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The Big Tent

Jane Davidson and a pensive Lesley Riddoch

Just back from a very engaging Big Tent Festival and a few thoughts from a thought provoking weekend. The Big Tent is now in its 7th year and manages to combine interesting talks, a wide range of exhibitors and activities and music. Everything is aligned around the theme of stewardship. I hope we captured a sense of the event in this week's Lesley Riddoch podcast - Lesley was panelist, chair and reporter throughout the busy weekend.

I sat in on a couple of sessions, packed to the rafters, and learnt a lot.

Jane Davidson, pictured left, produced an interesting revelation en passant. Jane entered politics in Wales, worked hard to become the Minister for Sustainability and Environment and then left politics to become a small holder. As she explained in her panel contributions, there were things she wanted to achieve, notably, in the area of recycling. Wales was first to charge for plastic bags and lead the UK in recycling. In other words, she got in and then got out. Over simplification, I am sure but it was an interesting contrast to so many politicians who outstay their welcome and usefulness. 

Walking around the festival, it was great to bump into different people from communities. It was good to be able to link people up. For example, Polly from the Auchtermuchty Common is the star of an apple pressing video we made together and, for the weekend, was the next door neighbour to Amparo from the Forth Valley Orchards Group. Amparo was demonstrating apple pressing and I was able to pass on the YouTube link for our video. Job done, two groups now helping each other.

 Equally, there were a series of conversations with active enthusiastic people. But the trick is turning these earnest words in the beautiful Fife sunshine into action! If there were two themes I would take away. Community led change is growing. Very few people are waiting for the council or government to swoop in and solve devlopment issues. Second point and one, I would like to explore; banks are not trusted. The 'squeezed middle' distrust banks and want an alternative. Richard Branson isn't an option and the credit union movement is largely invisible. I think there are things that can be done and the job is to find the right posse. I will be investigating a little more.   Watch this space.

Finally, the Big Tent is a fine relaxed atmosphere - thanks to Ninian and the team and the general good humour of everyone in wellies. Come next year.


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