On Saturday 25th February I went to TEDxEastEnd 2017 at the Hackney Empire. I went last year and it was the best TEDx that I had ever been to. This one was better! I went there with half a dozen of the volunteers from last year’s TEDxWandsworth.
Most of the speakers were excellent. A couple were dull, not because their subject was dull, but because their presentation did have enough pep. Here are the ones that stood out for me.
Jeremy Burge, emoji expert. Talked about emojis. Their history, the politics of emojis, the way they are a universal language, and the fact that each device will display a subtly different set of emojis.
One political point he highlighted was that originally all the people in the coloured emoji set were white. Then they were yellow, but because the world had been educated on the Simpsons, we all know that yellow in cartoons just means white anyway. Now there are available a wide range of skin tones for emojis, but generally they are still yellow skinned.
Another political point is that on the iPhone the gun emoji is a water pistol. Which might seem great that Apple have removed the gun. But if an Apple user want to text about a water pistol, all recipients on other platforms will still receive a gun. Not quite the message one wants to send in a water pistol fight.
Ministry of Stories is brilliant Harry Potter-esque shop in London, where you can buy jar filled with sweets but labelled with things like “eye of newt” or “ogre’s toenails” (I just made these two up, but you get the idea). The shop also encourages children to write stories and letters. As part of this talk some 8 to 10 year old read the letters that had been sent and receive to other kids in America. As well as letters they had written to their future selves. A great idea for kids, to get them to write to their future selves.
Babak Ghassim and Usama Elyas are two comedians from Germany, although I’m assuming (by the topic of they presented) they are also refugees from the Middle East (or sons of the same). They did not do a comedy skit, but instead spoke what seemed like a poem in German (with accompanying English subtitles, moving video and music). They each spoke alternate lines and it seemed like they were telling the story of a modern day refugee. But in the end it turned out that only one of them was telling the story of a Muslim refugee and the other was speaking the lines of a Jewish refugee from Germany in the run up to the Second World War. Very powerful and very clever.
Babita Sharma is a BBC journalist and presenter, but she told the story of growing up in her parents corner shop. Her parents being Indian immigrants. Hers was a story of immigrants become part of the bedrock of society.
Dhillan Bhardwaj is the Founder of Ratchet Clothing, a million dollar clothing label. He is a young guy (20?) and of South Asian heritage. He was expected to go into the family business but instead has built his own successful clothing range at a very young age.
Emmanuel Opoku moved to the UK when he was nine. He has grown up here, went to school here, did very well academically. But when he went to go to university (UCL no less) he was treated, under recently changed rules, as an overseas student. Meaning he already expensive £9000 per year fee increased to £27,000 per year.
Many other students found themselves in the same position and so challenged this in the courts. Some of them won, but not Emmanuel. Instead he has now held a successful crowdfund to pay for his student fees.
George Marshall is the founder of Climate Outreach and was the oldest presenter in what was a set of generally fairly young presenters. He is one of the leading government advisers on climate change and while he did talk about this, he also talked about how he loved talking with people who disagree with him. As he said, there are only two people who will tell you the truth – those who truly love you, and those who hate you.
Rasheeda Page Muir is a poet and feminist. She gave a rip roaring talk about how feminism needs to move into including men into their cause, and making men’s issues part of their cause. Feminists are never going achieve their aim with out have men on board, and the majority of men are never going to be on board until they’ve solved their own issue. With this in mind she believes that rap (hip hop) is the way forward. This is a medium through which men can express themselves truly and through which they will truly be reached. She believes that rap and feminism need to become allies.
Alix Fox is a journalist and sex educator and she talked about the three most bizarre sexual kinks that she had been told in her career. The first was of a woman who had two vaginas. The second was a masochist man, who did all sorts of painful things to his nether regions (which I’m not going to repeat here) to receive sexual pleasure. And the third was about sexual synasthesia.
Synasthesia is occur in people where one sense induce sensation in another. The most celebrated is people who see music and various colours. Sexual synasthesia is when sexual excitement or orgasm can produce these hallucination. The examples she gave were in herself, the best orgasms means she can smell lemons. But in an example given to her by another woman, the best orgasm she ever had made her see a tower of green building blocks.
The whole event was held in the wonderful Hackney Empire, and its surrounding buildings, and this year also in the Hackney Museum. We popped down there and were encouraged to make our own screen printed poster. You can see my effort before.
All in all an action packed day. Very very good.