Friday 28th July 2023
We’re at Vegan Campout!
Our story begins last night, when Shay came over after the publishing Q&A that I host on Zoom. We had sandwiches and packed our bits and bobs and then Shay played Moviestar Planet while I did the last bits of housework and some urgent proofreading and editing for a new client, a non-profit in Nigeria.
We played some Mario on the Wii and chatted shit for a while, then settled down to sleep at about 4 AM, though I didn’t get to sleep until 7. Then we got up at 11 and headed straight off.
The journey wasn’t too bad. We took the train to Bicester North and then walked from the station to the venue, which was about a mile away. It was hard work, but once we got there, we only had to queue for half an hour to get in. Then we found a nice place to pitch, right by a memorably-looking campervan and the guide rope at the end of the field.
We set the tent up, unpacked and had a little cuddle, then sat on our chairs for a little while until we had enough energy to go to the main stage.
There’s some cool new stuff this year, including funfair rides and a little train you can ride, but we were mostly impressed by the stalls. We got some stickers, badges and temporary tattoos, as well as a little jewellery. They have an actual tattoo parlour this year, but it had long queues and you needed photo ID, and they were also only tattooing flash. My Ahimsa tattoo will have to wait. Shay got some temporary tattoos instead.
Next up was a wander around the food stalls, where I stopped off for a kebab from Doner Summer. It was the only place I visited twice last year and my first stop of this one, which I think says a lot. And it was delicious.
Then we came back to the tent to rest and regroup. Shay’s reading her Edward Lorn book and I’m catching up in here.
Four genres of music
from four different directions,
the notes of one song
mixing with the notes of another,
a discordant melange
tickling the tips of my fingers
as the sun beats down on canvas
and I think about falling
Someone is asking for water,
I’d like some too
but I’ll be damned if I’m going out
to look for some,
and at least the taps are working
in the toilets.
My brain’s got a signal
and so has my stomach,
my smartphone says
my rolls have refilled
but nobody paid me,
I’m going to need the money
if I want to keep living
like plant-based royalty.
Then there are the shoulders,
battered and bruised
and bitten by insects,
and my neck has a lump
like a strawberry,
you wouldn’t want to eat it
because it smells like bacteria.
The people behind us
speak in sign language,
perhaps they won’t hear the noise
of sexual intercourse,
it’s in tents.
But I imagine they feel
the bass spewing out
of the speakers.
We’re camped pretty close to the arena and so we’ve been going back and forth all day. Shay tried some flufflepuffs from Fluff, which were basically waffle balls with maple syrup, cinnamon sugar and lemon. I had one too and they were delicious. I also got an Ice Blast because we hadn’t yet found the water point, but that ended up giving me brain freeze.
Our next major expedition was to No Catch for dinner. Shay had the cod and chips, which she’d had in Brighton and which didn’t disappoint, while I went for the tempura. It was pricy for what it was, but it was also delicious and I’m glad I tried it. I was also still full from Doner Summer and so I couldn’t have managed a full portion.
Then we went to the Slipshod area and rode the little train, although Shay almost knocked it over when we climbed aboard. It was a surprisingly fun little ride, though. That was followed by us listening to the DJs for a while and watching a guy with elf ears fixing the lighting. But we were pretty tired and so we soon made our way back to the tent for an early night.
Barbenheimer On Canvas
Keats wrote by candlelight,
Ginsberg by an electric lightbulb,
Brian Bilston uses his phone a lot
and I use a portable charger.
It’s my lifeline,
my safety swimmer
on a free dive
into fields of green,
oh, Champs Elysees,
the song they sing about you
is stuck on my head.
My phone’s on 20% battery
and I’ve lost my charger cable,
but we’re going to sleep in a minute
and Shay is sneezing,
maybe we can send smoke signals
to summon an Uber.
the sun’s gone down
and my charger light
is like Oppenheimer’s bomb
at a Barbie queue,
they can see shadows on the canvas
like a downward-facing dog,
but the yoga won’t start
Saturday 29th July 2023
Well, we didn’t get the best night’s sleep, mostly because people were playing drum ‘n’ bass until about 4 AM. I got a couple of hours but then woke back up. Shay ate too many of the free vegan vitamin gummies we were given and had a stomach ache, so I kept her company, too. I probably got a total of four or five hours.
