Meat-free musclemen, no-dairy dating, natural nibbles and animal-friendly foodies packed the Brighton Centre for a veggie bonanza.

Brighton and Hove was hailed as the “centre of vegetarian and veganism in the UK” as hundreds of vegan stalls and thousands of punters packed the venue over the weekend for Vegfest.

Performances and talks were held throughout the weekend featuring activists, vegan comedians, chefs, athletes and campaigners.

Brighton-raised Ellie Bedford, author of vegan children’s cookbook How to Eat a Rainbow, held cooking demonstrations showing how to make vegan brownies.

She said: “There has been a huge increase in the number of people going vegan and a lot of celebrities as well, which has really raised the profile.

“When I’m cooking I just throw things together.”

“I don’t follow strict recipes.

“My children are big influences; there were no healthy kids’ cookery books so it inspired me to write my own and make it so they can have fun.

“The festival is really brilliant, it is my first time coming to Vegfest in Brighton and I am chuffed to be back in the city.”

A team of vegan bodybuilders were also on hand throughout the weekend to show you can be a competitive athlete while being a vegan.

Jasmijn De Boo, CEO of the Vegan Society, hailed Brighton and Hove as the “centre of vegetarian and veganism in the UK”.

She said: “It has been a fantastic weekend.

“I do not think it has ever been bigger than this and it is growing every year with more high calibre speakers and even more events,” she added.

“We had a 25 per cent growth in membership over the past three years and last year alone we had 11per cent – it is definitely showing there is a lot more interest.

“More and more people are taking the vegan pledge, in which you go vegan for a month, and it is really encouraging.

“We are trying to reach out to non-vegans to show it is easy, fun, and healthy.”

This year was Vegfest’s first at the Brighton Centre, having moved from its previous home at Hove Town Hall.

Tim Barford, Vegfest’s founder, who has been a vegan since 1984, said: “If you truly care about animals, you go vegan.

“If you truly care about the environment, you go vegan.

“If you truly care about people going hungry, you go vegan.

“And if you truly care about your own health, you go vegan.”

Sussex stalls

Sussex-based festival stalls included:

- Vitalise Nutrition, founded by Shirah Mustardé from Lewes, which specialises in Live Blood Analysis – which looks at your blood to determine factors such as nutrient deficiencies.

- Simply Veg, an Indian street food company from Portslade, served up vegan spins on Indian classics.

- Merrydown brew served up crisp glasses of cider brewed at Horam Manor near Heathfield.

Vegan speed dating

VEGANS looking for love tried their hand at speed dating.

Among stalls touting everything from vegan socks to meat-free hot dogs, one hall opened up for veg festival-goers hoping to find more in common than a mutual love of lentils.

Vegetarians and vegans were given the opportunity to sign up for the unique speed-dating session in the hope of finding a special someone with the same ethical values.

Karin Ridgers, 44, founder of Veggie Vision TV, has been running veggie speed dating at the festival for four years.

She said: “This isn’t just ‘we don’t eat meat’; this is our lifestyle and our passion. It means the world to us.

“This is the fourth year for the dating. The atmosphere and the people are great.

“Everyone’s up for having a giggle and a laugh and not taking it too seriously.

“This year people have been saying they are coming to Veg Fest because of the speed dating.”

The turn-out for the event was so good there was a waiting list of those eager to find a date among the dairy-free.

Mrs Ridgers said: “The main aim is for everyone to have a good time and to be inspired by Vegfest.”