Big Meets Archive

The ‘Big Meet’ is a bi-annual conference, organised by the Place Alliance, who campaign for place quality along with organisations across the UK who are working in the field of place-based community engagement.

The Big Meet Archive page allows you to access all the available event materials from past Big Meets. You will find the most recent Big Meet on top: just scroll down and click on each toggle to find all the others.

BIG MEET 8: Artists and the Arts in Place-Making

BIG MEET 8: Artists and the Arts in Place-Making“, organised by the Arts & Place Working Group, took place in Jeffrey Hall, UCL on the 18 April 2018.

The Government Cultural white paper of 2016 stated that ‘Cultural placemaking can shape the fortunes of our regions, cities towns and villages’ and went on to say that ‘We want more local leaders to grasp the potential of culture to achieve their vision for their community, and to put culture at the forefront of their strategies’.

Local authorities, developers, the private sector and communities have all created different models of practice supported by imaginative approaches to funding.

Big Meet 8 shared examples that demonstrate the range of models of practice in the field of Art and Place from across the UK; Investigated artists led approaches to engaging with place through temporary interventions and local authority initiatives to work with communities; developers support for cultural place making; while framing the wider issues of how cultural led placemaking can have a sustainable impact on the development of a place and its communities.

Documents from the event:

BIG MEET 7: Engaging Communities in Place-Making

BIG MEET 7: Engaging Communities in Place-Making“, organised by the Urban Rooms Network, took place at UCL on the 25th of April 2017. Delegates including local authorities, housing associations, community groups, regeneration bodies, education and arts organisations attended April’s Big Meet. The event showcased a range of projects from the Urban Room Network including the Sheffield School of Architecture’s Live Works, Blackburn Urban Room and Bristol Architecture Centre.




The following speakers presented best practice in creative community engagement:

In the afternoon delegates took part in a workshop, using material developed by Live Works, to understand the challenges and opportunities in developing their own Urban Room or place-based community engagement project. They were prompted to consider the ethical and practical aspects of the project in order to ensure that the engagement would be locally relevant, sustainable and creative.

Documents from the event:

Matthew Carmona, Chair of the Place Alliance and Professor of Planning and Urban Design at The Bartlett School of Planning, UCL writes about the day here.

Carolyn Butterworth, Chair of the Urban Rooms Network and Director of Live Works explains:

“The Big Meet was a fantastic opportunity to showcase the exciting work that members of the Urban Room Network are doing across the UK. It was such an interesting day where we all learned so much from each other and I know that conversations that started on the day between different places and organisations have continued further since then. This is what the network aims to do – connect up people and organisations who are passionate about community engagement in their place, so that we can share knowledge and skills, and ultimately make a difference to the quality of our towns and neighbourhoods.”


Sophia de Sousa, Chief Executive of The Glass-House Community Led Design said:

“It was a really good day. I particularly liked that there was an active session that challenged people to think about and apply what had been explored in the morning – people actually learning by doing. My favourite moment at the workshop table was talking about turning the whole of Oxford Street into an Urban Room!”

BIG MEET 6: Healthy Places






“BIG MEET 6 – Healthy Places”, was held at UCL on the 19 of October 2016 and was organised by Debbie Sorkin, chair of the Healthy Places Working Group, and Sue James, member of the Trees & Design Action Group. The event looked at different aspects of the connection between health and place, and encouraged participants to share expertise, learn from what is happening around the country and explore how to innovate.

In the words of the recent House of Lords Select Committee on the Built Environment:

“The places that we create have a profound effect upon the quality of life, behaviours and experiences of people who live and work in them.” 

These effects are particularly marked on people’s physical and mental health, and on their wider wellbeing. The Place Alliance invites you to Big Meet 6 to reflect on some of these connections, learn from the experience of people from different sectors who are looking to strengthen links between planning, housing and health, and explore how you might incorporate these in your own work.

