Give me a T, give me an E, give me a D, give me an x

TEDxBedfordIt’s taken a few days to stop ‘buzzing’ enough to be able to formulate a structure and article about my experience of TEDxBedford, but here it now is.

Firstly for all of you who are not aware of this global phenomenon, go and learn about it at TED. It’s an internationally renowned source of endless inspiration. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and this not-for-profit organisation is dedicated to ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’.

Outside of the global TED conferences they run a programme called TEDx to enable the wider community to access a TED-like experience under a strict licence application process. TEDxBedford was one of these. If you want to get a better understanding of TEDxBedford before reading this then please visit the TEDxBedford website or flick through the programme here.

You can also hear from the organisers about TEDxBedford’s theme ‘everyday radicals’ by watching this short video:

TEDxBedford rocked; not only because we had seasoned rockers Mark Kelly from Marillion and Richard Jobson film director and ex-singer of the scottish punk band The Skids, but because it just did. In more ways than one.

TEDxBedford was organised by Andrew Nadin (a fellow brand consultant) and Kayte Judge (my wife, and probably known more for her community arts productions and her empty shops initiatives). I should probably point out that I was also involved behind the scenes as my company, Bonfire Creative Intelligence, was a headline sponsor, and even as a sponsor I felt slightly anxious about the event as the TEDx format historically runs in bigger towns and cities. On top of that the main TEDGlobal conference had just been in Edinburgh on the 10-14th June (the week before), and TEDxHousesOfParliament had been the day before in London, but nevertheless TEDxBedford happened and upon arrival the sun was up and you knew something TEDx-like was about to happen.

TEDxBedford state setSo what actually happened? Well its like this: 100 people turned up; picked up a name badge and goody bag; were treated to breakfast, by local sandwich gurus Roosters; after which they were led into the Music Recital Hall at Bedford School sporting an impressive sound/stage set-up created by Bonfire CI by fellow sponsors DB Audio Visual. Within 2 minutes of the first speaker you knew it had worked and that this was a special day.

First up, was Mark Kelly, keyboardist from Marillion. He set the pace and his opening talk officially declared TEDxBedford well and truly open. A well seasoned speaker and musician he told an engaging tale of how internet crowdfunding had come about, and how he/Marillion had pioneered this as early as 1997! He described himself as a crowdfunding purist and explained why trust for him was the most essential ingredient.

This was followed by a truly remarkable story from Becky John about her life and social enterprise; a story of People, Power, Passion and Pants. What more can I say? Check out her website.

Anne-Marie Naylor from Locality followed and reminded us of the importance of local spaces, about embracing and taking control of our community assets and how working with existing under-utilised infrastructure can bring people together: a theme echoed in the talks from ‘place shaker’ Dan Thompson in the delivery of community arts interventions, architect Cany Ash with her epilogue “new ideas need old buildings” and Alice Ferguson with her ‘Playing Out’ movement that reclaims overcrowded streets for children’s play and social well-being.

We heard from Richard Jobson on his life, the inspiration of an older brother, of punk, of gritty determination and of low budget, high quality films. We heard from Jack Lang founder of Raspberry Pi, the fastest growing computer business in the world. As someone who gets involved with launches, this one did blow my mind and was punctuated by hilarious anecdotes; like when Jack said “we knew we had a problem” – when they found a few of their first 10,000 £15-a-piece-computers on eBay selling for over £2,000. They ramped up production and have now sold almost 1.5m globally. Not bad for a start-up.

What was also interesting about this was that it was built on a need stemming from an educational and generational failing, a topic that gets David Jackson, of the Innovation Unit, hot under the collar “children are not failing in schools, schools are failing our children”. A statement supported by some mind-blowing statistics. It does make you think to yourself “why have schools been left this way?”.

Amongst the punk angst, the birth of crowdfunding, a story of pants, society and community Jeni Melia and Sarah Russell, calmed us down and talked about how music is helping those with dementia, Jen Gale spoke of a year of ‘make do and mend’, Jane Perrone of do it yourself salad and how social activist @heardinlondon is weilding social media to encourage peace.

We heard from Tomas Georgeson on how he hid £8000 in a gallery in the name of art and from local illustration hero David Litchfield on how his drawing a day project empowered him and changed his life. What a nice man.

TEDxBedford teamI now revert back to the overarching theme of the day, ‘everyday radicals’. As one speaker said they “felt less radical, and more everyday”; and that’s the point. You don’t have to be ‘anyone but you’ to do something life changing or impactful for yourself, for others, or both.

Andrew Nadin summed the day up perfectly when he said “If not now, when? If not us, who?”.

Congratulations to all involved, this was a great day and just the kind of thing Bedford needs more of. So when’s the next one?

I will leave you with one of the pre-recorded TEDTalks with Reggie Watts shown as part of the event. Hilarious.

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