TODAY is the 25th anniversary of an extraordinary event.

Eastbourne, in the shape of the Junior Board of Drusillas Park, and of the park’s then owners Kitty and Michael Ann, imagined and then made real the first United Nations Children’s Conference on the Environment.

It was attended by more than 800 11-to-13-year-old children from 92 countries.

It was a week-long conference, hosted by Eastbourne Council, addressed by John Gummer as Secretary of State for the Environment.

The Conference’s children issued a coherent and achievable set of 26 challenges to the world.

Today Eastbourne, in conjunction with The Eden Project, is (virtually) putting on a celebration of the anniversary, and of the town’s commitment to regenerating the environment, ”Making Natural History”:

Ralph Lucas said: “We will look back at the Conference, and the 25 years since, through the eyes of those who created it and those who attended it.

“Millennium Kids, founded by the children from Perth in Western Australia who attended the Conference, and still keeping the flame burning, will bring their 25 years of experience back here.

“We will be celebrating what Eastbourne has done, and plans to do.

“We will hear from Oliver Sterno of Plastic Free Eastbourne, from West Rise Junior and Pashley Infant schools, from Dr Pauline Von Hellerman co – founder of Eco Ed 2030, Dr William Bird MBE, originator of the hugely successful ‘Beat the Street’, Keep Britain Tidy (sponsors of the 1995 event and managers of the UK section of the global Eco-Schools network), Tom Nevill, the St Catherine’s pupil who used lockdown to plan Eastbourne’s activities on World Car Free day, from the Eastbourne Schools Partnership (pioneering environmental education) and from Eastbourne Borough Council, with their wide local responsibility for the environment.

“The day will end with a conversation on the challenges that we face and the ways that we and our children can all become involved in tackling them.

“Hosted by Baroness Floella Benjamin, pictured, the cast includes Sir Tim Smit of the Eden Project, Mary Colwell (the founding spark for the proposed natural history GCSE that ESP is supporting) and Dr William Bird MBE, originator of Beat the Street, which has had so much success in Eastbourne this autumn, with over 8,500 players.

“Over the two weeks from 10th to 20th November a score of local and environmental organisations (including the Natural History Museum, the South Downs National Park, and champions of birds, bees, butterflies, flowers and frogs) are putting on a series of presentations on projects that they would like to work on with schools, groups and individuals in Eastbourne.

“Over the next few years we will be working with schools and others, in particular with the town council and with ideas for the Eden Project’s involvement in Eastbourne, to explore how these projects can be realised.”

Sir Tim Smit says:

“The pandemic for all its unfortunate consequences has achieved an extraordinary thing. There can be hardly anyone in the world who now fails to understand the connections between living things.

“At the same time, the enforced isolation of all of us lucky enough to live in somewhere as blessed by green space as Eastbourne is that we have had the time to see the slow unfurling of the seasons from Spring to summer and now to Autumn.

“For most of us this is a welcome reminder of not only the beauty of the Natural world and how good it feels to be out in it, but also in the rhythm of that time elapsing a fierce marking of our card that Nature’s rhythms and cycles control everything we are. Eastbourne is a remarkable town, a place of stunning landscapes both ancient and more modern on which peoples have lived for thousands of years.

“A place that has seen many beginnings and now, the start of a festival that sees Eastbourne as the perfect stage on which to remind us all of the joy, curiosity and interdependence of the Natural World “Making Natural History”. WE love Eastbourne and hope that this inspiring beginning will challenge the people of Eastbourne to make this town a beacon of leadership for a future that remains ours to make.”

All the events during the fortnight are FREE .

Eastbourne residents, Ralph and Antonia Lucas, are sponsoring and hosting the festival. Ralph Lucas says:

“We could not let the 25th anniversary of such an amazing achievement go uncelebrated. The festival aims to support and add to the many ways that Eastbourne, its residents and schools have set-to in tackling our town’s environmental issues. Let us make it easy for Eastbourne’s youth to grow up with an understanding and love of the natural environment, and to draw on it for their own wellbeing.”

Antonia Lucas says: “Eastbourne had the vision to bring Beat the Street to Eastbourne during lockdown. A fantastic initiative encouraging young people to embrace and celebrate the act of walking as a means to discover their immediate environment. Since September 8,500 residents have voted with their feet – celebrating their town and discovering so many different facets about it too. Despite the challenges brought on by Covid-19 a renaissance is taking place in Eastbourne.”