Celebrating the Sydney Vegan Market: An Interview with Jones
The Sydney Vegan Market (SVM) is a community organisation and charity that comes to life on the third Friday of every month, year round. In each event, around 10,000 visitors and 100 vegan, artisanal and creative stallholders fill the Entertainment Quarter at Moore Park. The days is packed with mindfulness-focused activities, exquisite vegan delicacies, live music performances from talented locals, and a loving community of like-minded, enthusiastic people.
Besides helping build an incredible vegan community, Jones shares insights about the deeper meaning and impact of SVM.
How did you and the Sydney Vegan Market come to meet?
The SVM is presented by a charity called Vegan NSW. Michelle Gravolin, the President of Vegan NSW, approached me to ask about running a monthly vegan market; back then, I had been running two vegan businesses.
She asked if I had time to do it and I said no, but I felt like I had to do it anyway. Since then the organisation has grown. Before the SVM, they used to run a much smaller yearly event in Sydney called the Sydney Vegan Expo - now, the event has grown much larger in so many ways; it’s changed a lot of lives. It’s changed my life, that’s for sure.
How does the SVM stand out?
Once I was given the green light, I knew that I wanted the SVM to be different, fun and accessible that brought the mainstream to veganism. I wanted the mainstream non-vegan community to look at what we were doing for what it is: a resilient, beautiful and strong community that stands for a movement that not only benefits and honours animals, but the earth as well. It isn’t scary or taboo or on the fringes.
I wanted to make sure that we met the needs of all the different segments of the community too, by supporting local musicians to perform on the stage, having mindfulness spaces offering free yoga and meditation sessions for people to come back to their bodies and get some care that way.
As a massive foodie, I really wanted to have a really big, curated selection of incredible food. By showing how delicious vegan food is, the stigma around it diminishes as well.
What’s one side of the vegan movement that you’d like to highlight more to the mainstream?
There are many sides. But I think at the top of the list is food. Veganism is about what we eat and the decisions we make about what we consume. Positioning veganism as a delicious food that has come about without causing harm to anyone is just so powerful, especially because it’s a way to reflect the strong sense of empathy in the movement. On a similar note, veganism understands that we live, and have to survive, in capitalism, making our money money is our strongest voice. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true - not putting our money in places that cause harm is a form of taking action.
These small businesses are so hardworking. Because we’re trying to push against this mainstream conditioning that tells us that these animal products like meat and dairy are what we need to survive, which is obviously just incorrect. One of the most interesting things that I’ve seen since we’ve launched the market are the businesses that have developed since. Starting a business is much more doable when you have a solid monthly event where lots of people come and are excited for your products.
Another thing that has been so exciting to witness is the stallholder community and how close they are. The relationships that they’ve developed together and the things that they do together outside of us is just so lovely. It’s so powerful to work together and just to feel together, and especially after 2020... God we need it.
What does the SVM stand for?
We can point to the Vegan NSW mission: “To inspire new vegans, sustain the vegan community and support the vegan movement”. Veganism is a wonderful way to live! Everything about it falls under a compassionate umbrella.
So earlier you said that you felt like you had to do the SVM, why’s that?
I was the only one in Sydney doing vegan markets already that were a bit different to what was already happening. There were big annual festivals, but I felt like there could be some change in the way that vegan markets were produced and presented to the community. My daughter and I were running these quarterly night markets that just kept getting bigger, so I knew from the moment we started doing them that it was something that the community so desperately needed and wanted.
The first market I ran was with my friend Caro, who now lives in Amsterdam, in my studio kitchen in Marrickville that was 50sqm. The space filled up in seconds and there even was a line outside the door. The positive response was wonderful, and we quickly realised it was needed and wanted by people. So when Michelle spoke to me about this, I felt like I needed to do this to take it further with the help of a non-profit organisation.
Today, the SVM today is 25,000 sqm.
And you also said that it changed your life?
When I first started to do SVM I was running two other businesses. One was called the Vegan Teahouse which was a wholesale business that produced and distributed a range of vegan, gluten free and refined sugar free products to cafes and health food stores around NSW, and Maker Cafe which was this big commercial kitchen space that I ran with my former business partner. This kind of defined what would eventually become what is my purpose in life, which is to support other vegan businesses.
So my role is not only coordinating the SVM, but also rolling out these vegan markets around the state; to support the vegan communities everywhere.
I feel honoured, and it’s such hard work. It’s very stressful and a lot of responsibility for me. But to see the impact that it has on small businesses and on the community is the best. How lucky I am, really.
How does it feel to be at the front of such a meaningful and impactful market?
There’s duality in everything, I find. I can hold that this can be very overwhelming and stressful to manage. There's so much that goes into it, and as a very small organisation that relies so heavily on volunteers it’s quite something. At the same time, it’s unbelievable that I find myself doing this job. What an honour! I just feel so grateful that the work that I do can have such a profound positive impact on people. This makes it worthwhile, all the stress and anxiety that I feel so often is so worth it when I can step out of the experience that it is for me and look at how it does impact so positively on so many people. I think it makes it okay, I can hold it.
Making sure that the community feels safe is huge for me. As a trans queer person, seeing other queer trans people and people of colour and disabilities; a vast array of marginalised people coming to the event and feeling safe...is just so big for me. To have a safe place where all of the intersections of the vegan community can meet and feel held and seen and then eat some great food and buy heaps of amazing products is just wow...lucky me, honestly.
Empathy, solidarity and compassion are some of the many values that the vegan movement is solidly grounded on. In a mission to push back the inequality and injustice in the world, being part of a community - a way of living - that promotes inclusivity, creativity, tolerance and respect for life on Earth, may just be our strongest asset.
SVM was OLEU LIFE’s first market, but has become way more than that. Thanks to the platform they have provided, our fellow stallholders have become our friends, and the community has become our family. As stallholders at the SVM, we couldn't express more gratitude for everyone that has continued to support our objectives, and appreciated the artisanal work behind our products. Your love and good energy is received well, loud and clear. In fact, we’d like you to know that your support acts as a strengthening force to the movement for a fairer, happier world.
Thanks again to the organisers, attendees and everything in between at the SVM for making it what it really is - an oasis of love, inclusivity and togetherness.
Happy Birthday Sydney Vegan Market!