Big Wide Talk is an ongoing conversation about the nature of public services, their impact on children and young people and the struggle for equality.

From 2001 until 2011 Big Wide Talk worked across England with children, parents and practitioners letting them think, learn and speak for themselves in Theatres of Learning. Thousands of children took part, lighting up the spaces we curated to surprise, excite and enthral. They were the spark for spectacular, local participation and the demonstration of a viable, democratic approach to the production of public services. This website provides a window to some of the products and outputs of the work and serves as an invitation to others with the creativity and wit to challenge the existing order of things to build on what we've learned this far.

November 2015

Summer 2015 had its up and downs. In late June we discovered that our website had crashed somewhere in France. With it went all of the links in our publication 'Big Wide Talk, a new kind of thing.' For reasons only techies themselves are prepared to understand it has taken until now for all of those links to be restored. Nevertheless we now have a functioning website and epublication. Bravo the techies!

'Big Wide Talk, a new kind of thing'

The publication tells how working together with children and families, where they live, Big Wide Talk has demonstrated: a system which combines family support, community economic development and parental engagement in children's learning; how children and their huge energy can spark entire communities to experience achievement; the efficacy of Theatres of Learning as the mainstay of the model, provoking shared reflection and community production. The vivid responses of thousands of children are described in some depth in myriad pieces of film. 'Big Wide Talk, a new kind of thing' is not only an essential reference for social and economic development but also a unique archive of children's behaviour during the first decade of this millennium.:
The book can be accessed free at the link below and on Amazon at the exorbitant price of 99 pence! We'd prefer the Amazon copies to be free but Amazon distribution processes seem not to allow this. Someday soon when the Gods are smiling we'll succeed in publishing on an open Source platform such as Project Gutenburg.
Click here for the Kindle and epub versions

Under Investigation

This summer has also seen us bring the first phase of our work in South Africa to a successful conclusion.
Under Investigation is a community development project taking place in Steytlerville in the Eastern Cape. Phase 1 has included the production of a documentary film, Under Investigation, which is to be premiered in the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town on Friday 28th November.
Made by a group of young people with no previous experience of film making, Under Investigation deals with the death of Johannes Witbooi Spogter in July 1985 in Steytlerville in the Eastern Cape. Johannes died in custody after being picked up by police following a peaceful protest against apartheid. He was twelve years old.
The death sparked a protest by two members of Black Sash in Cape Town who chained themselves to the railings of Parliament. However little was known about the actual circumstances of the death and its antecedents.
The project was put together to enable a group of young people living in Steytlerville now to have the opportunity to explore the history of their town during the struggle and to strengthen their vision for the future.
Copies of the DVD can be obtained for a small fee by emailing
A full account of the project, The Production Diary, is available here.
see also the project's Facebook page - and coverage in a Cape Town online community news organisation.
See Mary Burton and Beva Runciman, two women who participated in the South African fight for freedom. Humanity aside, what these women and the work in Steytlerville exemplify is the way in which learning and reflection nurture empowerment, the key driver for education and the support of children.

If you have further questions or ideas please get in touch, using Twitter and Facebook or email

What people say about us:

"This was the best day of my life! It was better than Legoland!"

Joshua, age 8, talking to his Mum about the Cambridge Cloth Place

"These are Y5 children who can be challenging and hard to engage and yet in the Theatre of Learning they were all intensely engaged. Their enthusiasm for this self-directed style of learning has continued and has had a knock on effect across the school.Lesson plans can be linked to what the children want and need to know."

Vicky Dupras, Head Teacher, Avonmouth Church of England Primary School, Bristol

"It’s truly amazing, so glad we came"

Martina Whitley, Parent, Westbury-on-Trym

"To see how the children fill spaces when they are given the chance is wonderful. We should think more carefully about the amount of space children can use when we build schools."

David Howarth, then MP for Cambridge

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