Landmark event shows how eating more plants can save the planet

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This blog is based on my Big Table podcast recorded at this week’s historic dinner at the Savoy Hotel in London, which you can download here.

Pippa Glucklich: WACL President, Gelf Alderson: Executive Head Chef of River Cottage, Joanna Lumley OBE, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Philip Lymbery with some of the plant based ingredients  created for The Savoy’s first ever vegan banquet. ©BronacMcNeill

On the evening of Monday 26th November, an industry networking organisation, Women in Advertising and Communications in London (WACL) hosted the first, major vegan banquet at The Savoy, London which is also believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

It was an idea that started life almost a year ago.

Driven by the critical need to move to a more sustainable food system with less meat and dairy in our diet, WACL kindly invited Compassion in World Farming to put together a landmark event to remember.  We put our heads together and decided to undertake the first ever plant-based banquet in order to start a dialogue with WACL’s high profile, professional guests about the future of protein and the wider implications for animals and people on the planet.  

I invited two of our valued Patrons, Joanna Lumley OBE and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to help, asking Joanna to be a guest speaker and Hugh and his wonderful River Cottage chefs, to devise a plant-based menu to show how eating plants can not only save the planet, but be delicious and enjoyable.  Both were immediately up for the task, ‘Apparently a vegan feast on this scale was a first for the Savoy, and possibly for UK hotel banqueting so I was thrilled about that and thrilled to be involved’ said Hugh, Founder of River Cottage.

WACL, a highly respected members club of some 95 years standing and comprising 200 of the most senior and influential women within the communications industry, set about helping Compassion stage this unique evening to create change, confront prejudices and challenge business minds. As a result, on Monday night and for the first time in history, London’s most famous hotel, The Savoy served a sit-down, plant-based banquet in their beautiful ballroom to 400 high profile, professional guests.  As well as, Joanna Lumley, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Peter Egan, the diners included celebrities, WACL club members and their guests; the vast majority of whom were CEO’s and Directors representing some of the world’s leading companies, including all the major food and drink businesses.

Compassion in World Farming Patrons: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Joanna Lumley OBE and Peter Egan with Philip Lymbery ©BronacMcNeill

Banquet guests enjoyed a highly creative menu, starting with a delicious Beetroot Houmous appetiser and culminating in a heavenly Chocolate and Somerset Cider Brandy Torte with star anise baked pears, thyme ice cream and cashew cream.  Pippa Glucklich, WACL’s President chaired the evening brilliantly, with Hugh giving an early speech about the importance of plant-based eating and providing the detail behind the River Cottage recipes.  After dinner, I spoke about the need for an urgent rethink of food and farming systems and for people to reduce meat consumption in favour of more plants and better quality non-factory farmed meat, milk and eggs.  

The evening closed with Joanna Lumley, who brought the curtain down on the historic night and was ably interviewed by TV presenter, Francine Stock.  Joanna, fresh from her tour ‘It’s All About Me’, was clearly on top form and we were delighted that she took the time to be present on such a special night. Joanna also shared her thoughts on why we urgently need to change our dietary habits, ‘I am thrilled to be part of this ground-breaking plant-based WACL dinner at the Savoy. The food was original and absolutely delicious. I’ve always loved Compassion in World Farming’s amazingly successful campaigning to end factory farming and am proud to be a Compassion Patron. With deforestation, ocean pollution and climate change sending us all a wake-up call, it’s time for us all to change our habits, including our diets. As ever, Compassion in World Farming is leading the way!’

Joanna Lumley OBE being interviewed by TV presenter Francine Stock in the beautiful Savoy ballroom and in front of 400 guests ©BronacMcNeill

Pippa Glucklich and Joanna Lumley in The Savoy Ballroom looking at books by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Philip Lymbery ©BronacMcNeill

It was a truly historic and memorable evening and I’m delighted to share my conversations featuring Joanna, Hugh and Pippa, as well as some of the other guests. Please do listen to the podcast here.

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