Powerful ideas, moving talks and courageous honesty – TedxManchester 2018

The Bridgewater Hall yesterday played host to this year’s TedxManchester, a jam-packed day of brilliant, diverse speakers.

As Herb Kim, founder of TedxManchester, quite rightly said, the stage certainly wasn’t short of talent. However, along with talent came a powerful openness, with several speakers sharing deeply personal experiences.

Andy Burnham set the bar high as the first speaker, explaining that we’re living through a crisis in democracy, with the world changing so fast that the old political structures cannot make sense of it. He also outlined the danger of maintaining the current status quo, wherein those making the decisions have no idea what it’s like to be a kid growing up in Collyhurst. He ended his talk by reminding us all that it was our great grandmothers who won women the vote; our great grandfathers that founded the trade union movement and, given that Manchester has changed the world before, surely we can do it again?

Following Andy Burnham during the first session was Dan Hett – creative technologist and brother to Martyn Hett, a man who I’m sure needs no introduction. Dan bravely provided insight into the hours and days that followed the attack that killed 22, including Martyn. He told of the intrusive journalists that turned up at his workplace and his home. He told of the moment the news was broken to himself and his family, and what he saw and felt during his visit to the foyer of the Arena, sights and memories that will never leave him. Despite his grief, Dan continues to challenge hate and extremism, devoting time to visiting schools and colleges to communicate with the next generation via frank and honest discussions, choosing to make a difference.

Poker champion, Liv Boeree, reminded us to look at life through a probability lens, doing away with vague terms that have no meaning, no certainty. What does perhaps mean? Maybe? Possibly? Highly Likely? The list goes on. Twitter polls completed before the event on terms such as these revealed a wide range of different interpretations. She also urged us all to gamble only with stakes we can afford, thinking about those things in life that could be “a helmet worth wearing”, such as buying that bath mat, not eating that slice of pizza while driving, or accepting a regular cancer screening.

Moving onto the second session in what was an incredibly courageous, inspiring talk, Vikas Shah – recently awarded an MBE – talked about his experience of anxiety and depression which almost led to him taking his own life were it not for a call to a helpline. Vikas spoke about the tendency for those suffering with anxiety and depression to become an actor – amplified in the business world and fueled by social media affirmations. He had important points to share, focusing on myths that must be dispelled - the first was on medication, saying that medication saved his life. Quite rightly he asked whether we would feel as comfortable advising someone against taking life-saving heart medication or similar. The answer is probably not. After talking about the benefits of therapy, he tackled worries around what people will say and think, saying none of us are alone, everyone is a bit broken. Vikas reminded us all that what matters most are the simple things – spending time with friends and doing the things you love, telling us all vulnerability is not a weakness, it’s a superpower.

Ending his extremely powerful, honest talk, he told us all that resilience is the most important thing you can have in this life – we need to teach resilience because that is the number one survival tool.

Another incredibly thought-provoking talk was delivered by Dr. Rachel Clarke on love and loss at the end of life. A palliative care doctor, she told two incredibly moving stories – I don’t think there was a dry eye in the hall.

While every one of the 14 speakers was utterly inspirational, my personal favourite talk of the day was from Lucinda Belle, harpist, singer and songwriter – she has an incredible voice, so listening was a real treat. She used her time on the stage to tell us that curiosity most often leads us down a path with challenges worth facing. Fear forces us to question, doubt and procrastinate, but inspiration quashes fear - motivation, curiosity, hope and inspiration steer us to roads less travelled.

Lucinda urged us to keep curiosity alive, saying those willing to take on new roads are heroes.

TEDxManchester 2018 wasn’t short on talent or ideas worth spreading, and I’m sure everyone left with plenty to think about.

Photo credit: TyneSight Photographic Services