When we woke up this morning, we headed straight to the arena for breakfast. Shay had cocoa oats with banana which was tasty (and cheap), while I went back to Doner Summer. I’d never had their breakfast before and was pretty impressed – I even liked the harissa beans. Their spinach wasn’t great, though.
Now we’re off to browse the stalls. Shay is getting glitter and hair done, and I think we’re going to try to get matching tshirts. Then maybe we’ll check out some live music before we go to see Klaus from Plant-Based News.
early in the morning,
or early for me,
sitting on the grass
by the charge tent
as my girlfriend
gets her hair done
and covered in glitter.
The signal cuts out
and back in again,
a common theme
throughout these poems,
and my pen bleeds green
as though I killed an alien.
My foot’s been sleeping
more than I have,
someone’s dog stepped on a bee
and my chest is representing Memphis,
long distance information,
Three football pitches
are lost from the Amazon
but there are more tigers
and giant pandas
than there used to be,
proving you can make
The question is,
Klaus Mitchell (Plant-Based News)
- “The message I bring is backed by peer-reviewed data.”
- Even if we stop using fossil fuels, we can’t meet our climate goals without changing our food. A third of greenhouse gases comes from food production.
- Methane is 20 times more potent than CO2.
- How can we provide adequate nutrition for 80 billion farmed animals but not 800 million humans?
- “When we point a finger at cars, planes and trucks, three fingers point back at us – one for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
- The problem is what we eat, not where it’s transported from.
- Harvard found that switching to a vegan diet and rewilding the land could reverse climate change.
- Bottom trawling causes as much damage to the environment as all flights.
- We’ve lost 90% of large fish in the ocean.
- 77-86% of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is related to fishing.
- We could feed an extra 3-4 billion people.
- “It’s healthier to save the planet than it is to destroy it.”
- “A plant-based diet is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on earth.” – Oxford University
- “We need to support farmers in a just and equitable switch to a better future.”
- “Every time we eat, we can vote for the kind of world we want to live in.”
even the bathrooms
and the massive tent
at the main stage,
although thinking about it,
it might just be vapes
and the weight of expectations,
words made of smoke
that float on the wing
like a butterfly’s wings,
and everywhere smells
like the way my water tastes
of the bottle it’s in
and whatever was in it
and everything tastes
like No Catch,
like a recipe I’d like to make
but don’t have the patience for,
which is most recipes,
and the doggo friend I found
has his paws on the ground,
and so I guess that might make
two of us.
Juliet Gellatley (Viva)
- She hid the footage she took at a factory farm down her underwear so that if she was searched, it would be sexual assault.
- “The mindset of the intensive farming industry is just to become more intensive.”
Shay wanted to get a tattoo, and so she waited in line for an hour and a half only for her artist to be fully booked by the time she got to the front of the queue. I, meanwhile, was busy napping.
Then we went to the arena to watch Klaus from Plant-Based News. He was fantastic as always, debunking the commonly used alternatives to a plant-based diet for the health of the planet.
Next up was food. Shay got a burger and some (disappointing) tater tots, while I went for Doner Summer again because The Hogless Roast had run out of hogless roast. After that, we caught the end of Juliet Gellatley from Viva, who Shay found to be super inspirational. She’s talking again tomorrow and so we’re going to try to catch her then.
- “Creative activism”
- He was a vegetarian when he won Germany’s strongest man. He didn’t eat meat because he loved animals and didn’t want to eat them. Then he realised he was in a position of power and a role model for a lot of young men. He knew being vegetarian was only half the battle, but he was afraid to go vegan because there were no vegan bodybuilders. But he knew he had to make it work.
- Audience: *applauds*. Patrik: Thank you, I appreciate the applause, but we really don’t have time for that.
- Activism is like love. It’s impossible to force someone to fall in love with you, and it’s the same with activism.
- Eating has parallels with addiction because it’s habitual and defines us as people.
