Barely a year ago, Vegånia was little more than an idea. But now Suvi Kiukas and her friend Roosa Vastamäki are now in the late stages of organising Turku’s first vegan food festival. “I had this idea of some vegan event, and I was kind of hoping that somebody would arrange it in Turku, but nobody did. So I just kind of thought that… maybe I can do it,” Suvi explains to me over coffee. “And I was so happy to get Roosa on board.”
While Suvi has a background in cultural and art history and working in museums, Roosa is a journalist and events producer. Together, the two women have single-handedly organised the inaugural Vegånia festival, and will see their hard work come together when it is held at Vanha Suurtori on the 4th and 5th of August.
The festival aims to show locals that vegan food can be delicious, nourishing and hearty. “I think a lot of people just haven’t tried good vegan food, and so they have these misconceptions about it,” Suvi says. But while she hopes Vegånia will expand people’s understanding and appetites, it’s not about preaching or converting. “We don’t want to lecture people about how good it would be to be a vegan or even vegetarian. It’s simply about giving people options, and showing that you don’t need to eat meat all the time.”
Turku has noticeably embraced veganism more and more in recent years. “The situation has improved a lot, because even about three years ago if you went to a restaurant and asked for a vegan option, it was… not good,” Suvi observes. “Some restaurants didn’t even know what vegan meant. But now it’s better, and 2016 was a vegan-friendly year with all these new products coming to stores.”
The festival will be open 15.00 – 23.00 on Friday and 12.00 – 24.00 on Saturday, with food being sold until closing time. “So there’s plenty of time to come and get some food, then go and come back again!” The list of cooperating restaurants is quite impressive, with some 10-15 businesses operating stalls at the festival, and others selling a special Vegånia menu or dish during the week leading up to the event. From sushi to falafels, and pizza to more local cuisine, Vegånia festival will offer an international feeling.
Since everyone knows that delicious food is best accompanied by excellent beer, Vegånia has also teamed up with the first ever TUPA microbrewery festival. The two festivals will be sharing space at Vanha Suurtori, so visitors can easily enjoy their vegan food and microbrewed beer together. TUPA is being organised by new Kaarina-based brewery Kuninkaantien Panimo, and will feature breweries from around Finland.
As well as the food and beer, there will also be musical entertainment on both nights. Vegånia has organised Friday night’s programme (to be announced soon), and by a happy coincidence Kirjakahvila have organised their annual Punx for Seitan night on the Saturday.
Suvi and Roosa are both looking forward to the festival, having received such positive feedback from people so far. “I’m really excited to see how many people actually show up and what kind of feedback we’ll get during the festival,” says Suvi. “I think many people have quietly planned something like this but just nobody did it. And if people are interested it would be nice to have more people on board for future years.”
Indeed, people don’t have to wait until next year to get involved, with this year’s festival relying on volunteers to help make the two days run smoothly. These volunteer opportunities are still available, and Suvi encourages anyone who may be interested to contact her and Roosa.
For now, Suvi’s enthusiasm and motivation shows no sign of slowing. “You never know where life will take you, but for now I’m living in Turku and I really like it here, and I’d like to collaborate to make the city nicer.”