Scroll down the page for biographical information and news.

Video and Live blogging

Scilla Elworthy on TED.com

Scilla Elworthy’s talk from TEDxExeter 2012 on “Fighting with non-violence” has been published on TED.com:

How do you deal with a bully without becoming a thug? In this wise and soulful talk, peace activist Scilla Elworthy maps out the skills we need — as nations and individuals — to fight extreme force without using force in return. To answer the question of why and how non-violence works, she evokes historical heroes — Aung San Suu Kyi, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela — and the personal philosophies that powered their peaceful protests.

The talk has also been added to the TED playlist “The road to peace”. This is brilliant news, as it means it  will be seen by thousands more people. You can watch it here. And don’t forget, the other TEDxExeter 2012 talks are available on this site and on the TEDx Youtube channel.

Scilla Elworthy talk

Scilla Elworthy BWThe lights go up as Scilla wanders on to the stage, hands in pockets. She wants to be able to see us.

Her question – How do I deal with a Bully, without becoming a Thug? – has been with her since she was a child in 1956 watching kids throwing themselves under the tanks rolling into Budapest. So she got training and experience, and started thinking. How do we deal with extreme violence without using force in return? What’s the most effective thing to do?

Bullies use political violence to intimidate, physical violence to terrorise, and mental or emotional violence to undermine… and only very rarely does it work to use violence in return. Nelson Mandela went to prison believing in violence, but came out knowing that it doesn’t work.

What does work? The change has to talk place in our own hearts, where we have control, and in knowing our own weaknesses and strengths. Meditation is one way of gaining inner knowledge and power. Aung Sang Suu Kyi rounded a corner with a group of student protesters into a row of soldiers, who were more scared than the students. She had the students sit down, and defused the situation slowly with clarity and calmness.

My fear grows fat on the energy I feed it. And if it grows really big, what I fear often happens. Where there is injustice, there is usually anger, which can be dangerous, or can be used as a source of energy and inner power. In order to dialogue, say, with nuclear power policy makers, it is OK to be angry about the issue, but not with the people.

Last century was about top-down power. This century it’s shifted to bottom-up or grass-roots power. It’s people joining with others miles away to bring about change. Local people in areas of hot conflict know best what to do, how to for example demobilise militias, resettle refugees, build economies, liberate child soldiers. Building connections between people is the most effective approach. The US military terms civilians getting in the way of killing insurgents as ‘collateral damage’, deeply insulting and counter-productive. But there are some good examples of courage and wisdom in the face of hostile situations.

Why and how have so many dictatorships collapsed over the last 30 years? Gene Sharp wrote a book called “From Dictatorship to Democracy”, with practical methodologies, which have been used by peoples all over the world.

With courage and active non-violence, ordinary people can do what Gandhi, Mandela and Suu Kyi have done. And the open-hearted approach is exactly what Scilla has experienced in this TEDx gathering since she arrived in Exeter yesterday.

Scilla Elworthy biography

Scilla Elworthy BWScilla Elworthy PhD founded Peace Direct in 2002 to fund, promote and learn from peace-builders in conflict area; awarded “Best New Charity” at the Charity Awards 2005. Previously she founded the Oxford Research Groupin 1982 to develop effective dialogue between nuclear weapons policy-makers worldwide and their critics. It is for this work that she was awarded the Niwano Peace Prize in 2003 and nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize. 

She helped found the Market Theatre in South Africa in 1976, long before it was legal for multi-racial performances to take place, and has since worked with playwrights and directors, including David Edgar and Max Stafford Clark, to engage the public in political theatre. From 2005 Scilla was adviser to Peter Gabriel, Desmond Tutu and Richard Branson in setting up ‘The Elders’ initiative.

