Doncaster born now Nottingham resident Scarlett Lee shares her journey into veganism. 

Words: Scarlett Lee

Food love. South Yorkshire Pride. Vegans. 

‘Peckish’ was how a friend’s mum described me as a child and I’m still getting over it. I think she meant ‘greedy’. I was always into food. I still love food. Eating out or in. Being creative. Showing love. Exploring a place when I visit for the first time. I always remember what I ate.

Doncaster Market, 1990. The fishmongers bit. I’m there with my brother and my dad. Cute little plates on the counter. Cockles with vinegar. Happiness. I’m standing up like you do to eat there. Mind the gritty bits.

Conisbrough, 1997. School dinners. Margarita pizza every day (in) or chips and curry (out). Mr Lau’s polystyrene cones of goodness. Always exactly one ladle of curry. Never more. I always hoped. Lots of vinegar. Sometimes ham, finely sliced by the machine, on white from the bread shop. One time I got the end of the ham and it reminded me of a little hamster carcass and I couldn’t eat it. Slowly things changed.

Doncaster town centre, c. 1998. A wallpaper table set up in the high street with that awful poster of the cat with the bolt through its skull. The animal rights people have interesting hair. I’m there in my army surplus camo combats my dad bought me from the shop near the market. Felt super cool. Spice Girls and All Saints.

2009. Commuting in the car. There’s a news item on the radio about dairy calves. This is the reason many of us vegans are vegan. To get milk you have to have a recently pregnant cow. Enter the baby. Useful? Not really, so off to the slaughter he goes. Sitting in the car,I know this and I’ve known it for ages. I am a hypocrite. I’ve been a vegetarian for years by now yet I know I’m contributing to misery and death. I stop. I do research. I watch films online but stop short of Earthlings. It feels exciting and right eating new types of foods. My diet expands. I can still eat cake. I’m glad.

I’m not the first vegan in the village. We have a star of the vegan hall of fame to call our own – Donald Watson, founder of the Vegan Society, no less. Donald was born in Mexborough in 1910. He was the son of the headmaster of Denaby Main School. He had an epiphany at 14 and stopped eating meat. He didn’t do badly on his innings, living to old bones of 95.

Back when Donald was young, things were different. In fact, Donald and his gang were so radical they had to decide how they were going to describe this new, compassionate lifestyle. According to the Vegan Society,I could well be calling myself a ‘benevore’ or a ‘vitan’ had  they opted for one of the other suggestions. The latter sounds to me like a person from the planet Health. To be fair, ‘vegan’ is a funny word and has always made me think of Spock and Vulcans. Live long and prosper, and eat cruelty free.

Aged 92, Donald was interviewed in 2002, still going strong and with a lot to say (the transcript is 34 pages long) – remembering childhood, sowing seeds in the yard of his South Yorkshire “row house”. He became a carpenter by trade and wrote the Vegan News, a hand – printed early ‘zine predating the Vegan Society (est. 1944). He gave his thoughts on everything from political activism (direct action: “I’ve respect for all the people who do it, but my own personal feeling is that I wouldn’t do it…”)to being a conscientious objector in World War 2 (“Suppose they sent me to a slaughterhouse? Or anywhere elsewhere I’m expected to conform to orders from above?”).I wonder what he would make of Donny and all the good stuff that’s happening there now.

Back to 2015. I live in Nottingham now. Not far, but I’m proud to be from South Yorkshire.I miss our green hills and woods sometimes. Tyrion Lannister, aka the actor Peter Dinklage, Woody Harrelson and Russell Brand are famous vegans. It’s not really ‘outsider’ any more.It’s accessible.Food bloggerJack Monroe is posting vegan recipes. She’s not vegan but she likes them. My friends (not vegan) have me over for dinner. No, it’s ok ,I don’t need to bring my own food, they tell me. They are good friends, kind and inclusive, but mainly they are just familiar by now with what I don’t eat. They don’t have to think about it so it’s no bother, and their food is often vegan anyway. It’s cheap–see Jack Monroe’s recipes–healthy and local. My mum, unsolicited, recently produced a surprise Pyrex filled with a favourite childhood stew and dumplings. She used vegetable suet in the dumplings. It’s a winter cuddle straight from the 80s.

