As most, if not all of you know [unless you’ve been living under a rock these passed few weeks] London hosted the 2012 Allergy and Free From Show, and twitter was a buzz with everyone tweeting how amazing it was and how much fun they had!
However, some of us weren’t so lucky to be able to attend and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who looked on enviously at the tweets during that weekend! But fear not my free from friends, as there’s another one this year and it’s in Liverpool! So all us Northern Folk don’t have to travel that far to attend the show!
But I bet you’re wondering what to expect, you’re thinking what’s it’s actually all about and debating whether or not it’s worth attending! Well, my free from peeps, the lovely Kevin Gollop has kindly agreed to do a guest blog for y’all and let you know what happens at an Allergy & Free From Show!
“Hi all! My name is Kevin Gollop (@kgollop for those of you on Twitter) and I am fresh back from a great trip to London for the Allergy and Free From Show. I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease last year so this was my first visit to the event. Saara has very kindly invited me to share my experience of the day, to give those of you who could not make it an idea of what goes on.
My wife, Abby, and I decided to visit the show on Saturday. We travelled up all the way from Plymouth, so decided to make a weekend of it. This was a great decision (more on this later). I woke up on the Saturday morning bursting with excitement; I never would have thought a year ago that I’d ever be so excited to attend an allergy show. How life has changed!
A short walk from our hotel in Kensington and we arrived at Olympia just after the 10am start time. We handed over our free tickets (courtesy of this very blog – thanks Saara!), and were welcomed to the show with a goodie bag. We entered the huge hall and there were stands everywhere, over 160 in total! Where do we start? It was a little overwhelming so we stopped to buy a program with a detailed map.
The first stand we stopped at offered a selection of curry samples, very tasty and then they offered us some chutneys. They put some on gluten bread for Abby, and were then about to use the same spoon to put some on gluten free bread for me! Abby let them know in no uncertain terms that they’d just contaminated the chutney and this would make me very ill. Off to a bad start but I survived the scare!
Next we stopped by the Ms Cupcake stand and tried some samples, before buying a couple of very impressive looking cupcakes. I must admit to having a mild panic after trying the cake samples, it seemed so alien to be able to take cake samples from a tray I was a bit afraid at first. I must have said “and this is definitely gluten free right?!” about 1000 times on the day.
The next stand and another goodie bag from Sainsbury’s, and we decided we maybe should be a bit more selective before we ended up with more than we could carry! New tactic was to browse first and come back for stuff just before we leave. As it turned out, most of the stands were just giving taster samples rather than goodie bags to take away.
All the big players such as Coeliac UK, Glutafin, Dietary Specials, Marks & Spencer, Doves Farm, Tesco and Genius were all present. It was great to see Fria there too as I’d heard many good things but never got to sample them. Their bread was great, but their chocolate cake was even better! I was one of the lucky few to get a goodie bag from the lovely Monika at Fria too which was a bonus.
It was some of the smaller companies at the show which were the highlight for me though. Clives Pies from Buckfastleigh in Devon (close to home) offered some delicious pies, full of flavour. I’ll definitely be tracking them down now I’m home. Sweetcheeks Ltd offered some amazing cup cakes, and I was more than happy to buy a box of six to take home (they didn’t last long!). There were some decent offers on too, I picked up four packs of Sakata crackers for a fiver with a bag for life thrown in.
While there we took the opportunity so meet up with several of the gluten free Twitter community. I managed to spend an hour and a half chatting to some of the tweeps after a “tweet-up” organised by the fabulous Siân Drew (@GlutenFreeMrsD). This was one of the highlights of the day for me and it was great to meet some other coeliacs to chat with, and to say hi to some lovely people who have helped me so much with my coeliac journey over the past year. It was also good to say hello to Alex Gazolla (@HealthJourno) on the Free From Awards stand.
Also available at the show was a series of seminars, cooking demonstrations and workshops that you could attend for more information. To be honest I spent so much time gabbing at the tweet-up that we didn’t really have time for this. Overall it was a great experience and we went homes stuffed (the organic sausage from Supreme Sausages on a Warburtons bap for lunch helped with that!). It was great to meet so many enthusiastic people on the stands and try so many new things. It was also just nice to be in an environment where I was “normal” for the day too. I’d really recommend a visit to the show for anyone who hasn’t been. Be careful though, some of the free from food offerings are dairy free, nut free etc and not gluten free. Always check before eating anything!
I didn’t get many good photos, but pay a visit to The Live Gluten Free website who did.
What I would say, is if you are going to make the effort to go to London then make a weekend of it. While we were there we took the time to visit some amazing gluten free friendly restaurants. We were lucky enough to get some brilliant recommendations from Siân, and it really helped make the time away amazing. Thanks again Siân! We visited Wahaca (Mexican), Honest Burger (amazing burger in a glutenfree bun), Leons (twice) and I had an incredible gluten free deep dish meatball pizza at Otto. Honest Burger and Otto even had gluten free beer! All of these places also offered great vegetarian options for Abby too.
We of course went to see some of the sites and I got dragged to some shops too. Whole Food Market has lots of gluten free offerings and was worth a visit. It was an incredible three days away, so much great gluten free food I was fit to burst by the time we set off back to Plymouth! I’m sure we’ll be going back next year, and I hope to meet some of you at the next tweet-up”
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