Dr Hakim Yadi blog: Big Tent Ideas Festival

Dr Hakim Yadi on the Big Tent Ideas festival - an exciting discussion of policy and ideas for 21st century UK

12th September 2018

A few days after the Big Tent Ideas Festival I’m still buzzing with energy and enthusiasm. Several different tents covering culture, the economy, society, Global Britain, technology and innovation delved into the key issues for the UK today.

Every tent was standing room only filled with lively discussion, the incredible quality of participants meant that the tents were inundated with questions from enthused attendees.

Over two days we heard from Lord John Bird founder of the Big Issue, Sir Nick Clegg, Labour Councillors and MPs, Lib Dem supporters and Tory politicians including Environment Secretary Michael Gove and the ex-Chancellor George Osborne as well as from people from different areas and groups living and working across the UK today.

While I would have liked to have been able to attend a huge amount more than I possibly could. I heard a lot of discussions about what we can do on Global Britain, the Future of Technology and the Future of Liberalism.

Interestingly, in a field in Cambridge at the Babraham Institute in sight of the lab I used to work in for my PhD, it was a joy to discuss the importance of the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine and the UK’s other regions of opportunity.

In a packed tent filed with MPs and the public of all political persuasions I sat on a panel, including Sarah Longlands from IPPR North and chaired by ITV political journalist Robert Peston, while we discussed the opportunity offered by the North. It’s clear, even in Cambridge, they’re scared of what we might become.

The main issue we discussed however was are we as a country, marching into the 21st century at such pace, are really comfortable with the level of socioeconomic and health inequality that exists within England and, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

I openly stated that if we are, then let’s all go home – and be comfortable with some people having worse outcomes based purely on where they’re born. If we aren’t then we actually have to do something about it and leverage policies like the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine.

The panel argued that the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine are great policy initiatives because they recognise this level of inequality. Where they are currently lacking is that the policy interventions coming from the top level haven’t been proportional to the scale of the opportunity they present. If politicians want to understand how best to intervene they need to take a place based approach that recognises a) the scale of the challenge and b) the scale of the opportunity.

Following this discussion on the role of the North it was on to the Technology Tent to discuss with leading entrepreneurs including Professor Michael Trenell of Newcastle University, Elaine Warburton CEO of Quantum DX, Tom Weaver from Congenica, Paul Bates from Babylon and Prof Charlie Craddock from Birmingham University Hospitals the important tech which will underpin 21st century care.

We were fortunate enough to have health commentator Roy Lilley there who caught my talk here.

The festival brought together politicians from across the parties, policy thinkers, and the public in a huge gathering of thought and exchange to create exciting new dialogues.

It was exciting to attend and to get a sense of the energy and dynamism that festival organisers George Freeman MP and the Capital Ideas Foundation created.

A forum for this type of debate is desperately needed if we are to capture the imagination of the UK voters at a pivotal point in the country’s history.

And most importantly the Big Tent Festival is coming North next year!

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