On Friday 31st October a group of us headed to Brighton’s Dome Theatre for a day of inspiring talks exploring ideas around connectivity, convergence and community. The day was divided into four sections: Reaching Out, Drawn Together, The Makers and Going Beyond.
The day started off with Karl Mattingly talking about his company slowXchange – a crowdsourcing platform to predict the performance of the financial markets. Truth be told he wasn’t the most gripping speaker but his talk was peppered with interesting anecdotes. I enjoyed rehearing the story of using the wisdom of the crowd to correctly guess the weight of an ox in a contest at an American country fair.
Our second speaker was the artist Ju Row Farr, her talk was rambling and didn’t hold the audiences attention. In a nutshell her collective went to Japan and got fishermen to push a boat out of the sea and into a park to create a memorial to the 2011 tsunami. The project is actually really interesting, the delivery let it down.
One of my favourite talks was given by Stefania Druga, she has worked at Google and has an impressive academic background. She told us about two interlinked projects to bring prototyping to people that would not ordinarily have the chance to play with an Arduino or RaspberryPi. It was inspiring hearing about her journey through Africa teaching people about electronics and prototyping. Each time she moved countries she took previous students with her to teach the next group of eager youngsters. We also heard about a four week “Maker Camp” in Berlin, young delegates from around the world united to first build the camp and then a series of projects including an electricity usage monitor and a device to tell you when to water your plants.
The final performer of the morning session was Deanna Rodger – she’s a slam poet but rather than let me tell you about her, listen for yourself.
Session two kicked off with the crime writer Peter James telling us a series of amusing anecdotes about his time researching crime with the police. He was an engaging speaker and I enjoyed his tales of friendship with his “real life Roy Grace”.
Another of my favourites was Megan Leckie, I was truly inspired by her mission to empower young people in Lewes and give them a platform to speak about the future of their town. Megan and her partner Joe use Minecraft to let school children re-design their surroundings – the kids are complete whizzes at playing the game and came up with some wonderful ideas. Taking the children’s ideas a step further, a 3d model was printed and presented to the council in Lewes, giving the youngsters an audience they would never normally have access to.
Ruth Anslow has set up hiSbe, an independent supermarket, with her sister Amy. The talk was an inspirational look at leaving a comfortable career to pursue an idea that Ruth truly believes in – a supermarket that is ethical, sustainable and affordable. I found the story of Ruth’s epiphany interesting – an excitable supermarket buyer telling her that by reducing the quality of chicken in their value pies it was possible to keep the selling price the same and massively increase profits. I look forward to taking a trip to hiSbe the next time I am in Brighton.
The last talk before lunch was given by Cici Blumstein. She was dressed as a frog and told us a fantastical story about rescuing amphibians in her garden before moving on to a discuss a species of frog that is only one male away from going extinct. This one male frog stopped croaking when the last female frog passed away. Underneath a quirky story, the touching message seemed to be about making sure you appreciate having people to speak to because one day they might not be there anymore.
The afternoon kicked off with an interesting introductory talk by the television journalist Jaques Peretti, he gave us a whistle-stop history of capitalism taking in planned obsolescence, using fear to sell and the rise of the precariat. At times listening to Jaques speak felt like taking ‘the red pill’ – his glimpse behind the capitalist marketeer’s curtain was a real eye opener.
The rest of the speakers in this session all make their living with their hands and were fascinating. Ben Edmonds used to be a graphic designer and now makes knives, Andoitz Telleria builds hand made bicycles from wood, EJ Osborne hand carves spoons and runs workshops to teach others her unique skills, Tom Lywood is a truffle hunter and brought his dog on stage with him, James Otter crafts wooden surfboards and Jim Fleeting gave up a career in IT to become a guitar maker. All of them had engaging stories and made me keen to unleash my creativity and build something from scratch.
Camille Baker got the final session underway with a talk about her artwork utilising wearable technology to explore peoples’ emotions. She was followed by Alan Pearce who told tales of the ‘dark web’ and urged us all to use Tor to protect our personal data. The penultimate slot of the day went to Fox Fisher – he discussed being transgender and a series of projects to promote freedom to express gender without prejudice.
The final speaker of the day was Sam Roddick of Coco de Mer fame (also famous for being the daughter of the founders of The Bodyshop). She started her talk by ripping up her carefully prepared script! She then went on to discuss ethical business practices and the idea that economically war makes more sense than peace – she was driving at the idea that the system needs to change to give peace a chance.
I thoroughly enjoyed the day and found it truly inspirational. I urge you all to watch the talks when they appear on the TEDx website.