So thanks Donald Watson. We have a proud food heritage in South Yorkshire. We also have a proud activism heritage. We stand up for what we believe in and it feels good-the miners, the unions, the women, the workers and the vegans.I’m proud.


Recipes. Information. Campaigning. Shop.


Resources, free talks and cookery demos to schools.


Enter your location–anywhere in the world–and you’re given veg friendly cafes, restaurants and hotels. The first thing I look at when travelling anywhere.


Post Punk Kitchen. For the attitude and food porn. Isa is American.There are plenty of UK blogs,but this is worth a look.


Leeds – based mother and daughter. More on the health angle.


Not vegan, but anti-poverty and feminist campaigner, and Best Blog winner. Lots here for anyone wanting to leave out the animal products.

Skinny Dipping

Craig talks about the rising musician, Skinny Pelembe. Skinny will be performing at CAST this year on the 23rd of January so make sure to book tickets on the website HERE.

Words: Craig manga

Fade in.

I’m a man on a mission, a detective piecing together parts of a puzzle.


A sense of mystery surrounds the young man known as Skinny Pelembe. In the past few days, I’ve attempted to seek out this living conundrum who hails from my hometown, but his presence remains elusive. In a sense, I’m relieved. I want to retain that star mythos that surrounds him.


Just who is Skinny Pelembe?

What are his origins, his touch-stones, his motivations? I have no answer. But read on, to join me on a quest to find out and discover one of the freshest new talents in the known universe (let alone Northern England).


Donning my Sherlock cap (and headphones), I have immersed myself in the man’s modest but formidable back catalogue, whilst simultaneously scouring the net and music mags for interviews, reviews and bios, to flesh out the man behind the music.


Several objective facts surface. I do know that Skinny Pelembe was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, moved to the UK, then grew up in my own humble town of Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Presently, he is based in London. He describes himself, if pushed,  as “grumpy” and “secretly funky”. He is an avid fan of old-school hiphop and many of its mutant offshoots, triphop and illbient. He plays sun-dappled guitar (and jazz-infused keys), sings in the sweetest swoon-inducing falsetto, has a magpie-like propensity towards samples, programs, produces and MCs. His sound is – oxymoronically – both huge yet intimate. The man has recently signed to Brownswood Recordings, releasing a brand new track ‘I’ll Be On Your Mind’, having already released wonderful output for the London imprint. He has received much-welcomed support from Doncaster-based Higher Rhythm studios and BBC 6 Music DJ Gilles Peterson. ’Should You Go’ was premiered on Peterson’s radio show, and features on the latest edition of the Brownswood Bubblers compilations. Skinny Pelembe is also part of the Future Bubblers collective, the Arts Council England-funded programme led by Peterson, for developing new, unsigned acts.


I pondered several key questions (of personal interest): What are his influences? What other artists inform his work?


Skinny, in some previous interview, admitted to some eclectic guilty pleasures amongst the usual suspects, “Wu-Tang, Erykah Badu, Johnny Cash… Roots Manuva, The Jam, Gil Scott Heron, Blur, Nina Simone, Daedelus…Van Halen…The Smiths, Fela Kuti, Mos Def…The Fall, DJ Shadow, Portishead. Whatever was on that months Mixmag CD and way too many cheesy mod compilations.”


Skinny started his fledgling musical efforts on acoustic guitar around the age of eight. A year later, in the UK, McDonalds project Our Town Story had kids recount their town’s history through music/dance at the former Millennium Dome. As a footnote, Skinny accidentally enrolled in the dance section and endured a week’s worth of freestyle and Bollywood classes because he was too shy to say he was in the wrong group. This probably informs the eclecticism of his music and his willingness to explore.


