THE wonderful world of the arts returned to Hedingham Castle as the EA Festival was back at the venue for its third outing.

Known for presenting an array of topics and themes, the programme of EA Festival 2023 ranged widely – from Africa to avocados and comedy to classical music.

Founded by Joanne Ooi, it debuted in 2021, returning strongly last year, with hundreds of guests making the third year another success.

Halstead Gazette: ON STAGE: Christina Johnston at The Keep of Hedingham CastleON STAGE: Christina Johnston at The Keep of Hedingham Castle (Image: William Blakesley-Herbert)

On this year’s event, Joanne said: “Between 500-700 people attended this year, similar to last year.

“The truth is, the extremely hot weather on Sunday probably discouraged some people from coming and the economy has had an adverse impact on many events this year.

Halstead Gazette: CAPTIVE AUDIENCE: EA Festival's main stage at Hedingham CastleCAPTIVE AUDIENCE: EA Festival's main stage at Hedingham Castle (Image: William Blakesley-Herbert)

“On the extremely bright side, there were many more visitors from farther away this year, meaning that EA Festival is steadily gaining visibility and renown in the region. 

“On the main stage, our speakers included V&A director Tristram Hunt, Country Life editor in chief Mark Hedges, Radio 4 talking head and American news expert Justin Webb, among many other top experts and authors.

“To mix things up, comedian Milton Jones, teenage piano prodigy Shunta Morimoto and top spoken word artist Luke Wright were part of the mix on the main stage.

Halstead Gazette: TOPICAL TALK: EA Festival speaker Dipo FaloyinTOPICAL TALK: EA Festival speaker Dipo Faloyin (Image: William Blakesley-Herbert)

“This year, we also launched a second stage at the keep of Hedingham Castle.

“It featured world-class concerts of RnB, jazz and musical theatre by performers 30 or younger.

"It was a big hit and we will do something similar next year.”

Joanne said the festival received plenty more support from local and regional organisations, and she hopes to keep growing the event.

Halstead Gazette: LISTEN IN: Justin Webb in conversation with William SieghartLISTEN IN: Justin Webb in conversation with William Sieghart (Image: William Blakesley-Herbert)

She said: “For sure, we are building on what we launched in 2021 and will do a lot of events this fall, to continue and accelerate the momentum.

“For example, we will do a series of events with Chestnut, East Anglia's top hospitality company with 16 locations throughout the region.

“That line-up includes Anne Glenconner, Isabella Tree and Simon Heffer.”

Joanne also said feedback was “very strong and positive” and the festival will “absolutely” be back next year.