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We are thrilled to be sponsoring this year's EA Festival, an exciting art and culture showcase in East Anglia for the best of our region's creative leaders in literature, media, art, environment and music. We’re equally as thrilled to be planning our own Chestnut Arts and Culture Month for later this Autumn, in partnership with the festival, where we will be inviting many of these local creative icons to host workshops, talks and special events at each of our pubs and restaurants across East Anglia.

We chatted with Joanne Ooi, festival founder, to hear more about what to expect throughout the culture-filled weekend on the 11th & 12th June 2022.

What is EA Festival?

EA Festival is a culture, music and art festival that I launched last year. It took place at Hedingham Castle, on the border of Essex and Suffolk, and will return to the Castle on the 11th and 12th of June – in a few weeks.

What gave you the idea to start it?

I’m an avid culture vulture, so when I moved to England six years ago, I researched what I could see and do around me, within, say, a 20-mile radius of my house, and, more often than not, I ended up driving up to Aldeburgh all the time. After a while though, the 90 minute drive, each way, really started to bum me out. It hit me that there was a big culture gap between London and Aldeburgh that needed filling. As it turns out, my gut instinct was validated by an Arts Council of England report from 2017 which concluded that Braintree District, where Hedingham Castle is located, was (and probably still is) one of the least culturally engaged districts in the UK.

How is it different from other festivals?

The Festival is a real smorgasbord and ranges widely in subject matter and themes - from fashion to politics, from art to psychedelic drugs. Our concerts feature both classical AND indie music, a first for any festival, I believe. Speakers this year include mainstream icons like Paul McKenna and Anne Glenconner but also high-brow scholars like Simon Heffer and Lea Ypi. Very few festivals can claim that they genuinely have something for everyone but we really do. That’s because I programme the festival according to ideas and hot button issues, rather than the latest book launches. I also encourage all the moderators to stray far from the books in question and to draw out the totality of a speaker’s wisdom and experience, rather than focusing on one narrow slice of their career or oeuvre. Last but not least, I programme speakers and performers from East Anglia whenever possible. There are so many cultural rock stars living in the region after all!

Why partner with Chestnut?

Chestnut is, hands down, the leading hospitality company in the region. In terms of excellence and setting the bar high, we are both striving to be the best in our respective sectors.

There are two strong reasons for partnering with Chestnut. First, our event series allows EA Festival to tour all around East Anglia. Second, when I founded EA Festival, one of my goals was fostering a closer relationship between Art and Commerce because that can provide more opportunity for artists and creative professionals living in the region. By that, I mean commissioning local artists to create packaging or products, local pubs conducting workshops and talks, retailers hosting pop-up exhibitions, etc. At the end of the day, everyone – the consumer, the business, the artist - benefits. Outside of cities, this kind of cross-pollination isn’t common. Since Chestnut is one of East Anglia’s leading businesses, I hope that our initiative will encourage more companies to incorporate art and culture into their daily practice.

What’s in store for EA Festival’s partnership with Chestnut this autumn – and beyond?

We have just begun programming an event series that will kick off this autumn and, so far, some of the speakers include, Anya Hindmarch, the handbag designer and lifestyle entrepreneur, Ben Timberlake, former SAS soldier and author of High Risk, the critically acclaimed book about his high-risk gambles with his own life (including self-induced heroin addiction), Justine Picardie, biographer and former editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country, and Luke Wright, one of the UK’s top spoken word artists based in Bungay, Suffolk.

Pictured: Joanne Ooi

Stay tuned to hear more about our Chestnut Arts and Culture Month, where we will be inviting local artists and creatives, to host special events at each of our pubs, inns and restaurants across East Anglia. Sign up to our mailing list to be the first to hear, by tapping here.

To read more about this summer's EA Festival or to purchase a ticket, tap here.


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