Spurred on by my participation in the Chamber’s Vanguard movement, I applied for a TEDx event licence about 18 months ago. I believed it was a great way of discussing and sharing new ideas to keep the region moving forward.

TEDx events are independently run to help share ideas in local communities and are operated under licence from global brand TED (a non-profit organisation devoted to spreading ideas in the form of short, powerful talks). TED began in 1984 as a conference where technology, entertainment and design converged and today covers almost all topics, from science to business, culture to education.

My application went in at the beginning of lockdown and, after some negotiation, it was granted. Gulp.

The event

TEDxAberdeen took place on Saturday, July 31 at the Aberdeen Arts Centre with 100 attendees sharing the TEDx experience. Ten inspirational speakers from the community took to the stage. Our theme ‘New Ways of Seeing Old Things’ asked us to re-think the assets, behaviours and mindset of the North-east and find ways of reimagining a different region in three, five - 10 years.

I’ve disappeared down many a TED talk rabbit-hole but that can’t prepare you to stage a whole day of these talks. In truth, my initial vision for the event bore little resemblance to what ended up on stage, mainly thanks to the talented and strong-minded Vanguardee volunteers who joined my TEDx team. They challenged me to think more broadly, to enhance the audience experience and to think community, not business.

Our speakers

The quality and quantity of applications to be a speaker was incredibly high. We received over 100 applications for 10 speaking slots.

I knew the North-east had great people but the diversity, passion and expertise that shone throughout filled me with such hope.

It is an act of bravery to stand on that famous TED red dot and talk, without notes, in a compelling and powerful way. Each speaker dominated their talk. They were magnificent. The audience laughed, they cried, they learned. Any assumptions they might have had coming into the event were challenged.

We heard about the wealth of forensic information available from soil, about the carbon footprint of our locally grown strawberry, what we can learn from animals and, most importantly, the true value of grit! Where else do you get that diversity?

What next?

We continue the conversation and renew our TEDx licence, we build on the foundations through co-creation and collaboration, we grow our army of those who seek change and demand action. As we emerge from a global pandemic, harnessing our collective grit to keep moving forward despite any setbacks and naysayers, is all-important.

To quote one of our partners TEDxAberdeen was like ‘an education without the study’. When the videos of our speakers hit the TED web and social media, I promise that you’ll be better educated, inspired and entertained. And, to use a phrase coined on the day, you’ll agree the North-east is ‘bloody marvellous’.