Back in 2017, we asked ourselves ‘What if we put on a festival of sustainable ideas, similar to Sustainable St Albans, an annual event that promotes living sustainably and a move towards a low-carbon economy.
Our first festival took place in 2018 and included around 20 separate events as well as a Green Fair on the Stade Open Space in Hastings. The aim was to promote a sustainable future encouraging positive behaviour change and supporting and promoting those who are playing their role towards this goal.
For 2019, it was agreed to run the festival at the same time as the previous year between September 21-29. The timing was partly to sit alongside the Coastal Currents Arts Festival, that spans the month of September, and to coincide with Global Car Free Day. September is also harvest time when children return to school, there is a sense of a new start after the summer break. The programme contained over 60 events and included the Big Green Fair and a Car Free Day Street event.
Many people in the town want to change their behaviours but don’t know where to start. Running a festival, especially one where the community are actively involved felt like a good way to start that conversation as part of people’s everyday life practices.
A festival provides low barrier access to information, usually developed in a creative and fun way. For some participants it’s an emotional response to the climate crisis, collectively experienced. People feel upset about the current situation and overwhelmed by what they can do. Participation in this festival gives them agency and, hopefully, removes some of that feeling of hopelessness.
Sustainability on Sea is developed in a collaborative, non-hierarchical manner. It was important that the production of the festival is a cooperative practice.
In 2019 the programme used the ten simple principles from the One Planet Living Framework to help guide people to the most relevant activities for them. Events took place at multiple sites, some outside of the town boundaries. The programme shows a wide variety of events and spaces used.
Transition Town Hastings led on coordination and oversaw several working groups responsible for Marketing, Programming and the creation of a Green Directory.
The success of the festival is dependent on developing rich and creative relationships with volunteers, groups and local businesses in the town.
Lead partners are Hastings Furniture Service, a well-loved organisation that provides second-hand affordable furniture for people on low incomes as well as running training on DIY and upcycling; the UN Ambassador for Hastings and Bexhill, a policy orientated organisation with strong links across the county and with groups like Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Marine Conservation Society and Energise Sussex Coast, the local community energy cooperative.