He asserts, ”I don’t know how you can think it’s okay to still carry on doing carbon copies of whatever has already happened, especially after hearing something like DJ Shadow, or Portishead… there’s something beautiful about tradition, heritage and purism but it’s artists like these that really stand true to what I love about hip-hop and music in general; sounding out your own unique voice.”


Then came the switch to electric when Skinny’s dad started buying tapes at car boot sales.


“(Dad) popped in ‘Baker Street’, and I knew, whatever happened from then on, I was either gonna have to learn how to play guitar solos or sax riffs. Guitar had more street cred in Donny, so that was it.”


Another life-shaper involved a complete stranger on Instagram. As a result of the advice he was offered, Skinny now writes down details of all his dreams in a notebook as inspiration for his lyrics, yielding results that are equally surreal and startlingly direct. These night scribbles are then woven into loose, textured rhythms and brightly tinted melodies. His songs exist in the wonderfully fuzzy margins of hook-laden dreampop (has there ever been a more apt and literal description?) skirting hazy, translucent psyche-jazz. The perfect overlapping centre of this crazed Venn diagram? Whoah.


So, those expecting Skinny’s output to be pure unadulterated pop might be disappointed. However, if pop means wide-ranging, anything goes sonic assemblages cut with a maverick sensibility, this might truly suit: It’s a cohesive body of work, closer in spirit to those multiple-genre, multi-tasking acts such as Beck, Bjork and Sufjan Stevens, although he sounds like none of these. This fleeting, flitting spirit crops up on recent single ‘Spit / Swallow’ which weaves and wefts cavernous dub textures, gauzy pastoral guitar loops, sampladelic textures and cut-and-pasted steel-tipped hip-hop beats (which intersplice samples/found sounds with real organic drum breaks to superb organic effect) into this fine-detailed sonic tapestry. It all hangs together perfectly with not a thread out of place. Beyond the superficial production sheen, there is a true talent for melody and true songcraft, every tune is an earworm. I’m rendered helpless. Melting in deepest Afro-psychedelic soulspace. ‘Toy Shooter’ follows in similar fashion, bridging psych-pop hooklines with beat-centric, electro-jamming freedom.


Maybe, I’m no closer to discovering who Skinny Pelembe is. But maybe this is the point. We should never pin down and dissect the butterfly. It should remain brimming with its own beauty and life. One thing is clear, Skinny Pelembe is a clarion voice, a unique talent, so let Skinny be.

Destination Doncaster: The Shoe Room

Warren Draper looks at the exciting businesses which are making Doncaster a premium town for destination shopping. First up, The Shoe Room, 8 Priory Walk, Doncaster DN1 1TS 

Words: Warren Draper

Photography: Warren Draper

Thanks largely to the vision and drive of some amazing independent retailers, Doncaster is rapidly becoming a destination shopping hot spot. Destination shopping is where people travel miles to visit a specific store and the patrons of Doncaster’s The Shoe Room come from all over the country — sometimes from other countries — to visit one of the best shoe shops in the country. Which just happens to be run by one of the nicest couples in the country. We have featured The Shoe Room‘s Richard and Michelle a number of times over the years. First mentioning Richard back in May 2015, as part of our Slow issue (see Be More Tortoise on page 6)

Richard and Michelle offer a level of quality, knowledge and service which is hard to match. They sell the finest quality shoes in a relaxed and welcoming environment. In a world where ‘pressure selling’ is the norm, it is a pleasure to be treated with warmth and humanity by people who have a passion for what they do. They also have a passion for Doncaster, which is one of the reasons, I suspect, that they give so much care and attention to their shop window.

Richard and Michelle’s window displays are always stunning. They have the beauty and attention to detail of classic mid 20th Century department stores. 

National chains try their best and are very strict with their staff about how their store-fronts should look, but this works against them because the real secret to beautiful design is creativity and love.

