Light bulbs, television, smart phones, shift work: these modern habits have dramatically altered our relationship with the 24-hour cycle of light and dark that we evolved under.
We spend 90 per cent of our lives indoors, where it’s often 15-500 times dimmer than outside, and keep the lights switched on long after sunset. Doing so may have important consequences for our sleep, alertness, mood, and recovery from illness.
Linda Geddes' TEDxBristol talk unpacks our complex and altered relationship with light and asks what would happen if we reverted to a more traditional way of living?
Linda Geddes is a Bristol-based journalist writing about the science of birth, death and everything in-between. Her first book, Bumpology, dealt with the birth part; her second, Chasing The Sun, explores the impact of sunlight on our bodies and minds. During her research, she spent a long weekend yard-sale shopping with the Old Order Amish, endured the Polar Night with the surprisingly cheerful residents of Arctic Norway, and stayed awake with bipolar patients on a Milanese psychiatric ward. She also persuaded her family to go cold turkey on artificial light to explore the impact on their sleep and well-being. Linda has a degree in cell biology and lives in Bristol.
"Perhaps if you were my teacher, I wouldn’t be in prison today."
During a chance meeting whilst mentoring a young offender, Aisha Thomas, then a law graduate, realised that she had an important role to play in inspiring young minds. She decided to retrain as an educator and dedicate her life to improving the educational life chances of children in her community. She’s currently Assistant Principal at City Academy in Bristol, and one of only 26 out of 1346 black secondary school teachers in the city.
She says: “The impact of this is far-reaching and is about more than the person standing at the front of the classroom. It affects the attainment of the students and the adults that young people become once they leave school.”
Aisha’s TEDxBristol talk challenges us all to consider how our decisions and journeys could inspire the next generation - not just as teachers or mentors, but representatives from diverse backgrounds in all types of professions. Her strap line is simple '#RepresentationMatters’.
Aisha is a born and bred Bristolian. She studied law at the University of the West of England but switched to education in 2010. In September 2016 Aisha became City Academy’s Assistant Principal and Specialist Leader in Education for EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) and Community.
Recently Aisha presented a BBC documentary about the lack of black teachers in Bristol and collaborated with city partners to launch the ‘Bristol One Curriculum’. This aims to create a more equitable representation of black history, achievement and culture in Bristol, Britain and globally.
How will you spend your retirement, whether it's 5 years from now or 50? Fi Radford is a septuagenarian challenging us all to rethink the role we must play to help solve some of the most complex and pernicious global problems that are being inherited by our grandchildren.
One of the earliest members of campaign group Grandparents for a Safe Earth, Fi has spent the last decade committed to environmental activism. This year, aged 70, Fi joined Extinction Rebellion on the streets of London. Previously a very law-abiding citizen, she was arrested in Oxford Circus, and continues to lead young and old in environmental actions across the country.
The word ‘retirement’ usually implies sitting back, relaxing and winding down from life’s battles - but her TEDxBristol talk challenges this assumption to the core, exploring instead all the wisdom, experience and agency that older generations can bring to critical problems.
Fi says. “Retirement is a time to rebel! If you were thinking of taking it easy - think again. Your children and grandchildren need you to join the movement to bring about urgent and far reaching action to combat the threat to their futures that is climate breakdown.”
Born in 1948, the eldest of four children, Fi went to St Hilda’s College, Oxford on a full grant to study Modern Languages. Shortly afterwards she married Andrew, the young man she met while they were both taking part in a speaking competition on why the UK should join the Common Market. She won the competition and nearly 50 years later they are still together. During that time Fi worked as a librarian, raised two sons and gave her time to a wide variety of voluntary work, including running a Christian retreat house.
Fi’s environmental ‘lightbulb moment’ came while living in France in the early 2000s. It was during this time, when she was engaged in a period of deep spiritual reflection, walking the hills and studying the writing of Marion Woodman and Joanna Macy, she heard the trees screaming during the heatwave of 2003. Her mounting fear for the natural world and desire to speak out brought her back to Bristol, where she immediately threw herself into environmental activism. A dedicated member of ‘Grandparents for a Safe Earth’, over the last decade she has dressed up as a polar bear, a spider monkey and an orangutan, signed hundreds of petitions, lobbied her MP and occupied the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for six hours in June 2018. Since its launch in October 2018, Fi has been an active member of Extinction Rebellion.
What will your great, great, grandkids think about you when you’re dead? We live in an era when our online lives will almost certainly outlive us all. Every day we curate a version of our virtual self with photos, emails and Facebook comments, but what happens to your online life when you die?
Paul Wiseall is a man on a death mission - digital death that is - to help us navigate through the virtual space where so much of our lives (and deaths) exist, so that we can decide what or who we leave behind.