Scilla is a member of the World Future Council, and the International Task Force on Preventative Diplomacy. She has designed the Leadership Course in Conflict Transformation for the Said Business School, Oxford University, and is the co-founder of ‘The Pilgrimage’ – a 24 hour course that enables participants to make major shifts in consciousness and perception. Scilla is the author of numerous books and director of programmes for the World Peace Festival  Berlin August 2011.

News about Scilla Elworthy

Inspiring a Swedish pop song…

Our talks have inspired a great many people, and really made a difference in places. This is an impact with a difference!

At the end of the summer the Swedish band Hi-Lili Hi-Lo released their EP debut “Birds”. Their single “Seven Words” features a collaboration between the band and “Fighting with non-violence”, the TEDxExeter 2012 talk by Scilla Elworthy:

Hi-Lili Hi-Lo Seven WordsComposer and leader of the band Mikel Morueta Holme got inspired by the talk and incorporated parts of it on the demo-version to accentuate the message of the song. The song is about prejudices and conflict while Scilla’s words serve as an inspiration to find solutions. Originally, the single was composed as an assessment work on Mikel’s music studies in Brazil in 2014. Once he returned to Sweden the band decided to record the final version. The band is proud to present the result of the collaboration with Scilla Elworthy, her team and TEDxExeter.

The debut-EP “Birds” is the outcome of acoustic and electronic paths where challenging strings arrangements, carved melodies and intense passages lead to a common ground.

“Seven Words” and the whole EP are available through Spotify, iTunes, and Bandcamp.

Another million

Congratulations to Scilla Elworthy, whose talk on “Fighting with nonviolence” has now been watched more than 1 million times on TED.com!

“How do you deal with a bully without becoming a thug? In this wise and soulful talk, peace activist Scilla Elworthy maps out the skills we need — as nations and individuals — to fight extreme force without using force in return. To answer the question of why and how nonviolence works, she evokes historical heroes — Aung San Suu Kyi, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela — and the personal philosophies that powered their peaceful protests.”

Subtitles are available in 31 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Persian, several Far East and Southeast Asian, and many European languages.

Also, at the time of writing,

The videos of the talks at TEDxExeter are just being finalised before being uploaded. We hope they’ll be available in about a week.

Peace on earth

As Malala Yousafzai accepts her Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo today, TEDxExeter 2014 speaker Karima Bennoune has written an open letter to her:

“please know how many human rights activists around the world — especially women — are grateful to you. They stand with you in your struggle for girls’ empowerment and for unfettered access to education. In Muslim majority countries and in the diasporas, they also stand with you to fight against the extremism which blocks these advances. You are a true hero, and as you know, you are also one of a peaceful army of thousands doing this work.”

Both Karima’s TEDxExeter 2014 talk “When people of Muslim heritage challenge fundamentalism” and Scilla Elworthy’s TEDxExeter 2012 talk “Fighting with non-violence” are now featured among the ten talks on the TED.com playlist The Road to Peace: “Peace. It’s humanity’s eternal, elusive dream. These speakers offer inspired ideas, practical advice and real-world examples from around the globe of how it just might be attainable.”

1 million, 2ndary schools, 3 playlists

Karima Bennoune’s talk is watched 1 million times

We’re delighted that Karima Bennoune’s talk “When people of Muslim heritage challenge fundamentalism” passed 1,000,000 views on Sunday evening! So delighted, in fact, that we issued a press release. We’re also very pleased that the transcript of the talk is available in 12 languages, from Hebrew to Japanese, with Arabic due to be published soon.

The talk has had a major impact on Karima’s work.

On the anniversary of 9/11, she was interviewed on Capital Radio: “President Barack Obama has made his case for airstrikes against the militant Islamic group ISIS in the Middle East. But has the world community focused enough on supporting Muslims who oppose fundamentalism and terrorism as a way of defeating Islamic extremism? And how has Muslim fundamentalism changed 13 years after Sept. 11?”

