Home Business Events Bolton Stadium to Host Global Entrepreneurs… and the Focus is on Inclusion

Bolton Stadium to Host Global Entrepreneurs… and the Focus is on Inclusion

Powerhouse, Dani Wallace on stage - Photo credit: Vicki Head

From startups to 7 figure founders, entrepreneurs are coming together from across the globe to learn and connect in Bolton, as Bolton Stadium plays host as the new home to the fastest-growing inclusive personal and business development event, The BIG Festoon on 21st and 22nd March.

Attracting celebrity keynote speakers, business owners both from the local area and from across the globe, and connecting people who are working on their side hustles while still employed, The BIG Festoon is an event focused on sharing knowledge, inspiring action and creating opportunities, particularly for those in self-employment.

Created by North West based International Speaking Coach, No.1 Best-selling author, and mum of 3, Dani Wallace, the event now in its fourth year has grown from an initial 40 people at The Impossible in central Manchester, to selling out the 350 people event space at Manchester United, to now expanding into Bolton Stadium to double the size. With this expansion comes a greater focus on inclusion, so that the event really is open to all.

Dani, 40, said: “I remember reading about a survey (from the British Association for the Advancement of Science) which said that Boltonians are the friendliest people in Britain. This is the vibe I am bringing to this event – open arms – where people can ‘come home’ no matter where they are from.”

Committed to providing a ‘safe space for conversations that matter’, The BIG Festoon is an example of an inclusive event, which is actively inviting people from diverse backgrounds and marginalised communities, who often feel excluded from big mainstream events ‘to come to the party’, reassuring them it’s safe for them to do so, having made inclusion and accessibility a huge priority in their planning process.

Part of the rapid expansion of the event has been due to Dani, who grew up on the council estates of Preston and who is a survivor of domestic abuse, embracing wider communities of entrepreneurs as the event has grown. She said: “I have always felt ‘different’ throughout my life. But my strength and success has come from embracing my difference and having a strong voice, so this is something I am passionate about helping others to do. Initially I set this event up to celebrate the voices of female entrepreneurs – to give them a platform as many were still not being heard in the business space -especially on speaking circuits, which I had experienced myself. As I have grown my business and grown as a person, I have been introduced to, and indeed immersed in, other cultures and communities which I recognise need support to be heard and celebrated. Having grown up singing in clubs and pubs and travelling the world as a professional singer, I have always been an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community. Making my events a safe space for all has become a key focus in helping people from underrepresented communities be seen. Helping them see other people like them take up space, be well-received and welcomed with open arms is part of my mission. Last year I was delighted to give my stage to Alex Jay Lynam of Beyond The Binary, who shared their non binary journey as a keynote speaker. Alex, from Manchester, has now become a part of my consultancy team who has helped me create an event that feels genuinely safe for all – and this is a joy to be able to achieve.”

One of the keynote speakers on this year’s lineup representing the LGBTQIA+ community is the incredible transgender singer songwriter and former X-Factor star Dylan Holloway, winner of music show Project Icon, which saw him hit the charts making music with Jason Derulo. Dylan will be sharing his story of self-discovery, encouraging everyone to connect with their authentic selves, no matter what gender they are. Sponsors for the event also include Queer Business Club – a community which offers collaboration + content for queer business owners.

Being a mum to a neurodivergent son and having ADHD herself, Dani is also a huge champion for inclusion around neurodiversity. Jo McMeechan, a SEN mum and founder of SENStory, who is a former speaker at this event who braved sharing her message of challenges and triumph in this area, has also joined The BIG Festoon accessibility team. Jo is on a mission to build inclusive environments where everyone can thrive, has supported Dani to help create an event which is accessible to those with additional needs.

“From Sensory Breakout Spaces, to pronouns on badges, to captioning the talks and trigger warnings when it comes to sensitive topics, to accessible seating, to venue information being supplied to help reduce overwhelm, and a ‘flight squad’ – our team of volunteers, which includes certified therapists and health and wellness practitioners, there are an abundance of measures that have been put in place to open this event up to people who often feel ‘they are not invited to the party, because the party is ‘their worst nightmare’. It’s not right that people with additional needs or psychological safety challenges should be excluded from vibrant, empowering events – there is a way for them to be a part of these experiences, in a way that suits them, where they feel safe” – said Jo.

The BIG Festoon takes place during Neurodiversity Celebration Week, a worldwide initiative that challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about neurodevelopmental disorders and learning disabilities. It aims to transform how neurodivergent individuals are perceived and supported by providing organisations with the opportunity to recognise the many talents and advantages of being neurodivergent, while creating more inclusive and equitable cultures that celebrate differences and empower every individual.

A further piece of the inclusion jigsaw is being looked at in partnership with Manchester born and bred Samantha Lubanzu, who with over two decades of HR experience, is currently the Vice-Chairperson of the CIPD Manchester. Samantha is working with Dani shining a spotlight on black-owned businesses that often face underrepresentation and is hosting a table for black owned business owners – she said: “When you’ve got somebody who is white and straight presenting, running a business event, the general consensus is that it’s going to be attended by a lot of straight white women, and that isn’t the case for The BIG Festoon, so I want to show black business owners that there is a place for them here”.

Set within the backdrop of inclusivity, the talks within the event are set to appeal to all business owners. Bringing in speakers who have already achieved great success, like event Headline Sponsor Lisa Johnson from That Strategy Co who has made £16million over the last 7 years, whilst working around her twins, and keynote Speaker Laurie Burrows who started her business whilst pregnant and now celebrates turning over up to 100K a month by the age of 30, the event is set to inspire, educate and motivate ambitious entrepreneurs looking to achieve the same. Also sharing the stage is world-renowned speaker Daniel Priestley – an award-winning entrepreneur, and best-selling author who started with nothing, then built successful multi-million dollar businesses in Australia, UK and Singapore. These experts will be sharing knowledge on how others can also scale, whilst working flexibly, and still enjoy life.

But the majority of the lineup is curated from entrepreneurs earlier in their journey – who will be taking to the stage at Bolton Stadium, in front of 800 people, to share their stories and messages as part of their commitment to overcome their fears of glossophobia, and as part of their mission to create bigger ripple effects with their work.

Dani said: “This isn’t your usual business event – what we explore here are subjects that matter on a very human level – not just on a business level. We talk fears, and limiting beliefs, money blocks and marketing and we also talk about what it takes to succeed and over these 2 days it’s my job to help everyone in that audience to see how they can slay their own dragons, so that they can grow, and walk away more confident and more ready to take their place in the world”.

“With talks spanning topics from education to energy, mindset to mental health, and sales to self-sabotage, this event creates conversations that matter. We see so many lightbulb moments year on year, and we’ve had people quitting their jobs live on stage and committing to following their dreams -it’s powerful stuff!”

Local entrepreneurs from the North West taking to the stage include; Nicola Parker, of Stronger Than Your Mind, a Mental Fitness Mentor for business owners from Oldham; Janine McDonald founder of Clear the Clutter from Swinton.

Tickets are available via The Big Festoon website – to find out more please connect with Dani Wallace on socials.