The issue is somewhat complex. Data privacy laws don’t apply once you die, our legal system isn’t ready to handle our virtual assets and society in general doesn’t know how to handle digital death.
Paul’s TEDxBristol talk argues that in a world of cyber fraud and fake news, we need to plan as much for our digital death as we do our physical one. Rather than leaving it to fate or Facebook, this talk explores how we can all take control of our unique digital story after our real world demise.
Paul Wiseall is the UK Managing Director of DEATH.io, a Bristol-based start-up which is working to solve the problem of death and other end of life issues.
Growing up in a small village just outside Bristol, Paul devoured books like a dog on chips and expected to one day become an English teacher. But that all changed eight years ago when one of his closest friends died, which tipped Paul’s world on its head and set him on a new path.
Since then he’s been an original start-up member of Noddle, the UK's first free for life credit report, he’s run national campaigns aimed at helping people stay safe from cyber fraud and he even built websites in Italy for a bit.
Two years ago, Paul and a very cool chap called Tom Ilube, set up DEATH.io and the rest is history.
Other things to know about Paul… he’s recently gotten in to boxing, he isn’t a fan of fish and he’s got a belter of a story about the time he shared a whisky with the author Iain Banks.
Stephanie Campbell is an eye specialist with a decade’s experience of working in hospitals. She recently founded a digital health company, driven by the need to deliver good quality and equitable eye care to large populations.
In 2014, a six-year-old patient of hers radically changed how she thought about testing people’s vision - and she’s been on a mission ever since to rethink how we approach health in the digital age.
She says, “I've always been inspired by my own patients, and I am a firm believer in listening carefully to those around you - we can learn vital lessons from the most unlikely of encounters.”
Stephanie’s TEDx talk explores the game-changing opportunities that are opening up to us in the AI healthcare revolution. The potential for life-saving innovations is huge, but there are also big questions that need answering.
How much do we want to know about our future health? And most importantly, how much do we want others to know?
Dr Stephanie Campbell is CEO of Bristol-based OKKO Health, having previously enjoyed a senior background in academic research and in the NHS as an optometrist.
Stephanie founded OKKO Health driven by the need to deliver good quality eye care effectively to large populations, yet maintaining a person-centred approach. OKKO Health has developed smartphone software to allow patients at high risk of eye disease to monitor their own vision at home. By capturing interaction data from the touch screen, and using sensor technology to generate ‘big data’, they can build up a visual profile for an individual patient – generating digital biomarkers of eye disease.
Stephanie is also a South West Creative Technology Fellow exploring how we can use AI to create more space for compassion in healthcare and drive a patient-centred approach, “Humanistic AI”.
As if global warming and plastic pollution were not enough, it seems that Millennials and Gen Z may also inherit a bacteria revolution; one that threatens to take us back to the pre-penicillin era.
Already 0.01% of the global population are killed each year by superbugs. In context that’s 700,000 people, - equivalent to the combined population of Bristol, Bath and Exeter! It’s expected that by 2050, superbug infections will kill more people than cancer.
But all is not lost - Neciah Dorh is a scientist leading a multi-disciplinary team of engineers, data scientists and microbiologists to create game-changing diagnostics which could mean that superbugs can be identified and blitzed in a fraction of the current time scales.
His talk will explore how this collaborative approach, plus the unlikely combination of sugar, light and urine could help tip the scales back in our favour.
Neciah hails from the sunny shores of St. Lucia but has spent the last 10 years in Bristol.
During this time, he gained a BEng and Ph.D. in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Bristol.
His work in fluorescence technologies has gained recognition locally and internationally including several articles and talks.
In 2017, Neciah co-founded FluoretiQ Limited. Working at the interface of Engineering, Microbiology and Chemistry. FluoretiQ develops technology to rapidly identify the bacteria present in patient samples. In the long term, it could be used to determine which antibiotics would best treat the infection.
With his daughter newly enrolled into nursery, he looks forward to evenings of cuddles and being updated on her daily adventures.
Homelessness is one of those pernicious problems. People who find themselves on the streets get caught in a vicious cycle. To get off the streets you need a job. To get a job you need an address.
Philanthropist and ex-soldier Jasper Thompson has devoted the last two years of his life to trying to break that cycle, creating a simple, replicable and practical solution by converting shipping containers and a double-decker bus into safe havens while people get back on their feet.
His TEDxBristol talk charts the journey he’s been on to challenge attitudes to homelessness, create meaningful change and build a supportive and innovative community for people at their lowest ebb.
“Many complex factors can lead to homelessness, and while it is true that these issues need to be resolved to keep people off the street, I believe that the priority must be to get people into safe, stable and comfortable accommodation. From there, we can help them to improve their own lives and reach their potential.”
Jasper (full name Hubert Thompson) was born in Jamaica but has lived in the UK for most of his adult life.
