Kalexiko@ TEDxBrum: Marking the map

TEDx returned to Brum on the 8th of June 2013; hosting a series of talks and discussions that promised to be insightful, inspiring and innovative. Naturally, I was there to check it out.

I am sure all of you reading this are familiar with TED without introduction; it is THE hub for some of the world’s most interesting thinkers of today. TEDx on the other hand you may not be as familiar with. TEDx possesses all the spirit of TED’s ethos, ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’ but it is a program for communities, organisations and individuals to spread ideas through TED-esque talks and lectures on a local scale.


So TEDx serves as a kind of independently organised forum for spreading great ideas through inspiring communities; Birmingham for example. TEDxBrum’s first event was in 2012, and it was a massive success. In fact, Birmingham is the ideal place for an event like this. It’s a cultured, diverse and energetic city oozing with great thinkers, great events and great places to cultivate all of this. No wonder the first TEDxBrum event was such a success!


Following the success of the first event and the public demand for an ‘encore’ so to speak, TEDxBrum returned to Birmingham and I was there to experience the brilliant talent pool Birmingham has to offer; the City ‘marking the map’ with some of its most innovative and remarkable speakers, sharing their stories with an audience from all over the country.


This years TEDxBrum event was appropriately held at Birmingham’s Think Tank, located at Millenium Point in the centre of the City. It seemed appropriate that this centre point of the City would be the the centre point of the map where this collective of great minds would gather. I arrived, digital ticket in hand and ready to be blown away.


Indeed I was blown away. All of the speakers at this years event were truly inspiring. If I was to try and discuss all of them I would unfortunately be here for a very long time, and so would you dear reader! So I will attempt to round up the event whilst touching up on a few of the performers that were especially amazing.


Reflections on the city

The first wave of speakers performed under the collective category; ‘Reflections on the city’. This section kicked off with an interesting talk ‘marking the map’ of Birmingham from Anita Bhalla, which has influenced my perceptions of the City. This was then followed by a talk from the second Mohammed Ali that has inspired me in my lifetime! Mohammed is a great street artist and the founder of Soul City Arts.


Mohammed’s talk expressed how Birmingham as a city inspired him to be creative and urged us to follow in our own creative endeavors. It was really interesting to hear Mohammed talk about how as an artist Birmingham had sculpted and inspired him; for those who complain that they can’t find inspiration here, you should take a tip from Mohammed. Justice Williams followed with a wonderful talk on the importance of inspiring others and the section was rounded up with a lively performance by Barbara Nice.


Using the map

After a lunch intervention the second section, ‘Using the map’ was underway. For all you data fanatics out there, this was would have been your cup of tea. Max Little opened up the section with an insightful talk, conditioning the mind to see connections rather than boundaries; a map as a series of connecting places rather than different places, if you will. Next up was Lucy Bastin whose talk on data modelling over the web was very insightful. Rounding up the section was a talk from George Cave, and my, was it good.


George Cave, as well as having a background in engineering and web developing is also a seasoned mountaineer. The combination of these two passions has led to an interest in how free software and data sets can be used when tackling vast mountain ranges. George really captured the spirit of TED, combining two seemingly unrelated worlds in his speech he really showed us how to ‘use the map’.


While all this was happening there was something really cool going on behind the scenes. During the talks Andy Pryke was conducting live data mapping of Marking the Map’s Twitter traffic. The insights obtained from this are really cool, so cool in fact I have had to include one in the article; thanks Andy!


From here to there

The next section, ‘From here to there’ kicked off with a spoken word performance from Polar Bear. There is an impressive spoken word scene buzzing in the cafe’s and bars in Birmingham and Polarbear is one of the shining talents to emerge from it. Offering honest and often gritty poems from his experiences, Polarbear demonstrates the need for creativity to be noticed and harboured in the city.


‘From here to there’ was the section that really addressed some social issues that we face. Alison Smith delivered a talk highlighting something that a lot of us don’t consider often enough; digital discrimination. Her talk really brought to light issues that people often stay silent about in the wake of the digital revolution, and I believe that it is really something that needs addressing; thank you Alice for the inspiration.


After a compelling talk from the esteemed and Stuart Walker, Jamie Smith took the stage. Jamie explored something that I found very interesting, due to being part of the digital industry. Jamie’s talk explored the future of teachers in a classroom in relation to cloud computing. Jamie is a truly engaging speaker, his ideas are innovative and challenging while still retaining a logical forecast as to what could be the future relationship between digital and educational systems. If people like Jamie are listened to then the future of education will be a very bright and exciting one.


Changing Directions

‘Changing Directions’ was the last section of the talk, and my goodness, it was emotional. After a seriously moving talk from Wanjiku Nyachae, exploring the topics of mental health next came Jodi Ann Bickley . Where on earth do I begin to describe Jodi. You may recognise her from her various writing events in Birmingham, or from her performances further afield; you may also know her from her inspirational example of philanthropy One Million Lovely Letters .


Jodi started One Million Lovely Letters while she was suffering from the after-effects of a stroke caused by a tick bite she received while performing poetry at Bestival, in the Isle of White. After being diagnosed with Encephalitis, Jodie decided that she would do something truly to make good of the time she had on her hands. In the hours that she was bed bound because of her illness, she decided that she would start One Million Lovely Letters. Jodie opened her inbox to the world; anyone who was feeling a bit blue could message Jodie and she would send them a handwritten letter reminding them just how great they are. Jodi, being characteristically modest had no idea anyone was going to respond; especially to the level that they did.


Jodi’s site has received 50,000 views from over 115 countries, and Jodi has written 700 letters with 500 more pending. I can’t think of words to describe how moving Jodi’s situation is, even more so her way of making the best out of the worst. Jodi spoke about her plight and read the most beautiful letter addressed to everyone in the audience; as you can expect Jodi’s way with words ensured that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house by the time she was finished.


Marking the Map

It is truly difficult to find the right words words to do the TEDxBrum event any suitable justice. The inspiration I gained from all of the speakers was just overwhelming. Sometimes we take for granted that there are so many great young minds out there who are paving the future. I cannot stress enough the need for anyone reading this to check out the speakers that showcased their talent at TEDxBrum.


From my experience at the event, not only have I been injected with a new feeling of pride to be surrounded by such talented people, but also the need to urge people to go with their creative side; to start the journey without the map and connect the dots for yourself.


Now go and be inspired!