Outrageous optimism, and other stories

Last year, I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the TEDx Houses of Parliament event, when the person who was supposed to go dropped out at the last minute. It was an amazing, inspiring day, so this year when I heard tickets were on sale I jumped at the chance go to again.

TEDx Houses of Parliament

The event, which started at 11 a.m. and finished at 7 p.m., managed to pack in about 25 talks, so it’s pretty intense, and I’m still processing everything I heard, but here are a few highlights:

Guy Browning – a writer and film-maker who decided in 2009 to make a film, in a fit of what he calls ‘outrageous optimism’ (because ‘cautious optimists are just pessimists having a good day’). His hilarious talk explained how he managed to make it happen, with the help of the villagers of Kingston Bagpuize, and reminded us that sometimes all you have to do is ask; you may be surprised how many people say yes.

Francesca Martinez – a wobbly comedian (she has mild cerebral palsy, but prefers ‘wobbly’), who told us about growing up ‘different’, and how it affected her. But then came the chance encounter that changed her life, and made her realise there’s no such thing as normal. Francesca’s talk was a passionate plea for us all to appreciate what we have, rather than focus on the negatives, and for obvious reasons, it struck a chord with me.

Meera Vijayann – a journalist, who moved us all with her description of everyday life for young women in India. She began with a traumatic account of her own experiences, beginning when she was a child and was molested by her piano teacher. She explained how she used a citizen journalism website to make her voice heard after the 2012 Delhi gang rape case. Meera now campaigns for other young women to do the same, and to use the opportunities offered by digital communications to speak out against social injustice.

Femi Oyeniran – an actor and director from London, who spoke about his experiences running a film club at Cookham Wood young offenders institution. During his time there, Femi helped the young men create a video to promote the idea of Cookham’s youth council to other institutions. The youth council gives the boys a taste of responsibility by letting them have a say in how things are run at the prison, with the aim of reducing the chances of re-offending after release.

Nicole Young – a journalist with 60 Minutes, who sees it as a journalist’s duty to tell people stories they wouldn’t otherwise hear. She shared two examples with us: a story about children affected by the recession in Florida, and their moving words about how it feels to go to bed, and wake up, hungry; and her most recent work in Jordan, revealing the full extent of the Syrian refugee crisis. Seeing the short clip of thousands of people, mostly women and children, flooding across the border, fleeing from their homes, made quite an impression on us all.

Last year, I came away from TEDx feeling like I could change the world. This time, although there were fewer talks that directly challenged us, the message I’ve taken away (at least at this early stage – still processing, remember) is that we’re really lucky to live where we do, and to have the opportunities we have. With a bit of outrageous optimism, who knows what we can achieve?

Houses of ParliamentAll the talks are going to be online soon, but in the meantime you can see photos from the day on Flickr.



3 thoughts on “Outrageous optimism, and other stories

  1. Francesca had a really interesting article in the Guardian back in May – well worth a read. You should be able to find it quite easily, but let me know if you have any problems and I’ll send you the link.

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