Mofo Interview : Poet Dominic Berry


Dominic Berry is a poet who has just completed a run at the Edinburgh Festival with his show "The Dragon who hated poetry". He's also well known as a vegan poet, not just a poet who happens to be a vegan but someone who writes poetry about issues connected to veganism. Dominic lives and works in Manchester's Northern Quarter so he was a perfect choice for this years Mofo theme!

How long have you been vegan and what brought you to make that decision?

I was a real jonny-come-lately to being vegan. In 2008 I 'came out' proud as vegan to the world (that was a not-so-subtle self reference to my 'hit' poem, 'I'm Coming Out as Vegan'. Us poets gotta plug our 'hits' whenever we can. I say 'hit' with inverted commas cos I'm not sure poets really have 'hits', but if they do, that is mine. If I was Lulu then that would be my 'To Sir With Love'. Or my 'Independence', depending on your age and depth of understanding of the works of Lulu, in which some vegans is, it must be said, sadly lacking. I mean, we're all fine for B12 but ask us about nineteen sixties girl singers? How many vegans can hum the tune to 'I'm a Tiger'? Or quote all the words to 'Boat That I Row?')


I meet many older vegans who became so when it was way more difficult to get stuff. It is dead easy now. That's up there with the number one reactions I get when outed as vegan - 'oooooh, it must be hard....' The other thing folk say is 'Vegan? Really? You look well for it' ...which I think means they think I'm fat. Hmmmm... Vegan cake? Vegan pizza??!! VEGAN MAYONNAISE??!!?? Lotsa folk reckon its all dust and cardboard and I can honestly say I have never eaten dust or cardboard once in my whole vegan life. I mean, dust and cardboard might taste great and all but swedish glace looks nicer.

I went veggie when I was at school after moving from London to the Welsh countryside. City kids don't often see where their food comes from or, more to the point, how it is treated. It has always been the 'how it's treated bit' that got me.

I get really angry by stuff like 'happy eggs' - 'happy' isn't really a legally definable term, is it? The conditions of so-called free range chickens can be horrific.  I love being vegan - the food is great, you meet cool people and there's ever increasing amounts of awesome vegan events. Even vegan poets! Did I mention I am a poet?

Yes I think you might've mentioned it! So as a professional poet you travel a fair bit. How do you cope with eating vegan whilst you're travelling?

I have always loved eating out so if Happy Cow can recommend a place online I am in. I often stay over folks houses on the road and the number of hearty home cooked meals I get cooked is humbling. Most hotels will get you in soya if you ask nice. Anyone who can get me a strong, milky coffee will get me at my best.


Do you have any favourite places for vegan food on your travels or have there been any places that you've travelled to where it's been difficult?

Vita Organic (I think its still called that, mighta changed its name) in Soho In London is excellent. One of the healthier places I love. Its right near Beetroot which is also top notch. All those smoothies full of weirdly named berries and seeds and stuff that doesn't make it that smooth at all.

But V Revolution in Manchester - right on my door step - that is my all time favourite place. 100% vegan - burgers as big as a mountain - vanilla fudge ice cream float milkshakes - sooooooooo good! The breakfast burger - a burger with hash browns, sausage and bacon in it - in a burger! A burger - that is a work of art. More beautiful than the Mona Lisa. More beautiful than TWO Mona Lisas... covered in Tofutti.

I can't think of anywhere that's been difficult. I went for a meeting in a small village in Cheshire today and so just took a wrap from 8th Day Cafe with me. I didn't check the village's vegan credentials - very possibly I did it a disservice by not giving it a chance.

You live in Manchester's Northern Quarter. Which shops or eateries  would you recommend and why?

As well as V Revolution - I have always loved Earth Cafe - great healthy mains and then stunning, creamy cakes for that essential naughty / nice balance. If you're out with folks who simply cannot eat without having meat, Dough is great for vegan friendly stuff too - they got the dairy free cheese and the staff are lovely. Oklahoma not only has vegan cake and hot tucker but their shop has enough tat for every Christmas and birthday gift you'll ever need for the rest of your life! The Indian takeaway next door, Little Aladdin's, is top for vegan curries. Nexus Art Cafe have a few vegan options and of course Odd Bar has its amazing fried breakfast which is vegantastic!

Where can people catch you performing live during the rest of 2013?
I'll be performing my children's show 'The Dragon Who Hates Poetry' at Sale Waterside Arts Centre Sunday 6th October and Bury Met Tuesday 29th October (the accompanying book has two vegan poems in it, 'Oh Sandwich' and 'Vegan Elle'.) I'm in Manchester Literature Festival on Sunday 20th October. At East Midlands and West Midlands vegan Festivals with both adult and kids verse. Come over and say 'Hi', always good to meet new vegans and folk who are interested in this funny ol' vegan way!

Dominic's website is dominicberry.net

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