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TEDxBath: Inter-Connected 2021 Event Summary - By Katy Bishop

Last month, after a year away due to the pandemic, TEDXBath returned! This time, returning as a hybrid event, featuring both a live audience as well as an interactive digital audience, the event focussed on the importance of being interconnected. The twelve speakers dove into the importance of positive and creative ideas within our local communities, shaped by global expertise.

Here is a play-by-play of how the event went.

18th November 2021 19:00pm- 21:00pm

The first night of the event was filled with apprehension and excitement, sat amongst the socially distanced audience, the room was filled with a supportive and unbiased air, which everyone gladly soaked in.

After some polite introductions, the event went live and we were informed the evening will be digitally broadcasts in multiple languages, a fitting idea for the nights theme.

Kiesha Thompson graced the stage to introduce the first speaker and were treated to an informative 5-line poem detailing the speaker’s biography. As we sat in awe at Kiesha’s skill, the first speaker, Sarah Gregory took to the stage.

Sarah Gregory:

Opening with a moving recollection of her own experience with racism, the audience was introduced to the core concept of her talk-stepping out of our own story to see the bigger picture.

Gregory is the Co-Founder of Revoke, an organisation advocating for the rights and welfare of young refugee and asylum seekers. She keenly highlighted the importance of sensitivity within her talk, stating that “sensitivity is necessary, to see the bigger picture” and that it is only there that she “sees and feels real change”. The audience was then presented with photos of the young people Revoke helps, impactfully humanising the issue she so eloquently discussed.

As she concluded her talk, the tone of the evening had been perfectly set, and the audience was left to come to terms with the fact that each speaker will no doubt leave us questioning whether we are connected enough to both, the people and the issues that surround us today.

Sarah exited the stage, but her footsteps were silenced by the audience’s appreciation, it seemed that despite the small audience permitted to be in person that night, there would be no absence of applause for the speakers. Kiesha then introduced the room to the second speaker, Claire Prosho.

Claire Prosho

Transgender Educator and Founder of Claire’s Trans Talks, Claire wasted no time in educating the audience on the statistics of the transgender community. She informed the audience that there are half a million people today who identify as transgender and that heartbreakingly those half a million “are not seen” within society.

Claire discussed how every minority group deals with de-humanisation and that this is no different for the transgender community, particularly when concerning the media. The audience listened attentively to her account of a time when she was shopping for glasses and despite her insistence on purchasing from the women’s section, she was insultingly brought to the men’s options. Claire further explained that such interactions are not unusual and that every day she faces a new challenge as a transgender woman.

As she summarised her talk, she informed the audience of how to make impactful, positive change to the transgender community. She asked us to; listen and believe those within the community as well as to challenge, our own thinking about those who identify as transgender.

The room rightfully erupted with applause as Claire left the stage, and Kiesha wasted no time introducing Dan Burgess.

Dan Burgess

The evening was in full swing now and Co-founder of ‘The Spaceship Earth,’ Dan Burgess’s talk, “Becoming the crew - The climate crisis is a story crisis”, instantly had the rooms attention. He recalled a childhood memory of submitting a piece to a sci-fi magazine as a boy and having a fascination with space. Continuing, he described how he came to the concept that the earth is in fact the human race’s spaceship and that we are its crew, an idea that had the audience hooked.

He noted that when a person is asked where they feel at their happiest, they will most likely say, when among nature. He continued, explaining that despite this knowledge we continue to sit idly and watch nature suffer because of our actions. He told us that we need to start “working together to collectively create a system that benefits all.”

Composed and passionate, Burgess made public speaking look easy, it’s at this point I noted all the speakers attentively watching Dan, specifically Tiana Kovats (yet to present) nodding thoughtfully throughout.

Dan Burgess concluded by addressing the audience and asking us to think about “what happens through you, and who and what will you become.” Leaving us with intense food for thought.

The next speaker was admiringly introduced to the stage by Kiesha, who somehow kept her composure whilst expressing her love for Kovats’ work. The audience applauded the artist’s entrance, intrigued after Kiesha’s high praise.

