From the Hubble Space Telescope website: “This sparkling jumble is Messier 5 [aka M5] — a globular cluster consisting of hundreds of thousands of stars bound together by their collective gravity. At 13 billion years old it is incredibly old, dating back to close to the beginning of the Universe. It is also one of the biggest clusters known.”
Hope can come from unlikely sources. Which makes me wonder… What would be the most unlikely and surprising source of all? Looking within, with a wry chuckle, I conclude that would probably be my own self! So here’s a challenge to myself: What if I were a source of increasing hope? What would that look like? How would I be? What would I do more of, or less of?
What if each one of us were a source of increasing hope to everyone around us? Each of us a point of hope, a point of light in the dark. We would become a field of stars shining in the night sky, sweeping across the heavens like the Milky Way.
Each point source of light is small, and twinkles as our energy ebbs and flows, as we try and fail and try again. The night is still dark. And yet… North of the equator we only need one star, the Pole Star, to know which direction we face. And we only need two stars, in the Plough, to find the Pole Star. And only seven stars to be sure that it is the Plough. And with the help of other constellations and planets we can find out where we are, what time it is, how fast we are going.
Each of us can help those around us navigate in the dark. We can look to other people for their help. It might take seven. It might only take one. We might be that one to others. And they might be near at hand, or far away in parts of the world that barely scratch our consciousness.
Sometimes there is a shooting star or aurora – an Anne Frank or a Jo Cox – that scorches across the heavens. It is extinguished all too quickly, but the trace remains bright in the memory. Sometimes, a moon or comet – a Mother Teresa or a Nelson Mandela – might rise and hold steady, and the whole world seems bright for a time.
Each of them is – each of us can be – a promise and a hope of a shining new sunrise.
Kester Brewin will be speaking at our forthcoming TEDxExeter event in April. He is an alumnus of TEDxExeter 2013, where he spoke brilliantly about “Mutiny!”.
A couple of weeks ago I was having dinner with an aunt, who happens also to be one of the wisest people I know. We were chewing over some thing I’d raised, and she placed her wine glass on the table, and pondered for a moment and said, “you know, it gave me great solace when I was finally able to admit to myself that I don’t live in my first-choice world.” Things don’t always work out. Life is not always what we have wanted it to be. There are disappointments and wounds.
With TEDx looming I have been thinking a lot about our theme, hope, and wondering if it is simply this: that even though we do not live in our first-choice world, we hold on to the idea that our world can still be changed. We can still be changed. Our politics can still be changed. Our community, our nation, our climate. Hope is, by definition, about the future. It is a belief that the world that is yet to come is not yet decided, and can still yet be moulded.
To put it mathematically (a professional habit – apologies) hope is a vector: it has to have direction. When we hope, we look ahead along a particular line. The question that this prompts is what engine is driving that hope. What force is making that change we want to see in the world?
For many years my hope was located in my religious beliefs. In any given situation, my hope was that God would sort it out, and it took me a long time to realise that this was because I was afraid of taking action myself. By pushing hope into the ineffable, I was able to abdicate responsibility for the world that I lived in. If it was imperfect it wasn’t my fault; if it wasn’t made better it wasn’t God’s will. In any case, my final hope was in heaven, a cast-iron ‘first-choice’ world that I would topple into once I’d fallen into my grave. Job done.
Amusing as this religious hope might seem, it’s far more common than we might think. Putting your hope in a ‘big other’ – in some big system above us that we trust is in control and will sort everything out in the end – is how many people live out their politics. We don’t need to act in our communities, because the government will do it for us. Others have a similarly religious view of technology: their hope located in the divine intelligence of Google or Bill Gates to deal with disease and poverty and unemployment. Climate crisis? Haven’t we got an app for that?
The maxim attributed to Gandhi – “be the change you want to see in the world” – is really about the adjusting the vectors of your hope. Once we see that the ‘big other’ largely has other ideas about what the world should look like, we have to redirect our hope away from the vertical – God, the political class, ‘high’ technology’ – and to the horizontal. Still confident that our world can be transformed, we get off our knees and backsides and commit to working with others to do something about it.
Sometimes it’s easy to lose hope. Barack Obama repeatedly used messages of hope in his presidential campaigns and during his time in office. Then, one month after Trump’s election, Michelle Obama gave an interview to Oprah Winfrey in which she said “Now we’re feeling what not having hope feels like…”
But she followed that up with “You know, hope is necessary… What else do you have if you don’t have hope?” And in her final speech as first lady, she urged young Americans to believe in the power of hope: “Lead by example with hope. Never fear.”
