TEDxExeter story: Bandi Mbubi, 2012 speaker

The fourth of our short series of stories from speakers and attendees at previous TEDxExeter events. Bandi spoke powerfully about the Congo and fairtrade mobile phones, and the Congo Calling campaign was launched on the back of the enthusiasm generated by his talk. We’re looking foward to hearing from him again in 2014, when he will give us an update on the campaign.


The invitation to speak at TEDxExeter came about through Claire Kennedy. I have known her since I first arrived in England. I fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo 22 years ago because my activities there as a student activist placed my life in danger. I came to the UK and claimed political asylum and Claire acted as my lawyer. We have since been friends. She has been aware of my personal commitment to social justice both in the Congo and in the UK.

The situation when I first left the Congo was bad, but it was getting even worse every year. Since 1996 over 5 million people had died because of the on-going war. Rape was used, and still is, as a weapon of war. The vast majority of people live in abject poverty in spite of the Congo’s immense natural wealth. I felt compelled to act. Speaking at TEDxExeter offered me a precious opportunity to raise awareness and to mobilise people to act like the international community did during the anti-apartheid movement. I trusted in the ability of people to act for justice for the Congo, but I was unsure about the angle to take to appeal to them. I needed to give them the tools to enable them to act. How could they act in a way that could make difference?

Claire as a curator was both supportive and tough. She introduced me to the TED commandments of public speaking, the dos and don’ts of great talks. Her mantra to me was “prepare”. Giving a TEDx talk was unlike any talk I had ever given before. It is not about reciting facts or telling an interesting story. It is about sharing an idea. The key question for me was “how can I rally global citizens to act on the Congo in a way that helps build peace and prosperity?” The answer I came up with was to ask people to use their consumer power in a way that exerts pressure on technology companies so that they would source their minerals from the Congo more responsibly. In so doing, the trade in minerals would not fuel the war but help the local economy through legitimate trade. I enlisted the help of friends, both Congolese and British, to help me with the process. They were invaluable in reducing my workload. There was a lot to be done, including design, research and crafting of the talk. They helped with fact-checking everything, even information that I took for granted. They served as a friendly but critical audience. They were like midwives helping me deliver my baby.

I felt many emotions, mostly anxiety. Whilst preparing for the talk, I wondered about its final content. How would it be received by Congolese people and those around the world. Would I manage to condense everything I wanted to say into 10 minutes? I felt nervous about the task ahead. The preparation took every spare moment I had. I was often away from my family and friends. On the actual day of the event, though I felt nervous, I felt hopeful about the impact my message could have on people in the Congo. Anxiety gave way to a great sense of hope. The audience in the theatre was very attentive and receptive. They gave me a standing ovation. I was recalled to the stage to acknowledge properly their applause. It is then that I felt a personal sense of responsibility to carry on.

Giving a talk at TEDxExeter not only helped me think through my idea but it also gave it the exposure it needed worldwide. It gave me credibility in the eyes of many stakeholders. I received numerous invitations to speak, some of which I could not accept for lack of time. I still work full time, running the Manna Society, the largest day centre for homeless people in South London. Campus Party, the biggest technology conference, invited me to speak at their event in Berlin. At the event, moved by my talk, the lead worker at Facebook UK invited me to give a talk to their employees on the same topic. They have since offered assistance in publicising further our message.

Because of the outpouring of support I received from people, I led the formation of Congo Calling. We campaign for the ethical management of Congolese natural resources to help build peace and sustainable development. Many of those who have come on board were in attendance on the day I gave the talk at TEDxExeter. The campaign is more structured now. The organisation has charitable status and a team of trustees. The organising committee of TEDxExeter have been very supportive of our work.

The campaign demand that technology companies source their raw materials more responsibly has gained traction. With the help of student groups, we successfully persuaded the University of Exeter to adopt a procurement policy that favours technology companies that source their minerals responsibly. As a result of these student groups, the National Union of Students adopted a similar policy and recommended that their member guilds promote training around conflict-minerals from the Congo. Our increasing profile has enabled us to engage policymakers in the UK, Europe and US. We are campaigning for the political, commercial and legal frameworks needed to ensure the use of conflict-free minerals in our technologies, and are working in partnership with international and Congolese NGOs. We are now actively fundraising to increase the scale and scope of our work. All this has resulted from one 10 minute talk and the power of an idea.

TEDxExeter story: Holly Moore, 2012 & 2013 attendee

The third of our short series of stories from speakers and attendees at previous TEDxExeter events. Holly was one of a school party at TEDxExeter 2012, and loved it so much she returned with a friend during half-term in 2013.


After our visit to the first TEDxExeter in 2012 on a school trip, Hollie and I knew that we would be going again in 2013. The buzz of the day was outstanding; excitement, inspiration and ideas coloured every conversation after the talks. 

Whilst every talk in its own right was wonderful, a few stood out, sitting in my mind nearly two years later. The first, a breathtaking 10 minute talk by Bandi Mbubi entitled “Congo calling”. Delivered in a calm, yet persuasive manner, Bandi talked about the need for a “fair trade cell phone”, and how, whilst the mobile phone is an “instrument of freedom”, it has also become an “instrument of oppression” due to the lack of regulation of mining in the Congo. 

Another presentation that stuck with me was “Making greenhouse gases visible” by Antony Turner.  Antony spoke about applying the common concept of pictures helping stories to come alive to the visualisation of our carbon output. He showed us pictures that his company, carbon visuals, creates in order to allow us to compare our emissions to “a landscape we are familiar with” and truly grasp their size. 

