MORE than 500 people attended a sold-out Big Tent Ideas Festival during its first ever visit to Coventry on Friday and Saturday.
The not-for-profit foundation was started by George Freeman MP in 2017 after Brexit and the murder of Jo Cox.
It is aimed at combating extreme politics, bringing people together regardless of the way they vote and to work with private investors and charity organisations to make things happen.
The Big Tent Ideas Festival events enable people to get together to discuss all the big issues and to put forward solutions.
This Coventry event was held at the Assembly Festival Garden with sessions in The Piccolo, The Queen of Flanders and The Third Space.
Among the discussions were the future of city and town centres, the future of transport, getting to net zero, keeping Britain healthy, levelling up inequalities, the future of the NHS, guiding young people away from violence and the power of community in raising youth mental health.
Mr Freeman said in his opening speech it was great to be in Coventry which was a great symbol of reinvention, having transformed itself at least five times since the Second World War.
“We need to reinstall trust in politicians – people see it is one rule of one and one for another.”
He gave the expenses scandal as an example and said Parliament was often seen as being like an ‘1860s gentlemen’s club’ which needed to change with standards being enforced.
Penny Mordaunt MP said: “Very often we know what can happen, we know what to do but are worried we could mess it up.”
She spoke about the Big Tent creating, promoting and amplifying hope.
“The biggest divide is not party politics but between optimists and pessimists.”
One attendee Zara Holden said: “It’s great Coventry is UK City of Culture and I have heard a lot about the Big Tent Ideas Festival so wanted to come down
“I’ve also always had an interest in people, the planet and the environment and I love this idea of having a Big Tent Board where we can share ideas for decision making.”
A Speaker’s Corner enabled people to address the crowd with their ideas on different issues in between the formal sessions.
One speaker Abdi-Noor Mohammed who, after moving from Somalia to Sweden, came to Coventry six months ago with his family so they could make the city their home.
He said: “We are really excited to be in Coventry which I describe as a ‘cultural bridge’.
“It’s a free and open society where you can find and be yourself.
“I always say to people: ‘every bit of life is a resource – write your own story in this city and together we can build a Coventry for all’.”