In 2016 we launched the #PowerofUs TEDxBrum theme inspired by the idea that we believed there was no ‘us' and 'them’ anymore, sharing ideas of our interconnectedness and how might connect across public, private and civic sectors in order to truly build a city we can be proud of. It was an incredible day that led to an amazing year of activity and more than 750 people attended City Camp events that built on the ideas shared at TEDxBrum.
Despite all of this, it has also been a year where we saw Brexit divide not only the country, but also Birmingham right down the middle with 50.4% voting to Leave (22 of Birmingham’s 40 wards voted to Leave, and 18 to Remain). In the months following the vote, the UK saw a 41% rise in reported hate crimes. Then in November we witnessed the completely unexpected (to many of us), election of Donald Trump, and in just the last few weeks we have seen global terror attacks fill the headlines and our hearts with despair, fear, anger and uncertainty. For many of us - me included - it’s been a difficult and confusing year.
So, what’s next? For a while it felt hard to plan this year’s theme, with all of the hope and excitement that surrounds our TEDxBrum planning every year. It all felt a little overly optimistic and naive, and even disrespectful to the context many of us found ourselves in or heard about from those around us.
One afternoon I was sat listening to Indy Johar talk about ‘FEAR’, and how it has become a strategic means to divide us all, fear as the heroin of power - addictive, cheap and deeply corrosive of democracy. Fear cannot be crawled away from, it must be audaciously fought - igniting our dreams and hearts to fuel that audacity as an antidote to fear. The dark cloud cleared, and it became more obvious that again TEDxBrum would need to host the space for us to have the difficult conversations we need, as well as the space to dream and a community to build the future with.
Birmingham Hippodrome shared our vision to create the biggest TEDxBrum to date and became the first partner for 2017. A thank you to Fiona Allan and her team who supported us to take the next giant leap for the fifth TEDxBrum. And whilst this venue will be a big jump for us, the theme for 2017 is more of an evolution, incorporating rather than ignoring the difficulties we have faced together along this road.
Last year at TEDxBrum we talked about harnessing the Power of Us to overcome the embedded polarisation of ‘us’ and ‘them’. What the previously mentioned events of the last year have taught us is just how quickly rich, diverse and complex perspectives can be reduced to binary choices. Leave or Remain. Tory or Labour. Pro Trident or anti nuclear war. Viewpoints clashing constantly, whilst neither ‘side’ learns any more about the ‘other’ in our limited debates.
Instead of saying one viewpoint is valid and another is invalid, we learn more about reality by sharing perspectives. Our perspectives affect all of our life experiences. They are the lens through which we see and interpret the world. Perspectives are interchangeable; individual; multiple.
Perspectives and beliefs have been used to divide the human race; to rule us and embolden the leaders for whom power is the most important point of perspective. The false dichotomy created by wars in all guises, whether it’s between religions, countries, or economic models teaches us that we need to stand firm in our views, reject outside influence and be wary of people who hold different viewpoints.
We think the crucial challenge for society in the 21st Century is how we understand each other, relate to each other, and talk to each other, embracing many perspectives whilst challenging our own to expose new collective spaces where we can build a city to be proud of, together.
It is with great honour and excitement I invite you to join us for TEDxBrum 2017 Perspectives at Birmingham Hippodrome on Sunday 15th October 2017, at a time where these conversation between us all are more important than ever.