Watching TED talks to know you’re not alone

There are myriads of reasons why people watch TED and TEDx talks, and myriads of outcomes.

Some might want to be entertained with interesting facts about the world, or music or humour, or to be challenged to think in new ways about the world.

Others might want to find a campaign to support, and there are plenty of talks describing plenty of opportunities, not least the talks at TEDxExeter 2015 by Matthew Owen about Cool Earth and by Carmel McConnell about Magic Breakfast. Of course, it’s possible that it’s the talk which grabs the unsuspecting viewer by the scruff of the neck and makes them start the campaign. Bandi Mbubi’s talk at the first TEDxExeter inspired a group of people to coalesce around him and found Congo Calling.

Yet others might be looking for new ways of doing things in the workplace. Alan Smith’s talk at TEDxExeter this year may well be inspiring many to use more data visualisation in the decision-making process. Others might be looking for new ways of being and seeking to change themselves, or seeking to affirm themselves, but they are challenged anyway.

Scientists have found that “when we read a story and really understand it, we create a mental simulation of the events described by the story”. It is as though reading a novel or biography adds to our experience of the world, a safe way of trying things out. Perhaps watching TED talks also enables us to try on for size new approaches to working, living, viewing the world, or even new selves.

A talk like Manwar Ali’s on Jihad, also at TEDxExeter 2016, holds up a mirror to the choices we all face between light and dark, our potential for violence and for peace. Going off the TEDxExeter piste now, Brené Brown’s talk takes us through the experience of allowing our self to be vulnerable and life to be uncertain. Susan Cain asks us to empathise with introverts, recognise their strengths, and maybe gives some the lightbulb moment of realisation that that is who they are.

CS Lewis wrote of “the few” and “the many” readers. “The few” are those who seek out space to read, who must read, who often re-read books, and who are open to being deeply changed by what they read. “The many” read when there is nothing else claiming their attention, do not re-read, and show no sign of being changed by what they read. I would like to coin “the TED few”, who would be those who make space for new ideas, who often re-watch talks, and who are open to being deeply changed by what they see and hear.

Much of my reading is by people who have similar interests: who have or are seeking a sense of place; who are living and working prophetically; who have experienced the struggles and sometimes the successes. Recent examples include Spiritual Activism by Alastair McIntosh and Matt Carmichael, and Daybook, the Journey of an Artist by Anne Truitt. I am not reading in order to follow their example or recreate what they are doing, but because through their stories I learn that I am not particularly special or different, that others have similar goals to mine, and that they doubt and lack confidence and have struggles too. And that somehow gives me hope and the energy to persevere a while longer.

In a similar vein, my prime motivation for watching TED talks is to find other people who are risking and creating and doing great stuff. So I tend to gravitate to the talks on creativity and art, like Peter Randall-Page’s talk at TEDxExeter 2015, and two of my favourites by Janet Echelman and Stefan Sagmeister. It means I am often tempted towards envy, and thinking that I wish I could do or had done that. I need to remember that I won’t do the same thing, but I will do some thing, and I should focus on and celebrate that thing. What I am seeking from TED talks are stories of people who are blazing trails of possibility, and effectively giving me permission to do my own risking and creating and (hopefully great) stuff.

The film Shadowlands gave CS Lewis the phrase: “we read to know we are not alone”. I think it’s true. I also think that deep down we watch TED talks to know we are not alone.

Clare Bryden, TEDxExeter Storyteller

Tickets now available for TEDxExeter screening of Jihad: a story of the others

A TEDxExeter Adventure

Jihad: a story of the others


We are screening Jihad: a story of the others, a BAFTA nominated film by Emmy and Peabody award winning director and TEDxExeter speaker Deeyah Khan on Monday 28 November 2016 from 6.30 – 9pm at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAMM). The screening will be followed by a discussion with Deeyah Khan and Manwar Ali.

Click here to buy tickets which cost £12 (£8 concessions).

The world has watched aghast as thousands of young men and women abandon comfortable lives in the West to join the barbaric Isis. Girls and boys have gone from being apparently well-adjusted school kids, to enthusiastically joining the ranks of kalashnikov-wielding religious warriors and burkah-clad “jihadi brides”. It feels like a new and frightening phenomenon, one which has left many feeling bewildered and repulsed.

