THE CONTEXT

For too many people, politics in Britain is broken. There is widespread disillusionment with mainstream party politics with its current strong trends toward emphasising division and polarisation.

These effects overlay a feeling of disenchantment in many communities in north and south due to the complex impacts over many years of many powerful factors: of recession and its remedies; of globalisation and deindustrialisation; of the centralisation of power through technology, with its many benefits but also immense disruptions and manipulations; more recently of the divisiveness of the EU debate, its management and interpretation; of the tensions inherent in pursuing nationalism and unionism simultaneously; from poor political leadership; and a trend toward the intentional erosion of confidence in historically important institutions – the independence of courts, the independence of the civil service, the independence of broadcasters.

→ We believe that to improve our society and bridge divides, people need to come together in environments conducive to a more civil dialogue;

→ From this, a better understanding and empathy will emerge, as well as friendships, solutions and positive action.

→ The Big Tent Foundation achieves this through organising Festivals and other events, which convene political thinkers and entrepreneurial and cultural thought leaders, and exposes collaborative policy discussion, and an open minded exchange of ideas and innovation, to open public debate and engagement.

→ We are a politically unaligned, non-profit organisation.

OUR STORY

We have established a trusted brand, which reaches across the political spectrum, a policy neutral platform for the best of policy thinking. At Big Tent events people come to listen as much as speak and discover new views they previously didn’t know they held.

2017 – The first Big Tent Festival brought 250 people from centre right and left to a supporter’s garden near Reading. It fused open minded politics and policy groups with arts and culture and people loved it. Journalists were sent to lampoon it, but came away writing that a brave attempt at a new style of positive politics was a remarkable success against wide expectation. Perhaps there was a better way. This first event was entirely Volunteer organised.

2018 – Encouraged by that reception organisers decided to scale up the event and open it up fully to public attendance. An expanded Ideas Festival was hosted in the grounds the Babraham Research Institute outside Cambridge, a centre of technical innovation. Preceded by a leadership summit gathering the day before. Over 1,000 people travelled to be a part of it, and engaged by 220 speakers in eight tents. Big Tent was partnered by a wide range of policy groups and think tanks.

2019 – What is now an iconic national event, recognised throughout the political landscape, moved to Mudchute City Farm on the Isle of Dogs, in the shadow of Canary Wharf. 1,600 people across nine of our now famous domed tents and two fields, 250 speakers across 55 hugely varied sessions. As trust builds, we were much more successful is gaining support from thinkers of the left and right.

2020 – The breadth of issue and scale of interest in the Big Tent Festival makes it unique, and we intend for it to become a permanent feature of the political landscape, a place where sophisticated policy making meets common sense, and the tribal agendas of electoral politics are put aside. After this experimentation, growth and wide acceptance, it is now possible to extend the reach of Big Tent around the country in different ways and with smaller more issue specific events. 2020 is set to be a big year.

WHAT WE ARE

The Big Tent Festival has been put together by a politically unaligned, not-for-profit Foundation created to promote innovation in public policymaking and solutions, while pursuing the appropriate solutions to the underlying causes of this political crisis. The Foundation was set up in 2017 by a group of founding patrons, spanning the worlds of business, politics, science, public services and the arts. Over the next few years it will support the growth of the Big Tent Ideas Festival as a new forum for public debate, developing the ideas and backing the people that have the most potential to tackle the disconnection and disillusionment with mainstream politics. The Festival is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Foundation which we plan to develop and take around the country to help champion, support and scale innovative policy making approaches beyond Westminster.

The Festival is funded by income from ticket revenue, sponsors and support from the Foundation. The Foundation is funded by its founding Patrons, charitable donations from both companies and individuals and from membership subscriptions.

THE BIG TENT FESTIVAL MISSION AND VALUES

Mission - To convene and curate events that bring together people from all UK backgrounds, geographies, parties and beliefs to discuss the biggest challenges we face today in an atmosphere that is impassioned, respectful and empowering. To take the Big Tent platform around the country, creating opportunities for people and places to come together and engage with political ideas, problems and solutions.

Values - Non-Partisan: Big Tent is strictly non-partisan; united by a desire to see progress for the UK through the broad engagement of multiple actors

→ Dynamic: Passionate, energetic, creative and optimistic; leading change in new and exciting ways.

→ Participative: Open to new ideas and encouraging of new voices and wide engagement; striving to provide a platform for all civilised viewpoints, a home for excluded views, diverse identities and 50:50 gender representation.

→ Collaborative: Convening and connecting original thinkers and innovators, seeking to catalyse progressive partnerships.

Structure of the Big Tent

The Big Tent Foundation is a non-profit company limited by guarantee. As such, it can receive donations and undertake activities of a political nature, such as inviting future Prime Ministers in waiting to meet the Leadership Council members.

The Big Tent Festival Ltd is a wholly owned VAT registered subsidiary responsible for organising the Big Tent Ideas Festival and is funded by commercial sponsorship, ticket sales and, if necessary, the Big Tent Foundation. In 2019 it is envisaged the Festival will cover its costs, but should it need additional support, this will come through the Foundation.

The Big Tent Trust is a charitable trust which, when set up, will be able to receive tax deductible donations. As a charity, it will be limited as to the political nature of its activities; awarding bursaries for social enterprise is an example of a permissible activity. Gift Aid can be claimed on all eligible donations. Prior to becoming a charitable trust, it is possible to donate via the National Philanthropic Trust’s donor advised fund.