Nujeen Mustafa has cerebral palsy and cannot walk. This did not stop her braving inconceivable odds to travel in her wheelchair from Syria in search of a new life. Sharing her story, Nujeen recounts the details of her childhood and disability, as well as her harrowing journey across the Mediterranean to Greece and finally to Germany to seek an education and the medical treatment she needs.
Trapped in a fifth floor apartment in Aleppo and unable to go to school, she taught herself to speak English by watching US television. As civil war broke out around them, Nujeen and her family fled first to her native Kobane, then Turkey before they joined thousands of displaced persons in a journey to Europe and asylum. She wanted to come to Europe, she said, to become an astronaut, to meet the Queen and to learn how to walk.
In her strong, positive voice, Nujeen tells the story of what it is really like to be a refugee, to have grown up in a dictatorship only for your life to be blighted by war; to have left a beloved homeland to become dependent on others. It is the story of our times told through the incredible bravery of one remarkable girl determined to keep smiling.
Nujeen’s story has already touched millions and in this book written with Christina Lamb, she helps to put a human face on an ongoing global emergency.
Nujeen Mustafa is now 18 years old and living in Cologne with her brother and sister.
Toby & Jo Gorniak are the Co-founders of Street Factory CIC in Plymouth. Street Factory share a belief in all young people, their capabilities and the possibilities for their growth and development, working hard in helping them develop not just as individuals, but also as a group, constantly reinforcing the belief that they have a duty and responsibility to the community around them. They teach through the 10 elements of Hip Hop, through genuine love and deep rooted trust that every young person can ‘find their genius’.
Toby G is a hip hop artist, professional dancer, choreographer, educator and speaker. He has won numerous national awards for his work including an O2 Award, business awards, BBC & ITV community awards, police engagement Health Lottery Community Award and an Honorary fellowship degree for his “Outstanding , Innovative approach to Community work”.
Jo Gorniak is a professional actress, and performer, performing locally & nationally, with a Drama in the Community HND & Degree in Performing Arts. She has worked in New York, on projects using drama & hip hop to transform lives and at Los Angeles Film School.
At TEDxExeter Jo and Toby are performing with three Street Factory dancers who have devised an original piece of Hip Hop Theatre on ‘Hope’.
Perry Johnson: “Dancing for me is the borderline between day-dreaming and reality and I get to control the outcome “
Max Revell: “I dance not for the enjoyment of others but for the happiness of myself”
Emmanuel Atangana Maze: “Your passion makes your life and dance is passion”
James Craig is a second year student at Exeter College studying Maths, Chemistry and History.
Having originally aspired to be a Doctor, a work experience placement at a Solicitor’s firm set him on a different path. Being interested in law and politics now for several years, he has applied to study Law at university after completion of his A-levels. He’s previously been Chair of his schools council, tutor rep and is currently the Diversity Officer of Exeter College’s Student Representative Committee.
James believes in the power of communication and is thrilled to have been given the opportunity to talk at TEDx.
Rob has been involved with Toast Ale since its inception in early 2016, initially as an advisor and more recently as full time Chief Toaster. Toast Ale believe that if want to change the world, you have to throw a better party than those destroying it. Prior to Toast, Rob led an organization called Ashoka in the UK, supporting a global network of social entrepreneurs to scale system changing ideas and enterprises.
Rob is an award winning serial social entrepreneur himself having founded a number of ventures over the years. He founded READ International in 2004; a Tanzanian student-volunteer-led development organisation which to date has provided over 1.5 million books to school children and created 100 school libraries. He co-founded Generation Change in 2012, a partnership of the UK’s leading youth social action organisations, helping 600,000 young people a year take positive action in their local communities. He also recently co-founded the youth-led campaign Undivided; a non-partisan campaign set up to get the best possible Brexit deal for young people. In 2011 he co-authored a book with his wife Nikki about social entrepreneurs in Africa called On the Up.
Rob lives just outside London in Kent with his wife Nikki and their two very cheeky little boys Thomas and Matthew.
Madhumita is a journalist, editor and speaker with expertise in the fields of science, health and technology.
As the European Technology Correspondent at the Financial Times, she is passionate about how technology and science have disrupted and transformed all aspects of our lives. She was previously head of technology at the Telegraph, where she oversaw the publication’s tech coverage and has written award-winning longform features on data privacy, gene editing and other major tech trends for publications such as Wired, Newsweek and the BBC.
Before journalism, Madhumita worked on an HIV vaccine at Oxford University.
With 28 years of experience at Procter & Gamble in Brand Management and Innovation, Virginie has a broad experience across multiple categories and global to local brand management expertise across several of P&G multi-billion dollar brands (Pantene, Ariel/Tide, Pampers). She has international experience (France, UK, Switzerland and the United States).
