The 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.

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