TEDxBrum was an extraordinary event held on Saturday 11th June 2016. Fuelled by a 70-strong team of volunteers the event epitomised 'people power' and was aptly themed 'Power Of Us'. A day-long festival-meets-conference, housed in the stunning Town Hall Birmingham, TEDxBrum invited in citizens, thought-leaders, speakers and performers to a beautifully crafted and thoughtfully curated day of ideas designed to provoke, disturb, critique, celebrate, share and spark new ideas to make a better city.
I was lucky enough to be asked to speak at this year's event. Despite being shrouded by nerves and excitement (I was a bundle of adrenaline all day which manifested in my arms making weird shapes and me making even weirder jokes) I revelled in the opportunity to see the Town Hall in its most glorious form; a public space at the heart of civic engagement and debate. I caught glimpses of the 18th century coffee shop ethos; people convening hearty and heated conversations about leadership, sexuality, mental health, welfare and income and more. Maybe we're entering a new Age of Enlightenment? If so, TEDxBrum is well and truly leading the way.
Each speaker and performer bought an element of originality and displayed courage and strength standing up in front of an audience of 800 to share their 'little idea'. We cried and applauded when Jayne Hardy shared a heart warming and fiercely brave story of overcoming depression and using social media to help others to do the same. We whooped and hollered when Devita Davison exposed the paradox between food and justice. We jingled our hips to the tabla, pretended to play along with the Beatbox Quartet and clicked until our fingers rubbed dry in agreement when polyvocal poetry duo, A2, brought the roof down with their tales of Birmingham.
Here's what I took away from the day:
1. We need more SPACE. Spaces to discuss, debate, share ideas, to listen, to organise, to collaborate, to SHARE. We need spaces for our LGBTQI+ people of colour to be able to 'bring their full selves to the table' as Suriya from UnMuted elaborated. We need spaces to share our stories and enable others to tell theirs like Jayne is doing with Blurt. We need more spaces like TEDxBrum.
Where is the consistency to share ideas on a city-wide scale with such an engaged and varied audience?
2. "It's not my problem" just won't cut it. Craig Pinkney explained that in his work with young people, he often encounters people who say 'It ain't my problem'. He called out us perpetuating 'invisible young people' and forewarned that 'if a child doesn't feel a part of the village, they will burn it down just to feel it's warmth'. Devita shared the severity of obesity in Detroit and explained how they were reclaiming and reowning food growing through Detroit Food Lab and how we could learn from her city's mistakes and successes. Amy Martin from F A M A L A M laid out how we could get a bit more radical with our childcare - how are we building villages to raise our children collectively?
Lauren Currie pleaded for us to 'share our stages' and to be #UPFRONT. She asked us not wait for others to readdress the lack of diversity in power but to do it now, ourselves, by inviting people to sit in on our talks and presentations.
These are all of OUR problems to share in and the solutions will come from all of US.
3. The need for a plurality of voices. How refreshing to be soothed by the charismatic energy of Simon Willis, the MD of Change.org one minute then a fired up by a passionate poem by Nafeesa Hamid on Alum Rock the next. The styles, the accents, the voices, the messages, the use of theory, the stats, the stories, the body language - all landed differently with different people giving us a delectable tasting platter of inspiration, provocation, frustration and motivation.
We shouldn't be commenting on being surrounded by such a vast array of speakers and performers truly representing all sectors, all backgrounds, all of us. It should be a normality.
The real work starts now. Where do we go with this energy and fire? How do we harness this momentum? What's next? How can other cities learn from the lessons shared at this event?
How can we cultivate mini TEDxBrum moments every day?
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