Swansea Vegans was founded by George Barwick in 2002, and George ran the group for the next five years. See below for his account of the years 2002-2007 (and this is followed by a brief account of the years since).
George still gets to a few events, and in 2018 he self published an 80-page A4 book 'My Life and My Thoughts', complete with many family photos. The physical book is no longer available but a free digital copy (with some updates, and just the more significant photos) is available from George at george.barwick [at] ntlworld.com. Photo opposite shows George, with book, at a small event in February 2018 marking its publication - this took place at Canteen 18, Swansea's vegan café.
Then in January 2019 Sandeep Dinker interviewed George at Canteen 18. The 12-minute interview is on YouTube at https://youtu.be/_MS_n2kOE8Y
For a number of years in the latter part of the 20th century I ran the Swansea Vegetarian Society, taking over from Ray Davies. We used to meet monthly at members' homes and, as I recall, it was a friendly and cosy arrangement and worked well. One day a woman from Baglan asked if she could take over and I agreed, and I resigned as Hon Sec/Treasurer. Strangely that was the last we heard of her and the Swansea Vegetarian Society ceased to exist.
In 2002, around the time of my retirement from lecturing at the Swansea Institute of Higher Education (now Swansea Metropolitan University), I thought that it would be nice to again have an active group of people who didn't eat dead animals, and decided that as lacto-vegetarians were fairly common these days it might be an idea to make it the Swansea VEGAN Society. So I contacted the national Vegan Society for names of vegans in this area. They sent me a list of Vegan Society members living in South Wales, which was rather more extensive than I had intended (including people from Cardiff), but it served to enable me to write to all these lovely people and tell them that I was planning to set up a group of vegans in and around Swansea.
Our inaugural meeting took place on 24th July 2002 at the Friends Meeting House at the bottom of Page Street in Swansea, and the following eleven people attended: myself, my wife Shirley, Nesta Thomas, Holly Machin, Lynne Jackson, Pat Crawford, Dianne Bellett-Bray, Michael Sosner, Malcolm Horne, Bob Howes and Derek Jenkins.
It was decided not to call ourselves the Swansea Vegan Society but just 'Swansea Vegans'. We carried on meeting at the Friends Meeting House on the third Monday of each month at 7pm, and whilst we were meeting socially we occasionally had speakers in to tell us about a variety of topics including greyhound rescue work, the Dr Hadwen Trust (medical research without animal testing), nutrition, vegan-organic gardening, Druidism, veganism in Poland, the Green Party, biodiesel production, kinesiology, etc, and we once had poetry readings too. But most of our meetings took the form of discussions. Topics included: Medicine and veganism, Food retailing and veganism, National Vegan Week and World Vegan Day, Just how precious is life anyway?, A vegan view of cultures and religions around the world, Is it enough just to be a vegan?, The effectiveness of direct action for animal rights, and Bringing up children as vegans.
Each year in December we had a Christmas dinner at Govinda's Restaurant (or the Retreat) and the attendances at these events were always very encouraging. In 2006 fifty-five people turned up - this was a record.
In March 2003 we did a trip to the Centre for Alternative Technology at Machynlleth. We went by minibus and had a very interesting and enjoyable time. We also booked minibuses for trips to Bristol for the annual and very popular Vegan Fayre.
Malcolm Horne used to organise one-week Vegan Summer Gatherings (they began in Devon in 1994), and in 2003, 2004 and 2005 he ran them in Swansea. People came from various parts of the UK and indeed from foreign parts as well. Swansea Vegans got involved in some of their events and it was interesting to meet with vegan people from outside our area.
Some of us were involved in a number of trips to Cambridge and Oxford to take part in demos against animal testing at Huntingdon Life Sciences and at Oxford University.
In July 2006 the National Eisteddfod was held in Swansea and a number of Swansea Vegans manned a stall with the title Respect for Animals. It was a lot of work but quite an experience. We were visited by a number of dairy farmers (and others!), and several vigorous discussions took place regarding the morality of milk and egg and meat production. On one day I had to explain my objections to animal testing to a Home Office Inspector who had, for years, visited vivisection laboratories - ostensibly to monitor the research and ensure that there was no excessive suffering inflicted on the animals. I believe that these inspectors are a waste of time in this respect.
One abiding memory that I have among many events during the five years in which I served as Swansea Vegans co-ordinator was my 70th birthday party at my house in July 2005 when THIRTY-SIX vegans attended. It was a record for us up to that point but, of course, the record was broken in December of that year when fifty-five people turned up for the Christmas do.
In July 2007 we had the last meeting under my stewardship, which had lasted for five years. We did not involve ourselves in any formal discussion apart from what might happen to the group in the future. We simply enjoyed each other's company and the food that we had brought along for the occasion. I hope that the group continues to provide a facility for vegans in and around Swansea to meet, get to know each other and swap ideas - and spread the gospel to the rest of the world!
The years since
Christina Palfrey took over the running of the group for a while after George retired in 2007, and later Malcolm Horne ran some small events. In 2010 Tony Martin set up both this website and the Swansea Vegans Facebook group. Perhaps as much as anything it is Facebook that has helped to propel things forward, giving people an easy way to connect with each other, and nowadays many local vegan groups (for better or for worse!) are based around their Facebook group. Our own group is a hive of activity, while the separate Swansea Vegan Social Club organises assorted social events.
Swansea Vegfest and local festivals
A small meeting in October 2013 inspired sisters Deby & Karen McCloy (see photo above) to set up a new but closely connected group, Swansea Vegfest. They stepped back in 2017, and these words of thanks appeared on the Swansea Vegfest Facebook page soon afterwards:
"We're grateful to them for the work they did and proud of how much we've achieved to date. Swansea Vegfest was established in 2014. Our first event was an intimate summer festival held in the Environment Centre and was attended by just over 200 people. Fast forward to 2017 and we're now an organisation that hosts a large summer festival in the Brangwyn Hall (attended by over 3,000 people), a Christmas Market in the National Waterfront Museum (attended by over 2,000 people) and various smaller events throughout the city each year. We're also so grateful to our larger network of volunteers, who help us spread our passion for veganism. We'd like to thank Karen and Deby for beginning this amazing adventure and wish them the best for the future."
Although Swansea Vegfest no longer run major events in Swansea, the Swansea Vegan Festival at the Brangwyn Hall has continued. It was organised by Viva! in 2019, and Vegan Effect plan to run the festival in the summer of 2021 (the festival scheduled for June 2020 had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus).
Back to Swansea Vegans home page
George Barwick with his book
(photo: Jane Hitchman)
Swansea Vegans picnic
Clyne Gardens 2014
Deby & Karen McCloy
Swansea Vegfest founders
Vegan Christmas Market 2015