The Shoe Room window isn’t just about enticing people in to buy their wares. Their last display was created in remembrance to the fallen and it didn’t feature a single product from their shop. This was duly noted by an ex-serviceman I spoke to outside when I was photographing the shop back in November. He said he had felt truly moved by it.  

The Shoe Room is as beautiful inside as it is out. Not only is the décor superb, the shoes are amazing.

With some of the world’s finest manufacturers, including Barker, Tricker’s, Loake and Fairfax & Favor, there is no compromise on quality and there is style to suit every taste. 

As well as shoes, there are accessories, coats, hats, belts and socks. With masculine and feminine tastes duly catered for.

Banter is always thrown in for good measure at no extra cost… as is fine whisky when the mood presents itself.

You only get service like this in independent stores. It takes care an commitment to create this kind of retail experience.

Check them out for yourself. And if anyone fancies getting me a Christmas present, you could do a lot worse than buying me a pair of Barker’s double monks 😉

The Shoe Room, 8 Priory Walk, Doncaster DN1 1TS 


Honest Don reviews the Slug & Lettuce

Welcome to the first of our ‘Honest Don’ reviews. In this series we share our honest, everyday experiences as patrons of Doncaster’s cafes, bars and restaurants. First up, the Slug & Lettuce, 53-54 Hall Gate, Doncaster DN1 3BP.

Words: the Donco Don

Photography: the Donco Don

The first thing which strikes you when you enter the Slug & Lettuce on Hall Gate is what a great job the interior designers have done. The high-street chain has invested £460,000 in its Doncaster venue and it looks like £794,405… i.e. a million dollars (given today’s exchange rate).

There is a gorgeous new bar with a raised chequerboard floor which perfectly defines the space, so that even if the venue is busy – and, given that it was a Saturday afternoon in the run up to Christmas, it was very busy indeed when we visited! – the surrounding dining and relaxation areas never feel too crowded.

Layout and décor create further defined spaces for dining and drinking throughout the venue, offering different ‘feels’ and varying degrees of privacy. The décor itself is bold and punchy, while maintaining a high standard; never once venturing toward tacky. Bird cage seating areas and pre-bookable bespoke party spaces mean that you and your friends can enjoy intimate spaces whilst still bathing in the wider atmosphere of a lively venue… and today it was very lively indeed.

The food menu is very good, with plenty of healthy – and calorie controlled – options. Nationally Slug & Lettuce have a very good vegan menu, but for some reason they’re not offering the full selection in Doncaster yet. Doncaster is changing rapidly, and this gives me some concern that Slug & Lettuce are not yet fully aware of our town’s changing tastes. As things stand, if I were taking vegan friends out, I would probably be tempted to go next door to The Greenhouse Eatery (which we will feature in a future review). While we don’t yet enjoy the full big-city vegan menu, S&L do seem happy to charge big-city prices for their beers, being above average for Doncaster. This isn’t a game-changer, we’re used to paying a bit more if the venue is right, and they do have regular offers such as their ‘Wine Down Wednesdays’.

If truth be told I don’t mind paying a bit more for my tipple as long as the atmosphere is right… I just make it last a bit longer 😉 The ambience of the Slug & Lettuce is warm, inviting and lively. But this time around I was there for business rather than pleasure, so I decided to give the beers a miss and order coffee instead. Unfortunately, the aforementioned Christmas liveliness did lead to one of the only negative experiences of the afternoon. When I placed my order the attendant asked several times what I wanted, pressing keys on the till and saying: “Sorry, what was it you wanted again?” For the record, I only drink virgin espresso or Americano, the rest of that milky froth they laughingly sell as ‘coffee’ should be seen as an afront to any connoisseur of the magic bean. They gave me a cappuccino. My heart sank.

