It was with a piqued imagination and a tantalizing curiosity that I walked up the pathway towards the beautiful Lowry complex and into the ravishing Lyric Theater on the morning of Sunday the 10th of November to attend the third annual TEDxSalford! True to the TED spirit that is devoted to ‘ideas worth spreading’, it proved a stimulating and thought provoking conference, with attendees calling it ‘the ultimate brain spa’ and ‘a journey into the future’.
TED is a global foundation that started in 1984, aiming to bring together some of the world’s leading thinkers and doers of any discipline that wanted to share their passion about science, arts, politics, global issues, media, architecture, music and much more. The TED conference takes place annually in Long Beach, California and it has so far hosted a range of renowned speakers, from Bill Gates to former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Officially licensed by TED, TEDx (where x means independently organized) is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.
With over 5,000 TEDx events organized to date, all with the sole purpose of inspiring innovation, thought, leadership and visionary insight, TEDxSalford is the largest TEDx event in the United Kingdom. During TEDxSalford 3.0, over 1,800 people gathered to attend the event in person, while many more celebrated the brilliance and diversity of the conference by watching the livestream. The organizers made a significant effort to actuate everyone to join the conversation with a live TweetWall running on the screen, prompting the audience to engage in the discussions by tweeting under the official hashtag of #TEDxSalford. These discussions were purposely built into the program, in the belief that attendees from a variety of backgrounds with diverse expertise would come together, causing unique solutions to emerge.
Salford was considered the ideal place to host the event. It is part of Greater Manchester, which is known to have the biggest student population of Europe, and as I experienced the conference appeals primarily to these young people. Additionally, Salford is in proximity to the city of Manchester ― the trendsetting capital of innovation, music and style with an illustrious past that is always at the cutting edge of what’s new. Salford Quays in particular is a dynamic focal point in the heart of Northwest England, being a global and historical hub, especially due to housing the UK’s first and only Media City. Therefore, the Lowry is a prestigious location of world class repute for art, education, recreation and creativity, making it a breathtaking international landmark that is ‘not just a venue, but a destination’.
Manchester sets itself apart internationally, even in terms of sporting prowess, hence ex-Manchester United football player Quinton Fortune was scheduled to address the TEDxSalford audience. The audience experienced one of the most extraordinary speaker and performer line-ups, and the speakers were challenged to give the ‘talk of their lives’ in 18 minutes or less with no keynotes, no panels and no Q & A! Other notable speeches included George Moot (Nobel Prize winner that appeared on the Big Bang Theory), Sergey Brin (Co-founder of the Google Glass) and Joanne Harris (writer of Chocolat).
Remarkably, TEDxSalford included a speech by Clayton Anderson as a mystery speaker, a real life astronaut that compared his experience with the newly released film Gravity and explained in depth his adventure with working for NASA. The highlight of the event for me, however, was the sounds of the Manchester based ‘Riot Jazz’ Brass Band that gave us a twisted mixed taste of their funk, soul, hip hop and agro-jazz sounds.
By the end of the day, the TED spirit was successfully embraced in Salford Quays by stimulating a new community of thought leaders. It was an invigorating and intellectually refreshing experience, in an exciting but at the same time relaxed atmosphere that exposed anyone that participated to new ideas, during the largest TEDx event in the UK!