Also on the anniversary of 9/11, Open Democracy re-published the second and third parts of her father Mahfoud Bennoune’s 1994 article “How Fundamentalism Produced a Terrorism without precedent” that Karima had translated. Part one was published back in May. She says: “Sadly, in light of events in Iraq and elsewhere, it has never been so relevant.  I hope this may be of interest, as it discusses both the history and the ideology of jihadism and fundamentalism.” Here are the links:

  • Part 1 – Algeria and Nigeria: sharing the deadweight of human mindlessness
  • Part 2 – From 1990s Algeria to 9/11 and ISIS: understanding the history of “Homo Islamicus Fundamentalensis”
  • Part 3 – From 1990s Algeria to Iraq today: trampling Islam underfoot in the name of Jihad

And Karima’s book “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here” has been nominated among the non-fiction finalists for the prestigious Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Inspired by the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in Bosnia, this prize is “the first and only annual U.S. literary award recognizing the power of the written word to promote peace.”

But most important of all is the impact that interest in the talk is having among Muslims in Algeria and elsewhere.

The support groups in Algeria are moved and heartened to know that so many care and want to be informed about their lives, their realities. In view of all the terrible news right now it is so important that so many people are listening to the voices of those who can help us understand this best.

One of the stories Karima shared was that of Algerian law student Amel Zenoune-Zouani, who was murdered in January 1997 by the Armed Islamic Group. Amel was only 22. She was killed for having dreams of a legal career and refusing to give up her studies at law school. Yet Amel’s name means “hope”. Hope can be found in the strength of her family and all the other families to continue telling their stories and to go on with their lives despite the terrorism. And hope can be found everywhere that women and men continue to defy the jihadis.

The world came to Exeter at TEDxExeter 2014. We were honoured to host Karima, and challenged to become part of something larger than ourselves. We want to encourage everyone to watch her talk at TED.com. As Karima says, “It is not enough… just to battle terrorism. We must also challenge fundamentalism, because fundamentalism is the ideology that makes the bed of this terrorism.”

Simon Peyton-Jones’ talk to be distributed to secondary schools

Simon spoke in his talk of Computing at School, the grass-roots organisation he chairs, which is at the centre of the challenge of training teachers across the country to teach computing. Those who were there, or who have watched the video since, may remember he gave a call to action: if you are an IT professional, get involved; if not, at least talk to your local schools.

“Quickstart Computing: a toolkit for secondary teachers” is a Computing at School initiative funded by Microsoft and the Department for Education, to help train teachers for the new Computing curriculum. One of the things Quickstart is doing is to develop a CPD package of training materials for teachers, for distribution free to every school. It will be launched in January at BETT 2015, the British Educational Training and Technology Show. The package will include Simon’s talk, available both on CD and online. The aims are to provide the context for the challenge, and to motivate and give experienced teachers the confidence to teach computing.

We’re thrilled that Simon’s talk will be used in this way, and that TEDxExeter will have a legacy in education, through inspiring teachers to inspire the next generation of computer scientists.

Karima and Scilla Elworthy’s talks are featured on 3 playlists

Karima’s talk is featured on a powerful TED.com playlist:

  • Insights on Terrorism. It’s a solemn subject—one of the harsh realities of our world. Here, speakers with insightful thoughts on why terrorism continues … and what we can do to stop it.

And Scilla’s talk “Fighting with non-violence” is nearing the 1 million mark too. It is now on two TED.com playlists:

  • Freedom Rising : From the Arab Spring to the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe, a new generation of freedom fighters — entrepreneurs, journalists, activists — shares powerful stories of resistance against dictatorships and oppression.
  • The Road to Peace : Peace. It’s humanity’s eternal, elusive dream. These speakers offer inspired ideas, practical advice and real-world examples from around the globe of how it just might be attainable.

Save the date!

The next TEDxExeter event takes place on 24 April 2015 at the Exeter Northcott Theatre, with the theme “Taking the Long View”.

We would be interested in hearing from you if your company would like to sponsor TEDxExeter 2015.