Ideas Festival will allow Bristol to shape debates on issues from climate change to cancel culture

May 20, 2022

A packed programme for Bristol’s Big Tent Ideas Festival has been unveiled, including political debates, arts, a Speaker’s Corner, community fayre and a Dragon’s Den-style pitching competition.

Taking part will be government ministers, members of the shadow cabinet and three former Cabinet members, as well the head of the UN Refugee Programme in the UK, Twitter’s former most senior executive in Europe and the chair of the No Place Left Behind Commission. 

Ticketholders will get the chance to challenge the politicians, who will also include Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees, city councillors and Bristol MPs, and shape the discussion.

Organisers say the event – which takes place in Queen Square on Saturday 11 June – will have a constructive and non-partisan environment more akin to a music festival than a political conference.

It will also look at the changing role of social media, food poverty and housing provision among a host of topics to be aired at a series of panel and round-table discussions.

Big Tent Festivals take place each year in a different city outside London. Last year’s, staged in Coventry to coincide with its term as UK city of culture, was the first post-Covid large-scale political event. 

The organiser is Radix Big Tent, an independent platform for constructive, political discussion, innovative and entrepreneurial ideas and collaborative action to renew and regenerate the UK.

It is promising attendees they will be able to:

  • Tell the science, research and innovation minister George Freeman what businesses really need to thrive
  • Ask shadow leader of the Commons (and Bristol West MP) Thangam Debbonaire, pictured, how policy-making can be made more inclusive
  • Talk about Ukraine with Lib-Dem spokesperson for foreign affairs Layla Moran MP and chief executive UNHCR (UK) Emma Cherniavsky
  • Hear local businesses pitch for real investment from Big Tent’s ‘angels’
  • Enjoy performances from some of Bristol’s best artists.

Sessions will be themed around four key areas: net zero, achieving equality; better public services; and new media.

Other highlights will include: 

  • How can we deliver on the promises made at COP26? with Lib-Dem leader Sir Ed Davey MP, Green Party deputy leader Amelia Womack and Asier Abaunza, head of regeneration for the City of Bilbao, among the panel.
  • Where next for new media? with Bruce Daisley, former head of Twitter (Europe) and Giles Derrington, TikTok public policy manager.
  • Whose voices are and should be heard in the battle for equality and diversity? with shadow secretary of state for equalities Anneliese Dodds
  • Discussing Cancel Culture with Mayor Marvin Rees and journalist David Goodhart
  • How do we engage citizens in climate action? with a panel including Darren Jones, Bristol North West MP and chair of the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, pictured 
  • Food poverty and malnutrition with speakers including Bristol East MP and former shadow environment, food and rural affair secretary Kerry McCarthy and Zander Woollcombe from the Eleanor Crook Foundation
  • Where have all the workers gone? with Stephen Kinnock MP, shadow minister for immigration, Faud Mahamed, chief executive ACH, and Sunder Katwala, chief executive of British Future.

Radix Big Tent CEO Ben Rich said: “We are thrilled with the level of our speakers and the range of topics we will be covering this year

“You can go from a discussion on how we could solve the housing crisis to whether climate change can be fixed by new technology or how the education system should be transformed. There really is something for everyone – and I urge all to check out the programme and start planning their day now.”

The programme can be found here 

Tickets for the festival are available at and are priced at £15 (£10 conc, U18 free). Two-for-one tickets are available.

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