TEDxBrixton: the most inspiring day of the year

How inspired can you feel in just one day? As part of my work for Manifest London, today (or shall I say yesterday?) I was able to attend the sold-out TEDxBrixton 2015. Here’s why it has been one of the best days of my life.IMG_2261

On October 10th, pioneers across science, technology, medicine, sports, mental health and LGBT rights inspired the over 500 guests with 15 talks all uniting under the theme ‘Kaleidoscopes’, which means ‘observation of a beautiful form’ in Greek and represents Brixton’s identity as a mosaic of cultures, ideas and stories.Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 01.02.19

TEDxBrixton was a day of extremely current, moving, inspirational talks given by humble yet unique individuals, always there ready for a hug at the end of their speech. As the founder Stephanie Busari pointed out, we all went home with a serious case of “TEDache”after taking in so much information in just one day. She said:

“We don’t believe in melting pots, but in salad bowls, mosaics, kaleidoscopes: individual elements that make up a whole.”

Born in the summer of 2013 to bring the TED experience to this unique area of London, TEDxBrixton aims to share innovations and ideas coming out of the borough. TEDx is a program of local, self-organised events bringing people together to share a TED-like experience. The ‘x’ in TEDx stands for ‘independently organised TED event’.

During the event, lifestyle writer Isabelle O’Carroll shared her insights on some of the mad things we do in the name of a crush to then touch upon the clash between femininity and desire. In between the hilarious (as the ‘lifespan of a crush’ graph below shows) and the serious, Isabelle wondered why only women have obsessive crushes:

“We are socialised from a young age into thinking female desire is bad.”

She explained perfectly how according to society women shouldn’t be too slutty or too shy: they should be just right. As a result, they repress desire and have crushes. IMG_2273

In the most moving talk of the day, Pakistani trans activist Sabah Choudrey explored ‘Cultural Dysphoria’, or the feeling of discomfort one experiences when there is a mismatch between their inner sense of self and their integration within a culture. Sabah caused a standing ovation by saying:

“We need to smash the assumption that you need to lose a part of yourself to find the rest.”

Sabah shared a personal journey of rebellion, discovery and acceptance and incouraged the whole of society to find role models to represent us all, not just white straight people.

Poet, performer and playwright Inua Ellams talked about how perceptions of masculinity have affected black men’s mental health. He said: “Women seek help. Men die, ” and encouraged everyone not to be ashamed to ask for help when needed.

Digital industry creative Alex Lambert discussed the power of technology and creativity, making us all realise how email has allowed us to pitch ideas and not be judged for them according to race or gender. He said:

“Good ideas can come from unfamiliar places.”

The chair of the Brixton Pound Binki Taylor explored how individuals can change society by evoking a sense of belonging. Binki had everyone in the audience hold hands with their neighbour, to understand and feel deeply the issues and identity of each person.

Steadman Scott, founder of charity sports association Afewee, shared if story of “re-creation” from convict to activist after starting to teach children how sports can lead them to a brighter future. Then Rebecca Trevalyan, co-founder of The Library of Things, let the audience in on her experience of sharing items instead of wasting money on buying them and challenged them to start the projects they love, no matter how scary. She finished her talk by saying:

“What is your dream project? What is stopping you from starting it? How do you go about making it your job?”

International DJ Sam Hall showed us of how radio can be a global voice of change, while filmmakers Helen Wright and Hugh Williams looked into how questions inspire us.

TEDxBrixton wasn’t shy of science, either: Professor of cognitive neuroscience Roi Cohen Kadosh talked to us about brain hacking, a non-invasive painless brain stimulation that can improve cognitive abilities and researcher Lata Govada explained how crystals can help us cure diseases.

Diversity, innovation and the melting pot so representative of Brixton were at the centre of the day’s talks: digital media expert Charlotte Knowles talked about her interactive film experience Coldharbour, showing the landscape, history, culture and heritage of Brixton, while poet, educator, musician and loop pedal artist Pete Bearder (aka Pete the Temp) talked about how poetry and rapping can be a powerful teaching and learning experience.

On the day, designer Cloudia Vardon talked about how her natural ability of synaesthesia informs and influences her design work, while emotional intelligence coach Kate Faragher held a talk on the power of collaboration and designer and Brixton resident Robyn Parker showed us her kaleidoscopic collage of crowd-sourced images representing what people would save from a fire.

Founder Stephanie Busari, who teared up while sharing her love for Brixton and her commitment to spreading the word about its diversity, put together an event like no other, in the true spirit of TEDTalks and yet so close to Brixton’s identity. Every speaker was both terribly inspirational and incredibly reachable, creating a sense of community in the room that it’s hard to find on the crowded, nameless streets of London.

How does one sleep after an event like this?

Pictures: Carolina Are, TEDxBrixton


  1. What a wonderful read, thank you so much for sharing. I really like the quotes you included, and your summaries of each talk. My first TEDx event (TEDxBrum) was one of the best days of my life, TEDx is just brilliant, and I empathise with your ‘TEDache’ – it’s a good pain though 🙂

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