When we heard about Vegan Kids Festival we couldn’t wait to find out more…. especially as this is something VeggieVision TV founder Karin Ridgers dreamt of organising many years ago too…. we chat with Dana Burton the former singer, British Airways worker and shop owner turned Kids Festival founder to find out what drives her…..
I started life as a singer, but I got tired of that industry because, it was very cutthroat, but it did teach me a lot of valuable skills, like my hard work ethic, and determination. I was in a Dance show dressing up as Mr Monkey one of the Thorpe park characters when I thought, maybe a need a proper career! So I went and worked at British Airways for 8 years.
During this time I wanted to follow my passion, which was to raise awareness of Ethical products, I was on my own ethical journey and I wanted to bring ethical products to the high street.
I started my shop called Goodfayre, in Salisbury, during my time in the shop, I started chatting to customers and discovered I was maybe not being as ethical as I should be.
The whole premise for my shop was to be as ethical as possible across a wide range of areas, it was our mission to help not harm the planet and all who lived on it. As I learnt from my customers, diary and eggs and honey were not ethical products, up to this point myself and my shop was vegetarian, however I was oblivious to the unethical practices in the dairy industry.
After becoming awoken to these practices, I became vegan, shortly after I convinced my husband to follow and then the children followed suit too.
It seemed wrong to still be selling these products and even though it would mean stopping some of my best selling lines, I made the decision to become a vegan shop.
Living in a somewhat rural and farming community I had no idea the impact, becoming vegan would have on the shop as I’m not sure the people of Salisbury were quite ready, despite the fact I had only dropped a handful of lines, mostly chocolates and honey, and even though I had replaced them with amazing alternatives, some people decided to boycott the store, however, not to be deterred by this we also attracted people from far and wide who did support our mission and some people would travel 40 miles to come to the shop.
We were growing year and year and in some cases too fast, I was always struggling to keep up with having enough stock and cash flow!
But this all became a problem after Salisbury was hit with the Novichock poisonings, things became very uncertain in the town and footfall was dramatically rocked, we lost around 80% of our sales overnight, and it took a long time to recover not just my shop but the whole town.
I tried everything to keep my shop going, but it took over a year to get footfall back to how it was before and by that time, we had lost a large amount of money and we were on the back foot.
I’d started to lose my love for the shop as the work was hard, I was becoming ill from all the stress, but it really hit home when one day I was reading the Mr Men books with my son and I asked him which was I?
I was hoping for Mr Lazy, Mr Greedy but he said Mr Busy! My heart sank my son was about 4 years old and thought I was busy…
It was true, I was working in the shop from 8am to 6pm every day, and evenings I was exhausted or doing admin, I didn’t have time for, my brain was only focused on the shop and I felt enormous guilt.
At the same time, my daughter had just started school as a vegan, and we’d been experiencing a few issues around inclusivity. It got me thinking about how vegan children, are in a difficult position, as adults, we’ve all experienced someone maybe teasing us for being vegan and the stigma attached to a vegan lifestyle can make being the “odd” one out a challenge.
Kids can sometimes have a hard enough time at school, as it is but add in being a vegan and it got me thinking about how vegan children are making great sacrifices for the animals, doing amazing things, and sometimes putting up with grief from their peers or worst their teachers.
It was time to stop the shop. It had run me into the ground. I read a great passage that said “ nothing ever lasts forever, and nor should it.” My shop had served a purpose – I’d seen an amazing effect and introduced lots of people into veganism, including me!
It was time for something new. I was becoming passionate about helping vegan children and their families navigate this non-vegan world.
I wanted to create an event that enabled vegan families and their children to just be vegan, meet other vegan children and eat whatever they wanted, without feeling like, they were something they can’t have.
Coincidently around the same time a young girl had come into my shop who wanted to be vegan and her parents wouldn’t let her. It broke my heart and I tried to help her but knowing she didn’t have her own money there was little I could do to help.
This really started my passion to help vegan kids. And so my idea for the Vegan Kids festival was born.
I started planning for the festival in 2018 for the festival in 2019, but unfortunately, it never went ahead, despite having permission from the council local villagers, decided they didn’t like the sound of the event, and made up a number of lies, saying we’d have 5000 attendings, we’d be riding horses down the street and blackmailing the landowner that if they allowed the event they wouldn’t allow them to have any future events.
In the end the landowner decided they didn’t want the event due to the grief they were receiving. And we had to cancel the festival.
So instead I started building a community of vegan families online and during covid I started running weekend meetups online for vegan kids.
It was great to have the kids connecting with other like minded families.
We ran a few smaller-scale events, such as a summer picnic, Christmas party and even a family residential once covid restrictions allowed us.
Then I decided to bring back the festival for 2022.
Having connections with more vegan families I knew I wasn’t the only vegan parent experiencing difficulties with my kids in School. I heard some horrible stories, of a child having no one attend his birthday due to other parents not letting their kids near the vegan child. People having meat thrown in their faces at school.
I could see it in my own kids too. My 5 year old daughter when she spoke out at school to say cows get hurt when they are milked, was told by her teacher “no they don’t”….. and parents at her birthday party telling their children not to eat the vegan food.
I was once at a party with my daughter and all the kids started chanting “Megan is the worst” as she got an ice lolly and they all got ice cream. I looked to the other parents to stop their kids but it just carried on, it’s one of my biggest regrets that I didn’t speak up for her that day. I was so shocked and astounded that it was even happening.
I knew I had to do something to help vegan kids, and I wanted to create a community for kids to come for support and help to give them more info on what it means to be a vegan kid.
Now My daughter and I record a weekly podcast where we talk about being a vegan kid and what it’s like.
It’s my dream to not just grow the festival as our vegan kids flagship event but also campaign for better rights for Vegan kids, raise awareness around the issues a vegan child might face and create a community and space for vegan children to come together and be the amazing individuals they are and to know they are not the only vegans in the village!
Check out Vegan Kids Festival here!