Meet the mature model starring in a provocative poster campaign for Yorkshire vegan burgers

TV food stylist turned model Annie Stirk says she is thrilled to appear in the cheeky national adverts for Leeds-based Meatless Farm. Stephanie Smith reports. Model images by Andrea Denniss and Olivia Brabbs.

Former food stylist Annie Stirk in a portfolio photoshoot. See the picture of her starring in the controversial vegan burger campaign below.

York-based mature model Annie Stirk is the face of a controversial new national advertising campaign for vegan burgers.

Meatless Farm, based in Leeds, playfully references the two initial letters of its brand name in a slogan next to a picture of Annie smiling as she contemplates biting into a huge vegan burger. The billboard-style poster is now rolling out across the UK on TV and radio adverts, social media, supermarket packaging and on electric cars.

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Annie, who turned 70 in May, was approached by photographer Stevieroy, of Brussels Street Studio in Leeds, to test for a campaign featuring an older model with silver hair. “It was a lucky break,” she said. “One of those moments when everything comes together, right time, right place.”

Annie stars in the controversial Meatless Farm billboard campaign for its vegan burgers.

She became a model last year and was co-organiser of a planned York Fashion Week Silver & Sassy catwalk event. She lives at Brandsby, 12 miles north of York, with her husband, Ken, and has two grown-up children and three teenage grandchildren. In 2017, she retired from her career as a TV food stylist, working on ITV’s This Morning and BBC shows with Sophie Grigson, Brian Turner and the late Gary Rhodes.

“I’ve spent my working life around cameras as a food stylist and TV cook, but the modelling side is relatively new to me,” she said. “All the shoots I have done to date have been fashion shoots so this was a bit different.

“It felt a bit like old times when I got to the studio, as this was a food job, and the food stylist was already in Steve’s studio kitchen prepping up the dishes for the shoot. It was all very buzzy and friendly and it felt good to be back in a studio setting, with everyone ready for action.”

Annie’s hair and make-up were created to make her look quite different from her usual on-trend style. “My hair was given a few tweaks with some tongs to give it a bit of a 'senior lady' curl effect,” she said.

Annie wears denim shirt by Copper & White.

Fashion stylist Trudy Fielding created her overall look. “Trudy specialises in vintage and I loved the green and cream blouse and cardigan combo,” Annie said. “The creative team had obviously come up with a cheeky campaign so the pressure was on for me to perform. It was all about facial expression to communicate what the team were after – and now I’ve seen the finished results, I understand.”

Annie is represented by Derby-based Stanleys Model Management and also sources her own modelling work. She has worked with Copper and White of York, Hearts Boutique in Easingwold, Hope Fashion and John Lewis.

“The mature fashion and modelling world is a totally new experience for me," she said. "Things really opened up when I got involved with York Fashion Week. The team welcomes and embraces older models and it was fantastic to realise that there were brands who wanted to use mature models. There is still a lot of work to do across various sectors that still want to use younger models. The 50-plus market is huge but ageism still exists with advertisers.”

Annie says she is thrilled to be involved with Meatless Farm. “It’s such a fun, cheeky campaign – right up my street,” she said. “I never imagined that at 70 I would be appearing on a billboard so all credit to them for recognising what mature models bring to the party.”

Annie wears John Lewis as she poses in a shoot to promote a Silver & Sassy York Fashion Week event that was postponed due to lockdown.

Meatless Farm, which makes its meat-free burgers, mince and sausages from pea protein, is seeking to build on huge growth in the UK as shoppers’ interest in plant-based alternatives has risen during lockdown.

A spokesperson said: ‘We want to show meat-eaters, whatever their age, that going meat free is not only incredibly easy, but also tastes great. There can be a misconception that plant-based eating is just for younger, ‘cooler’ audiences, which isn’t the case. We strongly believe that anyone can make the swap, even if it’s just once a week. The use of Annie in our campaign is testament to this, and as the campaign rolls out, people will see a range of models of different ages and backgrounds bringing our message to life.”’

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