Tania Kovats

The renowned artist and professor of drawing and making at Dundee University, opened her talk by introducing herself as an “introverted activist” a term I can 100% get behind. Her talk, titled ‘Some rivers flow through you’ commenced with the artist asking both digital and live audience members to think about the river that runs through them and to draw it. Without hesitation we all obeyed, scribbling our rivers on small pieces of paper.

Whilst drawing, the audience listened as Tania described the process and motivation behind her work titled ‘rivers’, a piece which composed of 100 specimens of water from 100 different rivers around the British Isles, placed fittingly within a boathouse in Scotland.

The artist also discussed the ‘rivers’ sister project which consists of 365 bottles of water from various seas. The best part is that each bottle is sent from people around the world, truly making the project interconnected.

As we all placed our paper and pencils down, we were moved from art class to maths class, as we were introduced to our next speaker.

Professor Alf Coles

Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Bristol, Professor Coles discussed how his talk aimed to illustrate how connecting to children’s ‘powers’ is not only possible but necessary for quality maths education. A concept that gripped the room’s full attention.

The mathematician further explained that just because a pupil doesn’t understand step 9, that they shouldn’t not be taught step 10. He stated that “We learnt to walk by running.” Detailing how learning doesn’t have to be vertical building block in order for it to be successful, there is no set of rules that can be applied to learning.

He concluded his talk with a fun interactive maths problem, asking the live audience to figure out the sequence, whilst some (like me) were left frowning and scraping our brains for any form maths knowledge, others were quick to find the answer. It was interesting to see how figuring out how one person was able to reach the answer, you too understood.

Inspired, the audience keenly applauded, and suddenly we were being introduced to our final speaker of the night.

Renee Jacobs

Founder of ‘B in Bath’, an organisation that aims to build a support system which provides advice, training and support. B in Bath is passionate about supporting and empowering individuals from UK minority backgrounds, people from low-income backgrounds as well as LGBTQ+ in the workplace.

Renee’s talk was titled; ‘Creating inclusive spaces, where to start?’ no doubt, a theme fitting topic, she began by discussing the power of conversation and how important it is in order to promote inclusivity. She also passionately spoke on the impact every person can have through conversation; an idea that had the audience proud to be in attendance at what is arguably a large-scale discussion.

Renee concluded her talk by challenging both the digital and live audience, to go out and talk to someone they wouldn’t normally talk to and to see where this would lead them.

Finally, Kiesha Thompson was back in centre stage, and beautifully wrapped up the evening in a poem. As the audience applauded the night’s speakers, Kiesha’s words echoed in our minds, that “true connectivity is about stepping back and allowing yourself to see that you already fit it in.”

Day 2 19th November 2021 19:00pm- 21:00pm

Night two of TEDxBath began and this time I am a member of the digital audience. We were greeted with a recap of the previous night’s speakers and then smoothly introduced to the day two speakers. Once again, Kiesha Thompson graced the stage and without missing a beat, the first speaker Dr Andy Georgiou is introduced.

Dr Andy Georgiou

Consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine, Dr Georgiou began by describing the challenges of working in the NHS at the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic. He perfectly summarised the level of tension within the NHS at the time, by describing coming into work during March 2020 as an “act of bravery.”

The audience listened attentively as Dr Georgiou gave us insight of what life was like working on the front lines of the early Pandemic, he explained that at the time, the pandemic “felt apocalyptic”. He proceeded to present the audience with a human case study of a man diagnosed with Covid-19, isolated from his family and completely dependent on the ICU staff, Dr Georgiou reminded us of all the dangerous reality of the virus. Andy explained that with local and global collaboration the NHS were able to learn more regarding the virus, and credits interconnection for where we are today in the fight against COVID-19.

Still rooting for the man alone in ICU, the audience was relieved to be informed that he recovered. In that moment, we were all thankful for the collaboration of all scientists and NHS staff who worked together, to help us treat this formerly alien virus.

Moved and thoroughly warmed up for a night of enlightening talks, the audience eagerly applauded Dr Andy Georgiou, and the second speaker was introduced.

Kate Raworth

Kate Raworth, Co-founder of Doughnut Economics Action Lab and well-known author, took to the stage and surprisingly, invited the audience to get moving. Asking everyone to draw one big circle in the air with their finger, followed by a smaller circle inside. We were then informed that what we had drawn are the “essentials of life”, intrigued we listened on.