But as this new documentary film by Emmy Award winning director Deeyah Khan shows, Westerners embracing jihad is nothing new. For three generations now, young people across Europe have fallen prey to extremist groups and fought, killed and died with mujahideen movements from Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Kashmir, to Chechnya and Burma.

In this film, Deeyah, who has faced threats from extremist fundamentalists in the past, sets out to find out why the jihadi message has such an alluring hold on young Westerners.

At TEDxExeter 2016 Deeyah and former jihadist Manwar Ali spoke powerfully about jihad and what draws young people to radicalisation. We are delighted that they are returning to Exeter to share the film with the TEDxExeter community.

Click here to buy tickets which cost £12 (£8 concessions).

More about Jihad: a story of the others

2016 BAFTA nomination in the Current Affairs documentary category

Shortlisted for Best Documentary on Current Affairs at the 2016 Grierson Awards

Nominated for a 2016 Golden Nymph Award at Monte-Carlo TV Festival Norwegian Ministry of Arts & Culture Human Rights Award

“Anyone wishing to understand why thousands of Western-born Muslims are leaving comfortable homes to fight with Isis would do well to watch Deeyah Khan’s powerful new film, Jihad … featuring extraordinary interviews.”

– The Independent on Sunday

“Great journalism often challenges the official version of events. That’s what Deeyah Khan’s film Jihad does to the story which governments and tabloids like to tell about the radicalisation of Muslims. She takes those cliches and caricatures, shreds them, and then she let’s you see what is really happening.”

— Nick Davies, special correspondent, The Guardian.

TEDxExeter is independently organised by volunteers and licensed by TED.

Click here to buy tickets which cost £12 (£8 concessions).

Manwar Ali on

The idea of jihad has been hijacked, perverted and turned into terrorism by fascistic Islamists says Manwar Ali. His TEDxExeter talk “Inside the mind of a former radical jihadist” from April this year has just been selected to feature on – an honour that only a tiny proportion of TEDx talks achieve (five of them now from TEDxExeter). Needless to say we are all excited and proud that Manwar’s brave and moving talk will reach a global audience. It has already been watched by nearly 7,000 people since it went online in May and now it will reach millions more.

Manwar Ali, who is also known as Abu Muntasir, has more than 30 years experience teaching Islam and is one of the few scholars in the UK who has been directly involved in jihad. He was a committed pioneer of jihadism in the UK who fought in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Burma.

“For a long time, I lived for death,” says Manwar Ali, a former radical jihadist who participated in violent, armed campaigns in the Middle East and Asia in the 1980s. In this moving talk, he reflects on his experience with radicalisation and makes a powerful, direct appeal to anyone drawn to Islamist groups claiming that violence and brutality are noble and virtuous: let go of anger and hatred, he says, and instead cultivate your heart to see goodness, beauty and truth in others.

Manwar Ali also says: “I thought violent Jihad was noble, chivalrous, and the best way to help. At a time when so many of our young people are at risk of radicalisation by groups like IS, AQ and others, when those groups are claiming that their horrific violence and brutality are true jihad – I want to say – their idea of jihad is wrong. Totally wrong. As was mine, then.”

He believes that “there are no circumstances on earth today in which violent jihad is permissible, because it will lead to greater harm”.

“I am absolutely delighted that my talk has been chosen for,” says Manwar Ali. “I am forever grateful to everyone responsible for making this happen. I am thrilled that a much wider audience will benefit from my humble admissions.

“It is vital for us to understand the poison of the ideology of Islamism which is necessarily supremacist and do our best to protect and cure humanity from its pernicious effects on the hearts for peace, compassion and understanding. For it to be hosted on is simply a dream come true.”

TEDxExeter organiser and licensee Claire Kennedy adds: “At a time when stories of young people being recruited to violent jihad overseas are regularly in the headlines, this talk is very timely. We are delighted that Manwar’s wise and thought-provoking words will reach a global audience.”

