Visiting the Gluten Free Expo

This is the letter I’ve just sent to the Coeliac Society of Victoria after our visit to the Expo on Saturday.

Good Morning,

As very recently diagnosed with coeliac disease, (within the past month), I was encouraged to attend the G/F Expo so that both my husband and I would learn more about how to manage our food and kitchen, as separating the food would be a lot different from how we managed my original diagnosis of IBS. We also have a 14 month old son, and we’re conscious that my dietary requirements will have an impact on his life too, so it was very much a fact-finding exercise for us as a family.

We arrived early, by 10am, but had to leave within an hour as it was simply too crowded for us to navigate the exhibition space. Looking at the guide now for confirmation, there appears to only be one information stand, the Coeliac Society. Every other stand was people selling products. While it was nice to have a decent array of foods for us to sample, due to the sheer amount of people, we couldn’t get near the stands to even taste let alone buy anything. I was carrying our son on my back, in a baby carrier having had the foresight to not take the pushchair in with us, but I was being bumped into and shoved out the way.

I understand from your website that you wanted a test run to see how it would go on the first year of holding it on your own. However, I went on the Sunday of the two-day exhibition in 2011 with a friend at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, where again there were a huge amount of people attending, on the second day of the event. Moving to a smaller venue, and one not designed for conferences seems to be a step backward, free parking notwithstanding. Surely you could have seen by the numbers of pre-purchased ticket sales you were getting that Caulfield Racecourse was not at all suitable as a venue to support that amount of people? The aisles were too narrow, with people standing 2-3 deep at each stand, they were effectively blocked; with only a narrow pathway to try and squeeze through, and as soon as someone tried to walk through with a shopping trolley or pushchair, the whole crowd ground to a halt.

I tried to manage my husband’s expectations about how many people were going to be there, but failed miserably, we both left feeling frustrated and disappointed that we were none the wiser for attending. We hoped that when the first speaker started, we’d be able to walk around a bit more, but if anything, as more people had arrived by 10:30, it was worse, so we just left.

I sent off my application to join the Coeliac society last week, I’m hoping there will be more support for us in the welcome pack and on the website. This diagnosis has been difficult to process, I was looking forward to gleaning more information from our visit on Saturday, I just left feeling disappointed and harassed.

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