The Big Debate

The Big Debate

On Friday 8th February, with almost a year in behind the scenes planning, a windswept, blustery afternoon saw the opening of our high profile event, The Big Debate 2019.

The event was held at OPEN on Bank Plain, Norwich, ran from and was fully booked with over a 100 delegates leaving standing room only.

Thanks to our sponsors, Greater Anglian and to our Host Shaun Lowthorpe, Content Connective.

Shaun is a freelance writer and the owner of Content Connective specialising in business case studies and communications for brands and publishers. He was Business Editor at the EDP where he worked as a journalist for 16 years overseeing daily business coverage, the EDP Business Awards, Future 50, East Anglian Farming World, and Mustard TV’s Business Extra programme so was a perfect fit for hosting our event.

Aimed at discussing and debating the most pressing issues that our region is facing, Chamber members were given the opportunity to question an outstanding panel consisting of five Norfolk MP's, Council members, New Anglia LEP, and local business leaders.

With every chair taken, delegates from industries and businesses across Norfolk came together to discuss topics ranging from the ever-present Brexit, education, diversity within Norfolk and perceptions of our county.

The Chamber identified topics that were forefront to the business community. Questions were uploaded live to a backdrop behind the panel and guests were able to see which topics were important to other members, creating an engaging and thoughtful debate.

The afternoon consisted of four debates, each with a mix of panellists;

Skills/Education

Stuart Rimmer, Chief Executive, East Coast College
George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk
Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk
Chloe Smith, MP for Norwich North

Place/Perception

Tom McCabe, Executive Director of Community & Environmental Services, Norfolk County Services
Jeanette Wheeler, Partner, Birketts LLP
Julian Munson, Head of Enterprise Zones and innovation, New Anglia LEP
Rebecca Lewis Smith, Managing Director, Fountain Partnership
Sir Henry Bellingham, MP for North West Norfolk

Diversity

Jeanette Wheeler, Partner, Birketts LLP
Fiona Ryder, Managing Director, TCD Media
Chloe Smith, MP for Norwich North
Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South

Brexit Debate

Chloe Smith, MP for Norwich North
Chris Starkie, Chief Executive, New Anglia LEP
Sir Henry Bellingham, MP for North West Norfolk
Clare Hedges, Senior Associate – Head of immigration Team, Birketts LLP
George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk
Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South

Our Host Shaun Lowthorpe expertly directed the constant fire of questions to the panel and the discussions were energetic, dynamic and lively.

The Brexit debate had possibly the shortest and the most poignant question of the day to be asked in the final debate, 'What is Brexit?'.

Whilst it raised a smile with the audience, it was a discussion that led to serious points - Clive Lewis MP talked about one of his constituents experiencing more racism since Britain voted for Brexit, and that he fears the decision to leave may be seen by some as a sign that it is acceptable to have divisive views.

The event whilst debating relevant and serious issues concerning Norfolk both now, and in the months to come, was closed with a cross-section of opinions and viewpoints coming together in an atmosphere of positivity and energy going forward into 2019. 

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