What did you learn from EA Sustain 2023, the inaugural event at Firstsite?

The first EA Sustain in January 2023 was surprisingly well attended. It showed that there was a pent-up demand for information which is not for specialists but ordinary citizens and consumers. Whereas there are thousands of ESG and CSR conferences and meetings, literally, get-togethers and real-life learning opportunities for members of the public are very rare. (ESG = Environment, Social, Governance and CSR = Corporate Social Responsibility)

There are many gatherings of nature lovers too. But EA Sustain is not about that per se. It’s about activating threshold awareness on major environmental-political issues that affect us every day, e.g., the provenance and processes behind the food on our plate, the education of our children, the water we drink, recycling.

What was the reaction of staging EA Sustain at Firstsite?

The combination of an event about the environment and a contemporary art museum was unconventional – and it worked beautifully.

Not taking place in a nature reserve but amidst soaring contemporary architecture, and attracting an audience that was extremely varied in age and profession, it was obvious to anyone who attended, whether they were a farmer, ESG professional, bird-watcher or environmentally conscious citizen, that EA Sustain was a different kind of event – geared very much towards all comers.

What are you looking forward to most for EA Sustain 2024?

This year’s line-up is just as high-wattage as last year’s. But the 2024 programme will have more art content, with Frances Morris, Director Emerita of Tate Modern, talking about the overall sustainability of the conventional museum business model.

That is sure to be a major highlight of the programme. Next, this year’s event is a showcase of kick-ass women making a big difference in Environment x Culture. Besides Frances Morris, there will be Caroline Lucas, the UK’s first and only green MP, Helen Browning, the CEO of the Soil Association, environmental artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg and Veronica Sekules, founder of the UK’s first and still only environmental art gallery, Groundwork in Kings Lynn.

Sarah Langford, barrister turned female farmer and author of Rooted, will be one of our moderators alongside Essex’s very own Pamela Cox, Head of the Sociology Department at Essex University and running for MP in Colchester. Last but not least, I’m looking forward to the event about Demography, a topic that is obviously bound up with sustainability intimately, yet systematically overlooked.

What’s next in 2024 for EA Sustain and its sister festival EA Festival?

We ran a lot of events this past autumn, in both East Anglia and London, and they were a resounding success.

We will continue to do more of that, beginning with an event series in the spring with The Food Museum in Stowmarket that will dovetail with their current exhibition, Meat the Future, and we have something very exciting lined up in London for Autumn 2024, not to mention EA Festival’s first foray abroad.

Our main literary ideas and literary EA Festival will return to Hedingham Castle on May 18-19 and I will be announcing the line-up immediately after EA Sustain. I encourage those who would like to learn more and keep abreast of our prolific event schedule to sign up to our newsletter here.


You can find the full programme of EA Sustain 2024 by clicking the link below

Day 1 programme

Photo credits: Lucy J Toms