Manwar Ali is chief executive of Muslim educational charity JIMAS. He is also a specialist interventions provider for the Home Office’s Office of Security and Counter Terrorism working with people who are at risk of radicalisation and those convicted of terrorism. He is chaplain for University Campus Suffolk, Suffolk New College, and the Ipswich Hospital; a member of the local scrutiny & involvement panel for the Crown Prosecution Service in East England; a member of the police crime panel for the Suffolk Police & Crime Commissioner; and a member of the Suffolk Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education.

Giles Duley’s refugee portraits win International Photography Award

Syrian refugeeTEDxExeter speaker Giles Duley has won an International Photography Award with his portraits of Syrian refugees living in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. He was awarded first prize in the category people, portraits. Third in the same category was Bert Hartman, for his portraits of TED Fellows during the 2016 TED conference in Vancouver, Canada.

Giles spoke at this year’s TEDxExeter conference in April. In his talk, The Power of a Story he focuses his lens on the stories of some of the refugees fleeing conflict in Syria.

giles4Giles Duley is an award winning humanitarian photographer who, through his work with UNHCR, focuses his lens on their lives and tells their stories.

He is himself casualty of war who almost died and lost both legs and an arm in an improvised explosive device explosion in Afghanistan. His lasting wounds allow him to connect with the people he captures on film and to tell the stories of those without a voice.

In this powerful and moving call to action, Giles reminds us that we are at a defining moment and calls on us to do all we can to make a difference to the lives of refugees, now. Watch the video now.

Show the love to take action against climate change this week

Imagining the world anew
Danny Dorling

We’re in the middle of a Week of Action to celebrate the people, places and things we want to protect from climate change – and to make sure MPs feel that love.

There are all sorts of events going on around the country – we’ll be seeing nature walks, tea parties, classic lobbies, community energy visits and all sorts of other events to start those key conversations about climate change. All this will either involve MPs or be showcased to them, so that politicians see, feel and hear how much their constituents care about what we could lose to climate change.

People all over the UK are organising events in their local areas – find ones near you on this map. Do join in and #speakup. Also #showthelove.

Jonathan Porritt

And to get you in the mood, why not check out some of our TEDxExeter climate-related talks. Carbon reduction plans are often talked about just in terms of what we have to give up, but there are plenty of things that would be nicer, better, more fun even, in a low carbon world. To help us imagine it, Jonathan Porritt paints us a picture of what a sustainable life would look like.

If you’re talking climate, they don’t come more knowledgable than Peter Cox. Professor of climate system dynamics and leader of the inter-disciplinary “climate change and sustainable futures” activity at the University of Exeter, Peter Cox was also a lead-author on the  fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He asks us to think outside the low carbon box, and concentrate on reducing methane.

This year, Danny Dorling took a rather different approach: asking us to imagine the world anew. Did you know that population growth is slowing rapidly? Danny challenges us to examine some of our beliefs about the world and open our minds to a new, unreported reality. Using beautiful and unfamiliar maps drawn by his colleague Ben Hennig, he shows us how we are changing as a species. While so much of our media focuses on what’s wrong with the world, Danny shows us that there is much that is slowly getting better, much to be optimistic about, as long as we continue to connect with each other. 

Islam’s non-believers premieres this week



Deeyah Khan is on a roll. Since she spoke at TEDxExeter in April this year she has barely been out of the news.  She has been nominated for many awards, won some of them, and is coming back to Exeter in November for a showing of her film Jihad: a story of the others (tickets go on sale on 23 October). Watch this space for more information.

And that’s not all. This Thursday, 13 October, Deeyah’s latest film Islam’s Non-Believers will have its premiere on ITV at 10.40pm as part of its acclaimed Exposure series. If you can’t stay up that late, make sure you set it to record.

This new documentary by Fuuse Films investigates the lives of ex-Muslims, who face extreme discrimination, ostracism, psychological abuse and violence as a result of leaving Islam.

It paints a vivid picture of the dangers facing those who renounce their faith. Some are at risk of suicide, or self-harm, or have been physically and psychologically abused by their closest family members. Most are terrified of being shunned by their own family and friends if their true beliefs become known.

Many young British ex-Muslims live in the shadows hiding their true beliefs, running huge risks if they ‘come out’ as atheists within their religious communities. Some of those who speak in the film asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.