Upon leaving TEDxExeter 2012 with our minds thoroughly exhausted, Hollie and I set on the task of ensuring a school trip again the next year. However, when the date was released, dilemma struck – TEDxExeter 2013 was during a half term. So, as a pair of 16 year olds, we decided to take matters into our own hands. With a little help from one of our favourite teachers, we managed to secure tickets for the following year. 

Arriving outside the Northcott in the early morning, I could feel both excitement and nerves curdle in my stomach as it became more and more obvious that we were the youngest people there. However, as I stepped inside, it became apparent that these feelings were completely and utterly unjust. Upon our entrance, we were greeted and welcomed by staff and fellow audience members alike, and the familiar buzz of what we were about to witness sunk in. 

One particular talk stood out for me in the 2013 line up : Jo Berry’s “Disarming with empathy”. After sharing the story of her father’s death due to an IRA bombing, Jo demonstrated the power of true forgiveness. She told us how, in her efforts to get something positive out of what had happened, she was led to meet the man responsible, and how by humanising the enemy, she could finally understand the circumstances leading to the death of her father. When the talk had finished, the audience rose to their feet, giving Jo a deafening and everlasting applause. 

[Updated] Speakers, performers and (whisper it) tickets

We were already really excited about our line-up of speakers for TEDxExeter 2014 “Ideas Without Frontiers”, but it’s just got better!

First of all, you may remember Bandi Mbubi’s passionate call for fairtrade mobile phones at TEDxExeter 2012. The Congo Calling campaign was launched on the back of his talk, and Bandi will be returning this year to give an update on the real impacts the campaign has made.

Then we’re also happy to announce that we will be welcoming to the stage Exeter School’s Vocal Ensemble and slam poet Harry Baker. We are immensely looking forward to their performances. You can find biographies of all the speakers and performers on the website.

And those of you who were disappointed not to get a ticket the first time round may be even more excited to hear that we will shortly be releasing a few more via the Exeter Northcott Theatre box office. Sign up to our mailing list via the website now, ready for a mailshot later this week, and/or keep an eye out on Twitter for the latest information. You will need to move quickly, as the first release sold out in a week! UPDATE: Sold out again, this time within 50 minutes!

Harry Baker biography

Harry BakerHarry Baker has always loved words. He’s been blessed enough to travel round the world with them, winning buy viagra uae the Poetry Slam World Cup in 2012 and currently using a maths degree as an excuse to live in Germany and find heaps more new words to play with. After two 5-star Edinburgh Fringe festival shows and almost growing a beard once, the next adventure is having his first book released in April this year.


Vocal Ensemble about

Vocal EnsembleVocal Ensemble is a small choral group made up of 18 of Exeter School’s finest singers, aged 15 to 18.  The choir was formed in 2008 in response to requests from the wider community to provide a small, portable, vocal group to perform at a variety of concerts and events. Vocal Ensemble has sung at weddings, for dinners and a variety of outreach occasions. Their repertoire covers a broad range of music from jazz, pop and classical genres, and can be contacted via music@exeterschool.org.uk. Vocal Ensemble is very much looking forward to performing at TEDxExeter 2014.

Launching TEDxExeter 2014… impressions

2014_launchThe projectors and lighting kit were nestled under an umbrella, on yet another dank and wet evening. But the vision of Southernhay House Hotel picked out in TEDxExeter logos against a wash of red momentarily drew the attention of passers-by away from the rain and towards something beyond themselves. Because inside the hotel we were celebrating “Ideas Without Frontiers” as we launched TEDxExeter 2014.

The main driving force behind TEDxExeter and other TEDx events is the understanding that the world is full of inspirational and innovative ideas that are well worth spreading, and that these ideas can be translated into action through forming connections between people.

One catalyst for the launch event was our desire to celebrate the connections that have formed under the umbrella of TEDxExeter: connections with our sponsors, with our speakers, with the city of Exeter, and within the organising team itself. We wanted to take an opportunity to nurture new connections by bringing these people together in an informal and relaxed setting. Southernhay House very generously hosted our evening event, and the setting and refreshments – “Honey I’m Home” TEDx Martini and the Goat’s Cheese Bomb were my particular favourites – created a wonderful easy open ambience for conversation and debate. We were honoured to welcome guests including the Lord Mayor of Exeter Councillor Rachel Lyons, the Dean of Exeter Cathedral Rev Jonathan Draper, City Centre Manager John Harvey, and Dame Suzi Leather of the Plymouth Fairness Commission, and a number of past and future speakers. Antony Turner and Andy Robertson both spoke at TEDxExeter 2012, and we are looking forward immensely to hearing from Ann Daniels, Claire Belcher, and Fin Williams in March.

Our sponsors are crucial to the success of TEDxExeter, and the key point of the evening was gathering to hear their stories of how they are also benefiting from their commitment to ideas worth spreading. Sean Connolly from Egremont, Ellen Rodger from SunGift Energy and Deborah Clark from Southernhay House all spoke passionately about their commitment to ideas, partnership and community. I was glad to be able to speak to them during the course of the evening, and to a number of the representatives from our other sponsors present: AnTech, Chromatrope, Exeter Northcott Theatre, Saks, Sonic, Stormpress, Wilkinson Grant. And from time to time, I had my Websites Ahoy! hat on as a sponsor in kind.

We also wanted to use the evening to encourage all our sponsors in their planning for the event itself. So team member Jhenna Mortimer spoke about how to make the most of it by reaching out to connect with people in creative ways and have conversations with people they might not otherwise meet.

… after which we all moved outside for a group photo under the lights, before returning inside to continue the conversations…

Photos by James Millar. More are available in the full set on Flickr. The images can be downloaded under Creative Commons, but they still require acknowledgement using either of the following: © James Millar/TEDxExeter or Images by James Millar.