Report by Giles Bryant
The inaugural Vegan Organic Network Fest took place August 12-16 at the beautiful Chyan Community near Falmouth in Cornwall.
The ever-smiling Dan Graham, set the tone for the festival with his relaxed demeanor as event organiser. He did a fantastic job bringing a wide range of people together, from many parts of the world, to learn about veganic growing and the wide benefits it brings.
I attended the event with two of my children (aged 4 and 9) and wife, Juliette. I was booked to play music, and Juliette to give a talk on plant food and medicine. We were part of an incredible schedule that had something for everyone: yoga, foraging, ecstatic dance, vegan organic talks, cooking demos, live music, walks, wild-swimming and delicious food.
The location for the event was perfect. The Chyan Community and Farm has followed veganic principles for many years. It powers itself from natural energy sources, has healthy spring water, super compost loos and an abundance of edible plants. The fantastic structures they have created, largely from re-cycled and local materials provided spaces for workshops, live music and getting to know people over vegan cake and tea.
Personally, there were many highlights for me. Seeing my children making friends, happy and free in a safe environment was wonderful. Education is about learning new things but also about just ‘being’ as educationalist and Nobel Prize winning poet Rabindranath Tagore said, ‘so we may awaken the infinite wisdom from within’.
The movement and explorative games run by Nadya were wonderful. She got a room full of people getting to know one another (and themselves) in a beautiful way. The talk by Rich Hardy about his 2 decades as an undercover investigator into the abuses of the animal industry was both heart wrenching and enlightening. Rich has now walked away from his undercover life to manage a veganic smallholding, and you can tell how being close to the soil, and serving a local community with great ethically sourced food is helping to heal the scars of the abuses he witnessed.
The live music at the event was wonderful. There are too many great acts to mention but I particularly enjoyed flute player Dave Merrick teaming with guitar virtuoso Clive Mills as ‘Inner Voice’ –they brought deep relaxation to the evenings. Things got a bit livelier with Anairda & The Anarkistas with their rebellious spirit. The music jams that I led with Woodland Studios 432htz and Mark Barnwell raised the roof.
On the Saturday night we were treated to an incredible circus performance in Chyan’s gigantic geo-dome. In combination with the local Arts Trust and other charitable bodies, Chyan put on a top-class evening that left everyone spellbound with parkour from an amazing talent Said Moushssine from Morocco and a wild trapeze artist.
The event was inspiring, restorative and educational. On the first morning Jon Dale led a foraging workshop. In attendance were a number of foraging experts, and Jon’s humble and open style led to an incredible sharing of information. Listening to conversations was fascinating: ‘This is how my grandmother used this plant in Latvia’. ‘In France we call this plant pissing-the-bed’. ‘My mind is blown! I had no idea about the plants all around me.’
We celebrated our wedding anniversary during the event, and have treated ourselves to a spa day in the past. This desire was taken care of at the Vegan Organic Network Fest, with the spring-fed natural swimming pool and wood-powered sauna and hot-tub. Chyan even has posh changing rooms and a bath! What a place!
The festival closed with an open forum led by Dan Graham about the next steps for the Vegan Organic Network. Many people passionately shared their views and takes on this. Certainly it provided food for thought, and helped people learn more about why the veganic way is so important for humanities future on this planet.
A big thanks to Brett Jackson and his team from Chyan who worked tirelessly to make sure everyone had a great time. Brett taught yoga in the morning and then when their chef called off sick, donned his apron and prepared delicious and very reasonably priced food. Some of the participants were ‘raw vegan’ and they had there fill too, as other food stalls appeared during the event – including raw cakes, raw smoothies and the wild foraging of Theresa and Effat (who led a 6 hour workshop on preparing local foods!)
It was lovely to meet so many inspirational people and to spend time in a place that we would one day like to replicate back in our part of the world.
The world needs more vegan organic wisdom and compassion. This event was a wonderful way to spread that into the world.