The food however was a different story. I ordered a Sautéed Pepper & Grilled Halloumi Feel Good Flatbread and it felt very good indeed. The meal was served within 15 minutes of placing the order. Unfortunately, the cutlery took a few minutes longer to arrive so we did have a little bit of a wait before we got the chance to tuck-in. This meant the food was a little bit on the cool side when we took our first bite… but the bite itself was well worth the wait. Very fresh. Very tasty. And at £7.29 it wasn’t too much more than your average Macky D meal… which is always very, very average – and that’s being generous.

Great atmosphere. Great food. Crap cappuccino (all cappuccinos are crap), but all-in-all a good place to spend time with friends and loved ones… and it’s always good to enjoy a national high-street name when you have the added bonus of  knowing that Sheffield doesn’t have one yet 😉

An Apology From Doncopolitan

Warren Draper explains why there will be no Christmas issue of Doncopolitan this year.

Words: Warren Draper

Photography: Warren Draper


When we started Doncopolitan we knew that we had to treat Doncaster with the highest possible level of passion, respect and positivity if we were going to show the (all too often hidden) wonders of our town and its people to convince the doubters that a braver, brighter future is truly possible. To do this we had to design something a beautiful as we possibly could and invest in the highest production methods we could afford (we have to thank Andrew Loretto and Right Up Our Street for the initial seed funding to print the first edition).

Rachel Horne and I don’t like to blow our own trumpets (something which we should probably learn to do better if we are to avoid repeating the current situation which I am about to describe), but we can honestly say that our strategy worked. As well as showcasing the talent we always knew existed, the magazine has acted as a focal point for arts and culture and attracted amazing people who we previously knew nothing about. We could never have dreamed that arts and culture would become such a major aspect of the town’s future. We are proud of the small part we played, but it has come at a cost.

Because we create something which is beautifully produced, many people believe that we’re a well-resourced, well-financed operation with paid staff, who have the honour of working full-time on a project they love. While it is certainly a project we love, the rest could not be further from the truth.

Doncopolitan is not our main job. To pay the bills we have to find work elsewhere. For the first two years we had our editorial meetings in the basement of Furniture Factors, where I used to work. I used to design the magazine partly at work – in-between serving customers and setting up displays – and partly through the night (although, as any magazine designer will tell you, working through the night is pretty much the norm when you have deadlines). I didn’t leave Factors because of the success of the magazine, I left to found Doncopolitan’s sister project, Bentley Urban Farm. Rachel’s main work isn’t Doncopolitan either. She works part-time at St John’s Hospice, using her artistic talents to give comfort to people who are nearing the end of this amazing journey we call life.

Doncopolitan has never struggled for content. Our town and its people are such a rich source of stories, that if we were a well-resourced, well-financed operation we could easily become a weekly publication. But we are not, and we have always deeply regretted not being able to pay each of our wonderful contributors; writers, designers, artists, illustrators, photographers and admin workers alike. The simple fact is that Rachel and I have often subsidised the magazine from the likes of arts commissions and other work. Money isn’t our main motivator for anything we do. We are artists. We live simply – sometimes to the point of masochism – so that we can channel what little resources we have into our creative passions. But we have reached breaking point once too often (our personal lives are beginning to suffer from the strain, with Rachel having to take time away from most of her commitments recently due to stress) – and all too often the background tasks of chasing ads, chasing money and chasing the naysayers out of Donny get in the way the creative work which is our true passion; work which led to us producing Doncopolitan in the first place.

With all of this in mind we’d like to apologise for the fact that, for the fist time since we started, there will be no Christmas issue of Doncopolitan this year. We need to take time out to restructure what we do so that we can continue to do the work which we feel is still important to Doncaster.

Our blog and online presence will become busier than ever to compensate for the gap between printed magazines – and to balance out the still all too frequent negativity. We will be back with a newly designed magazine next year. The new structure will finally allow us to pay our contributors and support the artisan economy we are helping to build.

In the meantime, please stay in touch with us via social media. Sign up to our weekly listings guide. And, if you’re a local billionaire (or even just slightly flush), why not consider becoming a patron of the arts… hint, hint ?

Photography Warren Draper ©2018