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July 7, 2010

Unexpected outcome of the G8 ‘circus’

As leaders of the wealthiest countries gathered last month in Toronto and sought to minimise the embarrassment of all their broken pledges made at Gleneagles in 2005, it’s worth noting at least one of the less high profile but nonetheless enduring legacies from that time.  Conceived as a counterweight to the G8 circus by Fife charity, Falkland Centre for Stewardship, The Big Tent has evolved into something quite unique in Scotland’s festival calendar.

Big Tent is organised by Falkland Centre for Stewardship, a small charity based in the heart of Falkland Estate.

As well as caring for the A listed House of Falkland with its arts and craft interiors and historic landscape, we are developing Falkland Estate as a place where people are learning how to live and work more sustainably. Our interests span from the value of re-skilling our communities to the impact of today’s decisions on climate change for future generations. We are adapting old ideas of stewardship to the needs of our modern, fast changing world with an organic farm that is starting to produce affordable food for our local town, by upgrading miles of paths to strengthen our connections with neighbouring communities, planting thousands of trees and considering plans for allotments and wood fuel production.

As well as hosting the Big Tent, we are also home to the One Planet Food project which aims to encourage a sustainable, healthy and inclusive food culture – in partnership with the Carnegie UK Trust, Fife Council, the University of St Andrews and others.

History of Big Tent

The original proposal for Big Tent was for a “festival of stewardship” at Falkland was conceived on the steps of Falkland Upper Town Hall at the end of the first stewardship forum meeting held by Falkland Centre for Stewardship on August 31st 2004. The prompt was the forthcoming G8 summit at Gleneagles in July 2005 – we imagined an event (following the G8 summit) which would act as a counterpoint providing a venue for ordinary people to share and celebrate ideas and actions that promote good stewardship.

We saw the festival as an opportunity to make contact with and extend invitations to like-minded organisations, and thus as one way in creating the wider partnerships which would be needed for the long-term establishment of Falkland Centre for Stewardship as a national as well as local focus for stewardship.

The festival has run during the summer since 2006. Programme content has evolved over the last 4 years but at its heart, the festival remains an environmental festival with an excellent music and cultural programme. It is not a music festival with a green makeover.

The festival is divided into zones which are: Head Zone for debates, poetry and other expressions, Family Zone for entertainment especially for children (eg workshops, theatre, music), Food Village for locally sourced/organic traders, Body and Soul Zone for therapies and alternative remedies, Wood Zone for all things woody, new for 2010 is the Craft Zone, then there’s the Market Zone for fair trade and quality traders and the Music Zone which comprises two stages – the Wee Shindig and the main stage.

Over the last four years we have developed close working partnerships with different organisations who have helped to evolve and promote programme content. For example, WWF and Word Press have been partners with the Head Zone, Lapidus brings poets and an excellent poetry programme to the Big Tent every year, a local yoga centre coordinates the Body and Soul Zone and an array of wood organisations helped to form the newly created Wood Zone for 2009. The Food Village is coordinated by one of Fife’s leading chefs and the Climate Champions Zone brings communities from all over Scotland to celebrate the work that is being done in the battle against climate change.

The festival has acted as a catalyst for other initiatives. For example, the media acclaimed Fife Diet was first conceived here and now over 800 people in Fife have joined this local eating experiment. Transition Scotland held their first ever Scottish gathering at the festival in 2008.

The Big Tent has always promoted an affordable ticketing structure. Since 2008 it has promoted free entry to children under 12 and in 2010 day tickets start from less than £12. With entertainment, music, workshops and debates from 10.30am each day until 11pm, it is one of the best value festivals on the UK circuit.