I’m writing this at about 33,000 feet, somewhere over the North Atlantic. The first major IVU visit to California is now over, next year we’re off to another first in Malaysia.
San Francisco and Los Angeles were very different events – SF having a big food fair and three lecture rooms, in a simple building in the park, with a huge number of people wandering in and out. LA was a professional conference setting, in an upmarket hotel, and all participants together in the one large hall. Here’s what we did in LA:
Thursday October 11 - before the talks, we had a day out on a bus, visiting some of the tourist attractions of LA. First stop was the Getty Museum, an outstanding art collection in an amazing setting – a stunning building on a hill overlooking the whole city.
Our tour guide was Chef AJ, a well known LA vegan chef and former stand-up comedian. She made good use of her entertaining skills with a quiz whilst we sat in the inevitable LA traffic between venues. The questions were all about American health professionals, American books, American chefs . . . so I did a bit of heckling from the back of the bus, asking if she had any non-American questions. AJ didn’t seem to understand the concept of ‘not American’, so she got some more heckling, but all in good fun and it passed the time to the next attraction.
The second stop was for lunch at ‘Native Foods’ – great food in huge portions, just a bit of delay feeding 61 people from a dozen different countries, From there we went on to Venice Beach, then Hollywood Boulevard for the walk of the stars, and eventually to ‘Follow your Heart’, another great vegan restaurant not too far from the base hotel. We were met there by some tame rescued wolves and musical entertainment.
There were hitches with the volume of traffic and getting everyone fed, but they all seemed to enjoy themselves, and for a first attempt by the Vegsource team it was a highly successful day – so much so that they’re now thinking of doing it again next year.
Friday October 12 – 9.00am to 3.15pm was an IVU Seminar with a dozen speakers from many different countries, and an audience of about 70 that had paid specifically for that session. This was a feature of the whole program in LA - each part could be booked separately – one woman from France only booked the LA bus trip (though was in SF) . . . another from Japan just booked the Sat/Sun Expo below.
Our Seminar speakers were from Australia, Brazil, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, UK and USA – with the audience from those plus Canada, India, Israel, and Spain, with a wide variety of topics being presented, and ending with a useful panel Q&A session. Keeping the same audience in one room all day was very different to the usual IVU parallel sessions, and the feedback from those present was very positive.
We had a three hour break, then to the opening dinner of the Vegsource Healthy Lifestyle Expo, a very grand seated and served affair, with quality food, musical entertainment, and followed by a highly entertaining talk by Jeff Novick RD on the nutrition of nuts.
Saturday/Sunday October 13/14 – I had the first speaking slot for my talk on Veganism from 1806, which generated some interesting comments afterwards. The two days consisted of talks by some of the leading North American health professionals – Drs Klaper, McDougal and Barnard; Brenda Davis from Canada, and many more. I was told the audience of about 400 was 30% up on last year, thanks to IVU being involved, and we were glad to help promote such a great annual event.
The food over the weekend was an optional (separately priced) buffet at the hotel, or a range of nearby vegan eateries for lunch and dinner. The overall flexibility, with some people also using alternative accommodation, was very different to the traditional all-in-one IVU Congress. Some might have preferred the simple package-style event, but most seemed to appreciate being able to make their own arrangements according to personal preferences and budgets.
This flexibility was a continuation of how it worked in SF – there were many different possible combinations, including what to do for the two spare days between the two cities, and different ways of making the journey between them. Many just booked parts of the whole, and those attending everything had a fair amount of individual planning to do. The wide variety of photos posted on Facebook suggested they enjoyed doing their own thing.
FB rules OK
Facebook was one of the big differences from the last IVU Congress, two years ago. The way veg*ns are using it seems to have expanded dramatically over those two years since we were in Indonesia.
I was asked about media coverage in California, but that was never going to be very much. In Indonesia the government ministry of tourism paid for the opening banquet, and the minister came along to perform the opening ceremony. Can anyone imagine the USA government doing that...? The issue with the media is much the same – ‘vegetarians/vegans have meeting’ is just not news in Europe or North America.
But we are now generating our own news on Facebook, and no doubt other social network sites. Many of the visitors to California were posting photos and comments, and getting lots of ‘likes’ and appreciative comments from their friends back home. IVU has been a part of this expansion – our FB page was set up soon after Indonesia, now with 4,500 fans, and we’ve since added a useful group for ‘IVU Members and Supporters’.
This visit by IVU to California was a turning point – the transition from old-style Congress to the new-style Vegfest. We look forward to seeing how it develops next year in Malaysia, where we start in Kuala Lumpur, then move on to Penang in the north. There will also be optional extra events in India the previous weekend, and in Thailand the week after – it looks like becoming another grand mix-n-match opportunity.
If you’re interested in what IVU is doing around the world, join our FB group – we now have a huge collection of photos from California: www.facebook.com/groups/IVUMembers
For vegan history, see my free e-book: ‘World Veganism – past, present and future.” You can download it for free, or replace your existing copy at: www.ivu.org/history/Vegan_History.pdf (6mb)
IVU on Facebook: www.facebook.com/InternationalVegUnion