Raworth explained that it is of the upmost importance to have- people focused- economics and create a safe space where everyone has enough but not too little. She described the concept as, “leave no one in the hole, and don’t push anyone over the limit”.

Kate continued, discussing the importance of collaboration. The best way to do this, she suggested is through play. It’s at this point that the audience is asked to join together in song to help us better understand the ideology behind doughnut economics, at first, we all reluctantly sing, but soon we find our voices and Raworth seems satisfied with our efforts.

Kate concludes and we are greeted again by the familiar face of Kiesha Thompson, who eloquently introduces founder of Botanical Inks Babs Behan.

Babs Behan

Babs Behan proceeded into the spotlight and began to educate the audience on the chemical dyes that are used in today’s textile industry. She explained to the audience how “our skin is as alive as the Earth itself” and that we must start to think different about what “we put on our skin and our Earth”.

Not letting the scale of the live and digital audience daunt her, Behan continued her talk by informing her audience on the history of herbal dyes. From the Witch trials to a lab explosion, the audience was taken through the process of how we entered “a chemical era” of highly toxic, brightly coloured fashion.

As Babs explained to us how we are naturally connected to the Earth, thus we should wear the natural dyes it produces, I took note of how the audience began touching and looking at their clothing, already thinking of all the chemicals they were so unaware of minuets ago.

What struck me with this talk, was the founder’s closing statement, in which she asked the audience to “make getting dressed in the morning an act of activism.” An idea that I definitely took home with me that evening and continue to implement.

Kiesha returns to the stage and introduces the next speaker, Ewandro Magalhaes.

Ewandro Magalhaes

The former Chief Interpreter in the United Nations system and Co-founder of KUDO confidently took his position and (much to everyone’s surprise) began speaking Portuguese. After a few seconds of utter confusion amongst the audience, Magalhaes abruptly changed to speaking English. His point, that he can empathise with the feeling we all just experienced as a result of not being able to understand, and already the audience was introduced to the importance of language.

Ewandro further explained that interpreters are true interconnectors, describing the vital role of student interpreters in the 1945 Nuremburg trials. Of whom without, the outcome of the trails may have been completely different, this, Magalhaes mentioned is partly why the interpreters were given special mention at the end of the trail.

Ewandro had the entire room captivated and despite watching his talk on a computer screen I felt as though he was talking directly to me. Ewandro perfectly described the importance not only of language but of interpreters.

Sushma Jansari

Curator at the British Museum Sushma Jansari, spoke to TEDxBath through a pre-recorded video and with technical glitches making an appearance on night one, I felt the audience holding their breath as the video began to load. Luckily the video plays smoothly and Jansari began her talk on how interconnectivity that can be achieved through conversation.

Upon creating her history focused podcast, Jansari explained that she learned the “power of conversation” and that this power, came from “listening”. She described that as a society, we need to learn to empathise with whom we converse. It is at this point, that Sushma says a quotation that I still find myself continuously pondering, “On the boundaries of disagreements, we find amazing ideas”.

To conclude her talk, Jansari challenged the audience to spark a conversation with someone that we normally wouldn’t talk to, and to see how it feels to see something from another person’s perspective.

Alas, somehow we found ourselves applauding the last speaker to the stage.

Eddie Ilic

Founder of Eddie’s Street Cuts, Eddie explained that he fell into addiction and crime at a young age, despite his loving upbringing. Now six years sober, Eddie encouraged the TEDxBath audience to use “our skills” to “give back”, just as he has by supplying free haircuts to those currently homeless.

Eddie explained that true connection comes from giving. Any doubts the audience may have had about this concept, were soon quashed as Eddie showed the audience numerous case studies of people who were extremely grateful to Eddie for what he had given them. Here, the audience is told about Alex, a homeless man who was able to reunite with his sister simply through a post on street cuts’ Instagram, showing how small actions can have a big impacts.

Kiesha Thompson steps to the stage one last time and concludes TEDxBath 2021 with the truly accurate observation that “Interconnected, doesn’t mean to try and be everything […] it needs to realise that the beautiful paradox will be in its silence.”

Words by Katy Bishop, Student at Bath Spa University.

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