September 9, 2011

My top 5 things about TedXBristol

TedXBristol Logo

TedXBristol was awesome. A really inspiring selection of speakers and performers sourced from Bristol and the surrounds. Here are my highlights:

1: It was very slick and well organised. Well presented, well run, and well curated. Well done to @khbelizaire and the team who put it together.

2: Sir Richard Noble was just incredible. He reminded me of John Cleese if John Cleese were an unstoppable force hellbent on a lifelong mission to drive cars insanely fast. He was a natural raconteur who was simultaneously inspiring, funny and informative. I could have listened to him talk about his exploits all day. And the way his team is running their Bloodhound SSC project as an open data programme everyone can learn from is fantastic.

3: Arthur Potts Dawson from the People’s Supermarket gave a great impassioned speech about how he created the UK’s first not for profit people run supermarket. A real inspiration for the potential to change the current supermarket power battle that we’ve all seemingly resigned ourselves to. Find out more at

4: Professor Mervyn Miles of Bristol Universities Nanoscience and Quantum Information Centre gave a talk that kept surpassing itself in the sheer scale of incredibleness, as he explained how he and his team used a contact based microscope to feel atoms, then wired this up to an ipod inspired multi-touch input screen allowing the atoms to be moved around, and then wired that up to a feedback glove so the relative forces required to move nano-particles around could be felt by the operator. I mean that’s just nuts (in a good way). He wasn’t sure what it was exactly useful for yet, but its so mind blowingly incredible I’m sure we’ll know what its useful for sometime soon (like Steve Jobs said in his amazing Stanford lecture, sometimes the logic of these things only makes sense in the rear view mirror).

5: Imogen Heap’s performance using Thomas Mitchell’s interactive musical gloves was brain-fryingly cool. None of the individual elements of this project are wholy new. The gloves are like the 3 generations more evolved child of some scratch mitts that were being demoed in Bristol about 8 years ago, looping the voice and instruments has been done brilliantly by many people including the awesome TuneYards, and Imogen Heap has been brilliant before, but somehow they’ve taken all these elements and brought them together with an elegance and panache that makes it look like they just stepped out of the future to show us how they do music back there.

Here’s the only bit of video of it I can find yet:

There were loads of other great bits. Tony Bury of Mowgli talking about the importance of Mentors. Dan Efergan and Gav Strange from Aardman talking about playfulness. Chris Chalkley from the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft explaining recapping on how the area had evolved over the last 5 years.

But the great thing about an event like TedX is how it exposes you to things you didn’t expect, and so the things I enjoyed the most were the things that I didn’t go there to see. A brilliant and rewarding event.