Prior to her current position, she was the Western Europe Franchise Leader for Ariel, one of P&G largest brands, where she turned Ariel into the leader in Sustainability through the launch of the highly successful “Cool Clean/Turn to 30” campaign and the most sustainable laundry product (Excel Gel).
Beyond her brand and innovation expertise, she is also recognized for her visioning, change management and leadership development skills. She is a certified coach.
In July 2011, she recommended the creation of a new position –Global Sustainability Brand Director, working across all P&G business units and regions. Her mission was to embed sustainability into the innovation, brand-building and everyday business practices at P&G. In July 2016, she was promoted to Vice President of Global Sustainability, in recognition of the work she has led to make sustainability a core business strategy, an innovation driver and a catalyst for a more resilient organisation.
Virginie lives in Geneva, Switzerland, with her husband and 3 children. She is a marathon runner.
The TEDxExeter launch party 2017 welcomed previous TED speakers Carrie Clarke and Abbie McGregor to share their experience of preparing for and speaking at TEDxExeter, and the impact that it has had. Here we share their talks, including the anxiety, optimism and transformational power that is TEDxExeter.
Carrie Clarke is a pioneer in creating environments that heal. Her work combining art, health and dementia care promotes finding new ways to create more sustainable, respectful, meaningful and engaging ways of being with people with dementia. Her TEDxExeter talk – Sparking Connections, can be viewed by clicking the image below:
I’d like to start with two confessions…
Back in the Autumn of 2012, when Claire first came to see me to discuss the possibility of speaking at a TED event in Exeter, I had never heard of TED talks. In my naivety, I thought that she was simply asking me to give a talk about dementia, and that I could roll out an existing power point for the occasion! When the realisation dawned on me, I tried suggesting to Claire that I had colleagues who would be much better at this sort of thing…but she was having none of it!
Confession number two – public speaking has always been one of my biggest fears. How was I to reconcile this with the enormity of the task of preparing, let alone delivering a TED talk?
Looking back, I think there were several key ingredients: Firstly, Claire and the TED team took a massive leap of faith in inviting me to be a speaker. Secondly, they provided support and encouragement with unfailing optimism through the months of preparation. And thirdly, they believed that the passion I have for exploring creative and compassionate ways of working with people with dementia would give me the belief in myself to share this more widely.
The day itself passed in a blur, fuelled by the incredible energy and buzz of everyone present. I still find it hard to believe that I actually gave a TED talk, but 4 years later, I am so grateful and proud to have been given that opportunity. Now, whenever I’m asked to speak on the subject of dementia, I always tell myself that if I could speak in front of 500 people, whilst being filmed on the red circle under the spotlight, then I can do anything!
Speaking at TEDxExeter was rather like throwing a pebble into water; the ripples continue to spread and reach new and unexpected shores. Connections made at TEDxExeter have resulted in professionally-led photography workshops for patients at the hospital, public exhibitions, print-making sessions which have filled the hospital with witty and colourful images, and a strong collaborative relationship with our hosts tonight – RAMM.
RAMM has taken its fantastic, award-winning ‘Living Each Season’ programme beyond its traditional boundaries to the hospital, creating in effect a museum without walls. This collaborative project was a recent runner-up in the national Alzheimer’s Society Awards. Within my NHS Trust, I regularly teach a module on person-centred dementia-care to healthcare assistants, whatever area of practice they may be going into. And so the ripples continue to spread…
My interest in and passion for exploring creative ways of accompanying people on their difficult journeys with dementia has been given credibility by association with TEDxExeter. Because most people, unlike me back in 2012, know about TED talks, and they remain a go to place for inspiration and motivation.
Building on this, in 2015 I began a clinical academic Masters programme in Psycho-Social Studies at UWE in Bristol, which I hope to complete this summer. This has been a wonderful opportunity to deepen my understanding of the complexity of dementia, and contribute to the evidence-base for effective non-pharmacological interventions. Only this morning I was here at the museum, using an innovative participatory research method to gather the views of people living with dementia, whose voices are so hard to capture using traditional research methods.
Research completed last year has been accepted for publication, and I’ll also be presenting this at the First International Conference on Arts & Dementia Research at the Institute of Public Health in London in March. I’m now seeking funding to begin a PhD later this year, which will continue to explore ways towards a more compassionate, creative and cultural model of care for people living with dementia.
Although it may be a cliché, I would like to thank Claire and the team for believing in me. And to all those of you working hard to prepare for your 2017 TEDxExeter talks, I’d like to wish you well; be brave, be passionate and help create hope for a more compassionate and connected world.
Carrie Clarke 19th January 2017