Big Tent Digital past events

Group Psychology, Behavioural Science and Designing Policy

Thursday 21st May

“What I found interesting was the horror of the use of the word herd immunity which struck horror in the general public as the use of the word suggest treating people like cattle. It shows the importance of wording and terminology”. 

Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman, Ogilvy UK

On Thursday, Rory Sutherland, Chairman of Ogilvy UK and Liam Halligan of the Telegraph discussed group psychology, behavioural science and designing policy.  Rory outlined the benefits of behavioural science can have when developing public policy to help everyone adapt and thrive in times of profound change. Read about the discussions on our website.

Festival Friends and Student Friends can watch replays of all our events by logging into the Friends section of our website.


The Balancing Act 

Thursday 14th May

With grateful thanks to our speakers, Prof. Hugh Montgomery, Prof. Louise Kenny and Dr Séamus O’Neill.

Government needs to set the destination, not the route

On Thursday 14th May, Prof. Hugh Montgomery, Prof. Louise Kenny and Dr Séamus O’Neill came together for a Big Tent Digital event to discuss how the crisis of The COVID-19 response has failed to take into account regional differences, and the easing of lockdown needs to be communicated locally to reflect people’s immediate surroundings and risk factors.

The COVID-19 response has failed to take into account regional differences, and the easing of lockdown needs to be communicated locally to reflect people’s immediate surroundings and risk factors. These were some of the views expressed in Big Tent Ideas’ digital event, ‘The Balancing Act – Local innovation vs central control in the NHS’, hosted on Zoom on the evening of 14 May.

Professor Louise Kenny, Executive Pro Vice Chancellor of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at the University of Liverpool, spoke about how London-centric decision-making has impacted other regions:

“We are diverse country, and COVID-19 has heightened our diversity. London-based decisions have national consequences, and they are not always of benefit to other regions.”

Kenny also criticised the Government’s testing strategy for not being regionalised enough:

“Testing has been problematic from the get-go. Had we kept testing capacity at a regional level we would have been able to test more flexibly and taken more care.”

On top of highlighting the key work being done regionally within the NHS, she also stressed that international cooperation has been key in finding effective ways of responding to the crisis:

“My colleagues would be keen for me to share with tonight’s audience that this crisis has forged international links on a size and scale and speed we have never seen during peacetime. There is nothing like a global pandemic to highlight we’re a global village”

Professor Hugh Montgomery, Director of UCL Institute for Human Health and Performance, highlighted some of the benefits of state-level coordination in the response to the pandemic:

“For PPE, central control was a good thing; it meant there were a large amount of central stocks in the first place.”

However, Montgomery expressed that while there were benefits to the initial response being resolute and nation-wide, the easing of measures put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 have been too London-centric, calling it “muddled”:

“The results of the national lifting of lockdown will cause a lot of problems locally. It could have been better managed in terms of national messaging, and allowing devolved change. If one has ill-informed people communicating internally to the ignorant, the result is chaos.”

“Government needs to set the destination, not the route.”


Festival Friend or Student Friend? Click here to view a replay of this session (password required).


Testing the Nation

Thursday 30th April

The Big Tent Ideas Festival and Foundation would like to express their grateful thanks to our speakers, Polly Mackenzie, Paul Davis and Ryan Wain for their excellent and insightful discussion.

Mass testing needed to get us out of COVID-19 crisis

Accelerating the fight against COVID-19 will require a global scale-up of manufacturing of diagnostic tests, and the UK needs a senior minister with sole responsibility for mass testing. These were some of the views expressed in Big Tent Ideas’ first digital event of 2020, hosted on Zoom on the evening of 30 April.

The call for a new ministerial appointment came from Ryan Wain, Strategic Advisor to the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change:

“Mass testing is the cornerstone of any viable exit strategy from this lockdown. It must sit alongside other measures including contact tracing and shielding. For this to be rolled out we need to see the appointment of a senior minister with sole responsibility for testing, reporting to the prime minister. On top of the superlabs already created across the country, we need to make sure smaller labs are also working at full capacity, new testing innovations are properly cultivated and scaled, and that the preparation for community testing starts now. Accomplishing this is possible, but will require extraordinary leadership and coordination.”

Professor Paul Davis, co-founder and chief scientific officer at Mologic, discussed how his firm has developed independently validated antibody tests and made ready for scaled-manufacture with capability to process tens of thousands of results every day – relieving testing pressures in both the UK and Africa:

“Extraordinary efforts are currently being made to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, and to Mologic it is clear that focus needs to be on not only the mass production of tests, but finding ways of delivering them to everyone in need, wherever they live, while maintaining transparency, responsiveness, and open collaboration.”

Presentation and replay

Friends of the Festival will be able to access a recording of the discussion here (password required)