Whichever way you voted in the Brexit referendum there is one thing on which we suspect we can all agree: the debate left us all disheartened and dejected by the polarisation and negativity of politics and, inevitably, as a result many of us felt less willing to engage. Nonetheless, the decisions which our political masters and mistresses took and continue to take don’t stop impacting on us, from the response to covid, to action on the climate emergency, from the cost of living crisis to what we do about Russian aggression in Ukraine. Two charitable organisations – the think tank Radix and the political events charity, Big Tent – have responded in different, but compatible ways. Radix uses its publications and policy papers as platforms for those outside the Westminster bubble to influence policy makers and those that influence them. Meanwhile, Big Tent uses its annual flagship Festival as a platform for everyone to engage with those that govern us, moving around the country and ensuring that voices other than the usual suspects have a chance to be heard. The result, after the two charities merged at the end of last year, is that the Radix Big Tent Festival 2022 will be held in our very own Queen Square, Bristol on Saturday 11th June. Big Tent Festival last year in Coventry The Festival is a celebration of the very best that our city has to offer and an opportunity for Bristolians to showcase to politicians what we can do and what we need from them to be a do it even better. When we learned about the Big Tent Festival, we immediately contacted its organisers to get involved. Here at Edward Bulmer Natural Paint we recognise the important work that the Big Tent is doing and our commitment to net zero will be high on the agenda, but there is no shortage of debates and discussions on topics that will impact our staff, our customers, our suppliers and stakeholders, from the state of the jobs market to simply how we all talk to each other and the changes wrought by social media. So, we talked to Radix Big Tent Chief Executive, Ben Rich, about his plans and why he is encouraging us all to take the chance to shape the debate at this year’s Festival in June in Bristol. (to find out more and book your tickets today go to bigtent.org.uk.) Q. For our audience who may not have heard of Big Tent before, could you describe what a Saturday at the big Tent festival is like? Big Tent is unlike any political event you’ve ever heard of – the vibe is more music or literary festival than party conference. Yes, you will have the opportunity to challenge both government ministers and opposition leaders, but you can also enjoy the performances by some of Bristol’s best artists, join the angel investors and entrepreneurs seeking investment in our Pitch Pit, or simply enjoy the local food and drink in our bar or as you browse our bookshop. Q. And how do these discussions at the festival work? Do everyone get a say? Actually, in every one of our discussions, we seek to ensure that at least half the time is set aside for audience contributions and comments. And if we are not discussing the things that interest you, then you can book a soapbox at our Speakers Corner and make whatever arguments you want to yourself (although don’t wait as space is limited). Big Tent Festival in Coventry 2021 Q. Ok, so say I’m a Conservative/Socialist/Liberal/Green – is big tent for everyone? We’re a charity so we are, and have to be, completely politically independent. We are in Bristol at the invitation of the Labour Mayor, but Big Tent was founded by a Conservative Minister. Our speakers include the leader of the Lib Dems and the deputy leader of the Greens, as well as the Business Secretary and the Chair of the Labour Party. This really is a platform for all, regardless of political affiliation and we work hard to keep all our discussions constructive. Q. Here at Edward Bulmer Natural Paint one of our top priorities is the journey to net zero. What does that part of the programme look like? Our programme is divided into four streams: the transition to net zero, a more equitable society, better public services and better conversations. There are half a dozen different discussions in the net zero stream, from transport to delivery on COP to the possible new technologies that could prevent and even reverse climate change. But you choose what you want to go and when to sit out a session and visit our Community Fayre – once you’re in your ticket leaves you free what you want to go to. Q. I know it’s unlikely (!) but what if I get bored of the politicians? Then there’s plenty else to choose from. Personally, I am really looking forward to hearing the former head of Twitter in Europe and the Tik Tok UK head of public affairs discussing the role of social media. Then there’s the head of the UK branch of the United Nations’ refugee organisation (UNHCR) talking about Ukraine and the local youth TV channel, Babassa, broadcasting a live show from the Festival – there’s definitely something for everyone. Q. We are interested Ben, why is it called Big Tent? Well, the idea of the Festival is that it’s for everyone, but for the more literal amongst us it does actually take place in large tents in the middle of Queen Square in Bristol, less than five minutes from the docks, the millennium square and the city centre. Q. How do I find out more and book? Simply go to bigtent.org.uk to check out the full programme and book tickets Take a look at last year’s Big Tent Festival which was held in Coventry Edward Bulmer Natural Paints is sponsoring the Big Tent Ideas Festival on 11th June at Queen Square, Bristol. Our concern for solutions for more equitable and sustainable systems chimes with the key themes of this year’s festival. Read their feature on our founder, Edward Bulmer, who explains how greenwashing is on the rise in the design industry and why it is a problem. Book Now!