He has always tried to help those less fortunate than himself but in the last couple of years has become more and more aware of the increasing number of homeless people on the streets of Bristol.
In early 2017, he and his wife started handing out hot food to the homeless on a Sunday morning in the centre of Bristol, they were soon joined by many supportive volunteers. But Jasper felt there was more he could do.
Through contacts, he was offered an old mobile home, and a site to place it on. On the site was a shipping container which inspired him to start converting them into self-contained micro flats. Since then Help Bristol’s Homeless has converted 13 micro flats as well as a double decker bus. They have just moved onto a more permanent site.
How would you describe your relationship with connection? Do you ever feel lonely and disconnected?
Despite living in an era of hyper connection on the digital front, we're in the middle of a loneliness epidemic and it's having disastrous effects on our mental health. Could the answer be to put our smart devices down and learn to connect back to our playful and inquisitive selves, remembering the kind of curiosity and wonder we felt as a child?
Inside every adult lives a unique, curious, playful, sensitive creature called a clown. Holly Stoppit helps people from all walks of life unleash their inner clowns and harvest the crazy wisdom that abounds.
In her TEDx talk, Holly will share some of the ways clowning can bring us into deeper connection with ourselves and each other. It's time to send in the clowns!
Holly Stoppit is Bristol-based clown teacher, facilitator, dramatherapist, performance researcher, theatre director, university lecturer, blogger and actual real life clown.
Holly grew up in the circus and has travelled the world to sit at the feet of many wise clown masters and has performed in streets, schools, festivals, circus tents and theatres.
10 years ago, having become increasingly fascinated in the healing potential of creative process, Holly began retraining as a dramatherapist. For her Masters dissertation research, Holly explored the potential therapeutic benefits of clown skills training for adults with mental health issues. Thus “Clown-o-therapy” was born; a group therapy system, which blends clowning, mindfulness and personal reflection.
These days, Holly facilitates workshops for adults of all ages, backgrounds and from every corner of the UK and beyond.
Holly is artistic director of Beyond The Ridiculous - a collective of solo improvisers made up of Holly's long-term students. Last year, Holly was Clown In Residence at Bristol Museum.
‘Prevention is better than cure’ is a well used phrase in the medical world, but how is this being applied when it comes to the food we eat?
Dr Rupy Aujla thinks modern medicine is fundamentally missing ‘salutogenesis’ - that is an appreciation for the creation of health and wellbeing, rather than just the absence of disease and treatment of ill health in isolation.
He argues that our plates are key to wellbeing, and yet medical students on the whole receive just a few hours training in nutrition. In the media debates about diets and nutrition seem to increasingly cloud our ability to understand what we should be eating.
Rupy’s talk will explore the medicinal effects of eating well and focus on the real challenge - how to make healthy behaviours the default option.
Dr Rupy Aujla is an NHS GP and founder of ‘Culinary Medicine’ – a non-profit organisation which aims to teach doctors and medical students the foundations of nutrition as well as teaching them how to cook.
In his role as clinical adviser to the Royal College of GP's and more recently being accepted as a fellow on the NHS Clinical Entrepreneur Programme – Rupy has big aspirations to bring the concept of 'Culinary Medicine' to the profession globally.
Recently Rupy and the Culinary Medicine team have successfully taught their course to Year 3 Bristol University Medical students as part of their undergraduate training and they're working University College London who are in the process of delivering a course to their students this year.
Rupy is equally passionate about sharing good nutritional advice and delicious healthy recipes with the general public. Via 'The Doctor's Kitchen', he aims to inspire patients about the beauty of food and the amazing clinical research behind the ingredients he uses. He also has two best-selling cookbooks published by Harper Collins - ‘The Doctor’s Kitchen’ and his second book 'Eat to Beat Illness' which was released in March 2019 and quickly became a Sunday Times Bestseller.
The word ‘disabled’ is one of those labels that conjures up all kinds of images and presumptions - many of them negative.
Tegan Vincent-Cooke is a successful, active, 18 year old business woman who happens to have quadriplegic cerebral palsy. Her experience has been that people often underestimate her capability and intelligence, and treat her like a young child. She says, “Society thinks it's difficult being disabled and because of that people don’t always know how to act. People apologise, pitying me for the life that I have to live, seeing being disabled as a bad thing.”
Her experience is a cross-cutting one. As a black woman she has often faced discrimination operating on several levels.
“Unfortunately, some still see my colour too. But one thing I’ve realised is that it’s very difficult to love and accept who you are when people instantly judge who you are by what’s on the outside and not what’s on the inside. Why is that?”
Her TEDx talk will challenge the negative perceptions around being a person with a disability, and will help us all have better discussions and connections with disabled people, and in fact anyone we perceive as “different”.
Tegan Vincent-Cooke is an 18 year old Bristolian with a passion for life – especially horses and digital media!
