The Big Tent Ideas Festival 2020

While we cannot meet in person in any physical tents for the time being, that does not mean the spirit cannot continue online. So the Big Tent is delighted to announce a series of digital events, where members and supporters will get a chance to be part of shaping discussions and challenging each other, and we can hear from the experts on the ground across the UK.

See what Big Tent Digital events are coming up

The festival will be back

When it is safe to do so, the festival will return. We’ll take ideas, solutions and new friends gathered during these digital time and come together again.


The Big Tent Ideas Festival brings Britain together; to resolve conflict, find practical ideas and agree on ways forward – even between people who see the world very differently. We celebrate all these as virtues:

  • Changing your mind
  • Challenging your ideas
  • Compassion and empathy for people who disagree with you


We want everyone to come to Big Tent with an open mind. We’ll ask everyone to sign an Open Mind pledge as they buy their ticket, and ask them to come with the goal of:

  • Learning something new
  • Having a friendly discussion with someone they disagree with
  • Changing their mind on something.

The tents

We will have unique tents at the festival where we will tackle diverse topics across a range of themes including politics, environment, society, economics, tech innovations and much, much more:

How do we create an economy and politics that empowers our marginalised communities? What reforms are needed to ensure that the benefits of a free enterprise economy are more widely felt by the people and places feeling left behind? How should central Government embrace bolder devolution to empower people in local places and communities? Should solutions be community led: can investment and innovation at a community level help stoke the fires to bring Britain back together? What solutions have been successful in one community that can be adopted by others or on a national level? How do we address inequality on a local level to the benefit of the nation as a whole? Free ports, such as the proposed one at Teeside: will they work?

What can we do as a nation to unite a divided country? How can Government harness the power of digital communities to improve the way public services are delivered? What will the companies and workplaces of tomorrow look like? How does our tax and welfare system need to adapt to the modern economy? What is the state of the nation’s health and how do we protect and sustain loved national institutions such as the NHS? How can we celebrate and encourage our nation’s entrepreneurs to ensure the UK remains the World’s leader in innovation, whilst protecting the rights of the nation’s citizens? How can we make the UK a leader in the 4th Industrial Revolution in a way that creates new jobs and opportunities? What is the potential for social and environmental impact bond finance and retail ISAs?

As we redefine our role in the world, how will the UK continue to ensure we are a core part of the global community? How do we ensure the UK is a global leader in combating issues such as climate change and leading innovations in economy, industry and technology? How can we best harness the power of innovation and the market to drive environmental sustainability and tackle global pollution? How do we restore trust and confidence both at home and abroad? Is there still such a thing as ‘liberal interventionism’? What are the root causes of the rise of populism and the move towards more extreme politics in Europe and beyond – what lessons can be learned and how do we stimulate the middle ground, to reinvigorate a more unified, civilised discourse? 

In this tent we’ll be exploring how to cut through the misinformation to reach what is generally perceived as truth. The way we gather information has irrevocably changed. We are no longer reliant on a small number of curated sources but have the world’s knowledge literally at our fingertips. But how do we distinguish fact from fiction? Innovations in cyberspace mean that we cannot always believe the evidence of our own senses. How do we ensure the voiceless are heard, but a loud minority are not given greater credence than deserved? Who holds responsibility for information disseminated and how do we protect younger and more vulnerable people? And is it ever possible to get to a ‘correct view’, owing to different states of knowing and different degrees of conviction, of being ‘right’, depending on historical exposures? 

How can we better harness the arts, sport and culture to heal the divisions in our society? Why is culture important for wellbeing ? What role can it play in regeneration ? What does culture mean ? Why has it been lost from many people’s lives ? How do we change the culture of culture ?  With sport being the best medicine we have, why is it so neglected and how can we change this?

Here we confront and explore the issues that are often considered too toxic to discuss publicly, or that even reach consciousness privately. 

Is it the case that whilst empathy runs deep and is shared with other animals, we have conquered the world in part through our brutality ? Is this just in fragile check and resurfacing with nationalism? Is homo sapiens dirtiest secret its ability to enact genocide?  Are any elements of China’s model right? Has our need to blame and punish led to a justice system where protection, rehabilitation and punishment are confused? How do we address modern slavery, cultural integration or the disruptive minority?

We’ll be asking questions about community integration, the class divide, protecting the digital generation, modern slavery and fracking. For example, we’ll be looking at solutions to integration in mixed communities; whether living in a silo is acceptable or not. 

How can we create an environment to have informed debates about society’s hidden and ignored problems and look for innovative, sustainable solutions. Which require long term, cross-party solutions?

A showcase for the technologies set to transform 21C economy, society and government, celebrating innovators and disruptors, new ideas and solutions, community activators and angel incubators, charities and organisations working on a local and national level to help protect, support and change the way we work, think and act to benefit society as a whole. The Festival is a unique opportunity to present innovative technology, products, services and approaches to public policy challenges: from housing to healthcare, tax to transport, capitalism to cannabis, and much more besides.