- There’s a lot of vegan information out there but not much vegan storytelling. Someone needs to send him a copy of Meat.
- Get a copy of Earthraiser.
- “There are a lot of educational games out there, they’re just not fun and so nobody’s playing them.”
- We’re hard-wired to learn things through storytelling, and video games are interactive stories.
- His game is called Uncage.
- The real heroes are the undercover activists who have the courage to document what’s really going on.
- See if he needs writers.
- 90,000,000 animals will be killed during his speech.
- “This is happening right now as this festival is going on. Before we start, I’d like to have a moment of silence for the victims of the biggest atrocity in existence.”
- He’s a former gang member and recovered addict. He went to prison at 26 for possession of a loaded firearm. When there, he was sober for the longest he’d been in 12 years.
- “The two most important days of your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain
- “When I saw what was happening to the animals, I wondered why people weren’t shouting about it from the rooftops.”
- “You don’t need to know how, you need to know why.”
- Speak for the animals like you’d want people to speak for you.
- “Don’t talk, do.”
- Factory farms are slaughter-dungeons.
- “Pignorant: Coming soon.”
- The only way to avoid being criticised is to say nothing and do nothing.
- “Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s feeling the fear and doing it anyway.”
- This is a war against animals, against those who can’t even fight back.
- More non-vegans are being born every minute.
- “It only takes one candle to light a million candles.”
- We have the truth about these industries, and that’s all we need.”
- Short for “Boys of Sheffield”.
- Over three billion video views.
- Sold over a million books, which would reach halfway to the moon.
- Over seven million products sold.
- Their mission is “more plants on plates”.
- B Corps = companies that also have a social mission.
- Tesco wants to increase their sales of vegan products by 300%.
- A Bosh goal is to get coffee shops to default to oat milk unless someone asks for bovine breast milk.
- “This is where the progress happens.”
- If you’re vegan for two years, you save: 6,500 lbs of CO2, 3 million litres of water, 22,000 square feet of rainforest and 730 animals and could have added up to ten years to your life.
- If everyone in the UK went vegan for two years, it would save: 4.3 billion lbs of CO2, 2.1 trillion litres of water, 1.4 billion square feet and 48 billion animals. Plus £30 billion of public spending, which would be a 15% saving for the NHS. And a reduced likelihood of a new pandemic or antibiotic resistance.
- We can’t help the feeling of insecurity, but we can make positive changes.
Patrik Baboumian came after that. He was funny and engaging and had a good story to tell, including some work on a graphic novel and a video game. I didn’t realise that he retired from competitions in 2016, though.
I watched Joey Carbstrong next, while Shay went off for a wander. I’ve never really followed Joey before, but I was pretty impressed by his talk and how he overcame adversity to get to where he is, although I’m not sure he’s my kind of person.
BOSH were up next, and they had a surprisingly small audience considering they were headliners. Patrik and Joey both had bigger crowds. It was cool to hear some more about their story though, as well as to learn some of the hard sales stats and facts that they had up their sleeves.
I had a lamb burger from Hogless Roast for dinner, as well as some doughnuts from Project D. Both were good but both were overpriced, and lamb is hogless anyway and so it seemed like an incongruous menu item. I’m glad I had it, but I would have preferred their regular meal. Alas, they ran out. A lot of people seem to be out of stock this weekend.
We also went for a ride on Atmos Fear, which is a fairground ride that reminded me of Maelstrom at Drayton Manor. It was pretty good, but it was also £6. Shay was nervous to begin with, then loved it so much that she went on for a second time.
Sunday 30th July 2023
There’s not much more to say about Saturday. Shay got lost a couple of times but I managed to find her the first time and on the second, she made it back to the tent. It was colder than the night before, but we made it through.
Shay has a hangover today and so she didn’t get the tattoo that she wanted. We went to get her some orange juice when we woke up, and she also picked up a facon sandwich from Miami Foods, which was unfortunately cold. Then I got Chinese from Vegan World Foods, which was super tasty. Shay liked it so much that she got some for herself, and then I got to help her finish it.
