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 the devastating effects of the global pandemic, exposing deep inequalities and the divisiveness of Britain's exit from the EU.
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.
A movement to catalyse and curate the new conversations needed by people and places left behind by partisan politics to unleash real, transformational and lasting renewal and regeneration.
Founded in 2017, the Big Tent is a movement to tackle the deepening disillusionment with the increasingly shrill, populist, partisan politics of the Westminster bubble. 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 we come to listen as much as speak and discover new perspectives.
2017 – The first Big Tent Festival brought 250 people from centre right and left to a supporter’s garden near Reading. Fusing open minded politics and policy groups with arts and culture.
2018 – Encouraged by that reception we scaled up and opened it up fully to public attendance. An expanded Festival was hosted just outside Cambridge, preceded by a leadership summit gathering the day before. Over 1,000 people travelled from across the UK to be a part of it and engage with 220 speakers across eight tents. The festival was partnered by a wide range of policy groups and think tanks.
2019 – Now an iconic national event, recognised throughout the political landscape, we moved to Mudchute City Farm on the Isle of Dogs, in the shadow of Canary Wharf. Thousands of attendees visited nine of our domed tents to join in depth discussions with 250 speakers across 55 hugely varied sessions.
2020 – Though we were not able to gather together in person, the breadth of issue and scale of interest in the Big Tent remained. From the stark inequalities exposed by the global pandemic to the deepening divide across the country caused by exiting the European Union. We took the conversation online, widening our audience and enabling people to engage with leading experts from across the political spectrum on topics ranging from mental health, testing and vaccinating the nation, protecting the most vulnerable across the world, the importance of women's leadership, the education gap and much more. We held 21 digital events with 71 speakers including the Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hunt MP, Janine di Giovanni, Steve Reed MP, John Humphrys, Rt. Hon. Baroness Ruth Hunt, Lord Blunkett, Nimco Ali OBE, Lord Boateng, Baroness Morgan and many more. We celebrate the end of the year by achieving Charitable Status.
2021 and beyond
At its core the Big Tent Foundation is about making a difference by actively supporting new conversations, approaches and leaders. A commitment to push the boundaries of political and public policy discourse - deeper and wider than is comfortable to the traditional political party establishment - whilst rejecting the shrill narrow divisive populism of today’s politics. Our strategic priorities are:
Conversation: creating a space for the fresh, non-partisan but challenging conversations about the serious issues of our day
Outreach: insisting on giving a platform and voice to the people and places left behind
Empowerment: exploring ways to better spread political engagement and influence beyond mainstream party politics
Citizenship: showcasing and supporting active community citizenship
Innovation: exploring and showcasing new ways to tackle old public policy challenges harnessing technology and innovative approaches used in other sectors
Culture: celebrating the importance of a culture of impatient creativity and imagination which we insist are shared across the Arts, Science and Enterprise
New Generation Leadership: supporting the new generation of leaders across our society who are delivering effective change beyond traditional party politics
The Big Tent is now a permanent feature of the political landscape, a place where balanced policy making meets common sense, and the tribal agendas of electoral politics are put aside.
THE BIG TENT 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.