia content).
What have been your biggest milestones, triumphs and challenges in growing your business until now?
Damien: Vevolution was started from a place of both of us being passionate about positive change in the world. We have had to learn a lot very quickly whilst building the business. There have been some incredible highlights like travelling to LA to host our own stage as part of Eat Drink Vegan. Another big one was the first time we had some national press just months after starting Vevolution. More recent highlights for me have been making our first investments as a company as part of Pitch + Plant, our plant-based investment competition that we created in 2017 and run each year, as well as delivering our opening speech on the main stage at the BFI last year. It is incredible to see people come together from all over the world for something which was just an idea a few years ago.
Judy: Running your own business is very hard and then adding a mission/ethics to it can be incredible motivation but can also add a layer of pressure. This is why at our business events we really try to get successful ethical entrepreneurs who have made their business thrive give advice on running a business with ethics, as this is very different to running a business in general. When me and Damien reflect on what we have achieved since 2016 we are incredibly proud – from growing our one off event with 500 people in a warehouse in East London to a company that has done 28 events, created a podcast with 83 episodes, filmed over 90 videos on our YouTube channel and is about to have our largest festival to date with 1000 attendees at one of London’s most iconic venues in the heart of the city. When times get tough, I remember the feeling of our events – the power and energy in the venue that makes me feel that change is happening. That drives me forward and gives me the fire to keep on going.
This year’s Vevolution is set to be the most environmentally conscious yet – what initiatives/practices have you put in place?
Damien + Judy: Firstly running large scale events is a very resource-intensive business, so whilst we are making progress we are by no means perfect. New initiatives this year include a low impact ticket for people wanting to attend the festival without our goodie bag. Every attendee who has a goodie bag gets a rCUP made from used coffee cups. Those who don’t have a goodie bag can hire these or purchase them from us. Our caterers are also offering a discount for anyone who brings a reusable food container with them. Other initiatives include hiring food waste composting into the venue which isn’t something already provided, as wll as eliminating the use of single use plastic in the venue’s bar.
The line-up for this year is filled with a variety of incredibly impactful voices across multiple industries. What is the thought process behind who exhibits and talks?
Damien: Our line-up is made of people who inspire us personally but also people we believe reflect positive change and big thinking to create a brighter future. We look for those with a big vision, doing things in a different way.
Judy: We are lucky to know so many inspiring people within the movement and also spend tonnes of time researching new people who are doing incredible things that are making the world a better place. It is really important that we find the thought leaders within the movement who are championing these topics. Something that has always been important to me when programming a line-up is ensuring a diverse range of voices are represented and that our line-up is inclusive. Our events would not be feasible without the support from BOL, Form, and all our other incredible sponsors. Events are expensive to put on so it is super important that we have the support from brands that we admire and genuinely believe in.
What are your highlights for this year’s Vevolution?
Damien: I am super excited about David Heung, Founder of Green Common, he is one of Asia’s leading plant-based entrepreneurs and has built a massive movement shifting people towards plants in Asia. I am also really looking forward to the panel I will be hosting on investment which includes the founders of allplants and PIP + NUT. The best thing about the festival for me is that people travel from all over the world to be a part of it. So I am really excited to see all our friends from Eat Drink Vegan in the US who are travelling to be a part of Vevolution.
Judy: This is a hard one as there are so many things that I am looking forward to. The main highlight for me is seeing the happy and inspired faces of our attendees. We have spent so many months planning this event and we always have our attendees at the forefront of our minds. I just want every single person coming through the venue doors – all the attendees, speakers, panellists, sponsors, staff – to feel inspired and empowered.
If people want to attend, where can they get info and tickets?
Damien + Judy: Limited tickets are still available on Eventbrite. Each ticket comes with the now legendary Vevolution goodie bag which includes an rCUP. You can check out www.vevolution.co for all event information and to watch/listen to previous talks to get you excited for the festival!