We went back to the tent after that because we were both super sleepy, and then I woke up from a nap by rolling into a wet patch. Our porch keeps falling down because people keep pulling up the guy ropes, even though we’re tucked to one side and with plenty of space around us. Our shoes and chairs are soaked and there’s water inside the tent, including on my side of the double sleeping bag and all over my coat. My phone got soaked too but still works just fine. My camera wasn’t quite so fortunate, despite not being near the moisture. It won’t turn on and seems to have water on some of the internal components. Not good, considering I only just got it after breaking my last one at Frogfest.
I needed to pee so I borrowed Shay’s raincoat and wrapped my feet in bin bags so I could put my shoes on without my socks getting soaked. I fixed the tent as best as I could and then figured I might as well pay a visit to the arena, so here I am. I’m damp and a little chilly, but that’s all part of the experience. I imagine I’ll write a poem, watch a talk and then go and get some food.
- Cancel culture kills. It’s a form of mob mentality. It’s a new form of something that’s always existed: bullying.
- It’s a shame he’s just reading from a screen and with no slides.
- He’s autistic and his dad committed suicide five years ago. He’s also ex-Muslim. I didn’t know any of those things.
- 52% of British Muslims and 5% of the overall British population believe you should be criminally prosecuted for being gay.
- “People have rights; ideas do not.”
- “Vegan campout wouldn’t have survived if I’d been white. There’s absolutely non-white privilege.”
- The idea is that if a white atheist criticised a black Muslim for being racist, they get called out as being racist. If a black ex-Muslim does the same, they’re praised for it.
- There’s no such thing as reverse racism. It’s just racism.
- “Not once have I been subjected to racism from the vegan community for being brown. But I see people being attacked for being white several times a week.”
- He’s also been attacked for being white until people have realised he’s a person of colour and then apologised.
- “People have to pretend to act in a certain way or think in a certain way or they risk being ostracised.”
- “Whenever anyone needs to make up lies to get their point across, they probably don’t have a point.”
- “Individual people can’t be blamed for the actions of their government.”
- Entitlement mixed with poor mental health is at the heart of cancel culture.
- “No one has the right to not be offended. Offence is taken, not given.”
After Jordan’s talk, I grabbed some fried chicken from No Fricken Chicken and headed back to the tent to share them with Shay. Then we did our best to tidy and sort our things into wet and dry piles before returning to the main arena together. Shay had some ice cream, smoothies and Chinese food, while I finally satisfied my craving for No Catch with a cod and chips. I also got some ice cream from Lick – Turkish delight, chocolate chip and honeycomb in a strawberry cone with marshmallows on the top.
Sam Ryder is about to perform now, and so I’m sitting on the floor in the middle of the crowd while Shay guards my back. Then we’ll go and see Romesh before returning to the wet tent to eat doughnuts, read and sleep.
You’re a Vision
Down in a hole
in the ocean,
drowned in the hole
like Stephen Keenan,
holding your breath
as the lights go on
and the musicians prepare
to take the stage.
Watch your back,
take your eyeballs out
and turn them around,
tell drunk people
you’d write books and stuff
and watch them run away.
There are children
towering like giants,
a forest of parents’ legs,
the hairs on their heads
partitioned into rows
like the plants we eat.
Monday 31st July 2023
Sam Ryder was pretty good. He doesn’t really make my kind of music, but he’s a decent showman and he was great at interacting with the crowd. Romesh was better though, and he’d brough a fellow vegan comedian to do an opening set. He said he was vegan, he was camp and he was out, so it was the perfect event for him.
Of course, we were exhausted by the time that Romesh’s set was over, so we headed back to the tent. I fell asleep almost immediately, while Shay stayed up for a little while to read some more of The Bedding of Boys by Edward Lorn.
When we woke up in the morning, we packed up our stuff and went to grab some breakfast in the arena before taking down the tent and packing everything away. We walked back to the train station, which took about half an hour if you count our stop for coffee on the way out.
And the rest, as they say, is history. There was engineering work at Bicester North and so we had to get a rail replacement bus to Bicester Village, but it was still an easy enough journey. We were back at around 2 PM and in plenty of time for my 5 PM call. And Biggie had missed us.
Now bring on next year!