Documents from the event:

BIG MEET 5: National Conference on Design Review





“BIG MEET 5 – National Conference on Design Review”, was held at UCL on the 29 of April 2016 and was organised by Ben VanBruggen, chair of the Place Quality, and kindly sponsored by Barratt Development Plc.

With the demise of national funding for design review from 2013, the landscape for design review has rapidly and fundamentally changed. From a public sector activity offered free of charge, design review is now typically a pay to use service delivered by a wide variety of providers. Despite this, the National Planning Policy Framework, the Government’s planning policy for England, continues to strongly endorse design review, The Farrell Review recommended that it might develop into a wider place shaping activity, and the House of Lords have called for design review to become mandatory.

To help clarify the situation, or at least to begin the process of more openly and systematically debating it, in April the Place Alliance devoted BIG MEET 5 to a “National conference on design review”. We took a wide range of contributions from experts who had been or currently are involved in design review from a wide range of perspectives and from all the nations of the UK and beyond.

Documents from the event and media coverage:


BIG MEET 4: A Place for Living






BIG MEET 4 – A Place for Living” was hosted by the the British Academy as part of its “Where We Live Now” project.

Place Alliance brought together around 80 organisations from right across the built environment sector to discuss the importance of design quality as we strive to increase the volume of new housing built in England. Speaker after speaker at BIG MEET 4 spoke of the importance of creating places that we can be proud of and that will encourage communities everywhere to support the national need for more housing.


Speaking to the gathering, Minister of State Brandon Lewis remarked: “An increased focus on good quality design could help us to deliver more homes, at a quicker pace, which communities can feel proud of”. On behalf of the Place Alliance, Prof Matthew Carmona commented that “Government has a vital role in setting the tone and strong unequivocal support for the importance of design everywhere is very welcome.  We have a once in a generation opportunity to take decisions now that will define the places and communities of the future.  We must not miss it”.

Attendees received a copy of the first Place Alliance ‘Annual Review – 2015‘, which highlights our achievements and activities for the year.

Documents from the events and media coverage:






BIG MEET 3, kindly sponsored by IHBC,  was a chance for Place Alliance supporters from across the country to get together for networking and exchange and for the first time to publicly state their support for the alliance. The whole group discussed the national survey or ‘mapping exercise’, put forward future trajectories for Place Alliance work, and participated in the first of the nationwide TalkPlace exercises.



Documents from the event:

1. Presentation from Matthew Carmona

2. Presentation on the Mapping Exercise

3. Draft mapping report

4. TalkPlace workpack

5. Summary report






BIG MEET 2 was held on Thursday 2 of October 2014 in UCL’s recently upgraded events venue at the front quad of the Wilkins building on Gower Street.

The event brought together around 70 people from across the built environment sector representing a wide variety of organisations and specialisms and different parts of England and the UK. They spent the afternoon deliberating whether and how to found a Place Alliance that could unite them and determined to create a strong and purposeful collaboration to help fill the leadership gap in England.

This strengthened the conclusions of the first BIG MEET about the need for an alliance and gave further details around the activities, which have provided a route towards collaborative action across England and a strong mandate for UCL to continue to facilitate and co-ordinate the work. It gave Matthew Carmona and Lucy Natarajan the impetus to providing a hub where a Place Alliance strategy could be drawn up.

Document from the event:






BIG MEET 1 was held on Thursday 17 of July 2014 in UCL’s recently upgraded events venue at the front quad of the Wilkins building on Gower Street.

Drawing on AHRC funded UCL research into questions of design governance and Professor Matthew Carmona’s published suggestions (Urban Design Matters, #42 and #43) for how to build on the PLACE leadership recommendations of the Farrell Review (March 2014), the BIG MEET brought together 106 leading figures from 77 different organisations seeking to take forward this aspect of the review.

The BIG MEET was followed by a meeting with the Minister for Architecture, Ed Vaizy MP.


A full event report and a discussion paper were produced; UCL conducted a consultation around them and created a report on the feedback. Before the first BIG MEET Matthew Carmona’s produced a discussion paper on National Place Leadership and Sir Terry Farrell wrote a letter of endorsement to Matthew.