• 24th April 2016

TEDxExeter: Ideas worth spreading


I was extremely lucky to be able to go to the TED Conference in Exeter this year. I’ve gone through both school and university watching TED talks in the classroom and I honestly find them really interesting and inspiring. So, when I got the chance to go and sit in the audience of this year’s conference, I was beyond excited! I believe the Exeter tickets this year sold out in about 22 minutes so I felt very privileged to be one of the lucky members of the audience.

For those of you who don’t know, TED started in 1984 as a conference where people could share their ideas on technology, entertainment and design. Now, the conference shares ideas from a much broader spectrum and is a global event. Each speaker gets exactly 15 minutes on the large red spot in the middle of the stage to present their ideas to the world.

Throughout the day, we heard 17 speakers tell us their ideas and their views on certain topics. Each and every one of them were absolutely brilliant but I’d be here all day if I talked about all of them so I’m going to tell you about the three that really stood out for me.

Giles Duley is an award-winning photographer of conflicts. He worked in music and fashion photography for 10 years before abandoning it and working as a full-time carer. He didn’t know where his life was going and felt like he had lost his way. As a carer, he re-discovered his craft and the power that photography can have to tell a story for those who do not have a voice. It was then that he returned to photography and started documenting conflicts around the world, capturing powerful stories. In 2011, Giles lost both his legs and an arm after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. Despite this, Giles continued his photography career and continued telling stories.

During his TED talk, Giles told us his story and shared some of his powerful photography. His talk really made me think about how we see all this conflict and war on the news but we forget to think about the real people involved. All we do is focus on the terrorists and how bad they are but fail to think about the civilians who have to live amongst this conflict. They are human beings, just like we are, they have children and families just like us but are unable to go about their normal lives because they are caught in the middle of a nightmare. People like Giles enable these people to tell their story to the world and for that, I really do applaud him.

Abbie McGregor is a first year student at Exeter College and was able to take part in TEDxExeter due to winning a competition. Despite being younger and less experienced than all the other speakers, I thought she absolutely smashed it! Her talk was slightly shorter but she looked like a pro, succeeding in grabbing the attention of the audience with her confidence and her ideas. She presented the idea that we should scrap SMART targets in school and encourage students to follow their dreams rather than taking the ‘realistic’ route. I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but here in England, our schools quite often use SMART targets as a learning mechanism. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Abbie demonstrated that if we look closer, SMART targets are actually really restrictive. They try and put your ambitions and dreams into a neat little box so they are practical and achievable. Abbie was always told at school that she should be more realistic with her dreams but why should she be? Surely this stops us from doing what we really want to do and removes all our ambition and our passion. You might not make it but dream anyway because that’s how creativity and a love for your life begins.

Deeyah Khan is an Emmy award-winning documentary film maker and critically acclaimed music producer. Her work focuses on human rights, women’s voices and freedom of expression and at TedxExeter, she told us her story and how she got into her line of work and why she feels it’s so important. She was born in Norway to immigrant parents of Pashtun and Punjabi ancestry and so she experienced struggles in her childhood having to live between different cultures. She told us of how when she was only a child, she went to her local shop to buy her favourite sweets and she got spat on by a white man. Many people were walking by but no one helped her.

When she started playing music, some thought it was not honourable for her to do so. She had a chemical thrown in her eyes, hundreds of death threats and someone even attempted to kidnap her. People started to hate how she made other women think they could do what she was doing – play music in front of a crowd and express herself. She went to live in London and then went on to the U.S. At the end of her speech, she showed a beautiful photo of two little girls from different cultures holding hands and playing together. The innocence of that photo really touched me. Those little girls are blind to the racism and hatred that goes on in the world and all they care about is the personality of one another and being each other’s friend. Hopefully, one day, we will have a world where everyone can live in harmony like those two girls.

So those are the three speakers who really stood out for me at this year’s TedxExeter. It was a wonderful day full of inspiration and creativity and I really hope that I get the chance to go again one day.

Have you ever been to a TED conference? Share your ideas and thoughts by tweeting me @SheWhoLives1


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