She was diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy at birth, meaning that her limbs have a variety of range and tones. One day she might just have stiffness in her legs, the next day she can't get out of bed, but it’s never stopped her from pursuing her passions and interests.
In 2016 she started a YouTube channel, creating inspiring, motivational videos and animations about her experiences of living with a disability, which went viral.
As a result she’s created her own business as an inspirational and educational speaker, delivering lectures and workshops to junior doctors, women's groups and schools to increase knowledge and awareness of people considered to be ‘different’.
Tegan is also a talented horse rider, and has been riding for 14 years. Some of her proudest achievements include winning the National RDA Dressage Championship four times and being selected to be on the British Dressage Team.
The Paralympics better watch out - it’s next on her list!
There are almost 14 million disabled people in the UK, but the fashion industry seems to be ignoring them. As a result, businesses are losing a potential two billion pounds per month in ‘purple pound’ revenue, and high street shops are forfeiting £267 million.
Chloe Ball-Hopkins is a wheelchair user on a mission to find out why such a large sector of society is still invisible to retailers.
In July 2018 she pioneered a collaboration with ASOS, the brand that supply kit for Great Britain's Paralympians, to create a jumpsuit which met her need for comfortable, practical and fashionable activewear. The campaign took the fashion and media world by storm… with Vogue, Grazia, Elle and New York Magazine taking up the story.
But a year on nothing more has been done.
Chloe’s TEDxBristol talk will explore why the fashion industry is dragging its heels, and reboot the mission to create accessible, fashionable clothes for all.
Chloe Ball-Hopkins is a freelance journalist, archery champion and wheelchair user from Kingswood in Gloucestershire. She was born with a condition called Arthrogryposis which led to numerous operations on her legs. At four years old she was diagnosed with a form of Muscular Dystrophy which means she has weaker muscles.
This hasn’t stopped her taking on a variety of big challenges - from competing in the Para European Championships and winning the Bronze medal as an archer to most recently taking on the fashion industry! Her mission is to create clothes that help people like her feel comfortable and fashionable whilst being in a wheelchair all day.
Even something as simple as having a handy pocket to put your phone would help. The industry doesn’t seem to have cottoned on to this huge gap in the market - yet.
Chloe has just returned to South Gloucestershire and Stroud College’s WISE Campus to do a degree in Media Production while working within the fashion industry to create inclusive fashion.
The first information that young people get about sex is usually via online content - and more often than not it’s via porn.
Stephanie Healey is a sex educator determined to buck this trend and help young people access fair, correct and fun information about sexual pleasure. Her TEDx talk will explore where sex education is failing and how we can radically change that.
Her message for the digital generations coming of age is simple: You’re Not in a Porno.
She says “We need to talk about sexual pleasure, as a matter of urgency. It needs to take centre stage, loud and clear so the people in the rafters can hear. We need it to be at the core of how we teach sex education. I know the idea of having that conversation sounds mortifying - and it might be! - but let’s be brave, let’s break it down and let’s do it: Let’s talk about sex.”
Stephanie Healey is a psychotherapist and sex educator based in Bristol.
She has spent over a decade working with teenagers and adults, helping them understand how to have healthy relationships and how to have good sex. During her twenties, she spent time reflecting on the terrible sex education that she and her friends had received. She realised that young people today face cruel double standards. They spend hours of their lives immersed unsupervised in a hypersexualised digital world with no real guidance from adults and institutions around them.
She made the decision to become a sex educator in order to have real, sex-positive conversations with young people about their bodies and sexual pleasure and how to navigate the complexities of sex and relationships.
She says, “Our sexual health and wellbeing often gets neglected, yet we are expected to somehow become sexual with little or no guidance.”
The same is true for her therapy practice, where she spends hours talking about relationships and intimacy. Stephanie says she is unshockable when it comes to sex stories!
“I have seriously heard it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly. At my core, I believe everyone is deserving of respectful sex and relationships – including you.”
Social media is the dominant influence on society, and it has come out of nowhere. One million harmful accounts are deleted from social media every hour of every day, and this tidal wave of online harms is only just beginning.
But where is it all coming from? How is social media really influencing us? And what can we do to stay safe? Can anything really save social media?
Drew’s talk will explore the journey social media has taken, looking at some of the most fundamental questions about its power for good and evil, and what we must to do prepare for what’s next.
Drew Benvie is on a mission to save social media. Through his work he has shaped how we use social media since the very beginning when he wrote the first page about social media on Wikipedia in 2006. He now works with global organisations, charities and celebrities, and he has been named the most respected social media practitioner in the UK.
Drew’s life online started before the era of social media, as a blogger in the 1990s, building his digital presence from his base in Bristol in the 2000s, and more recently as an advisor to global brands and figureheads.
He splits his time between the UK and the US, geeking out over social media trends and data, and researching how social media is influencing the world around us.
Drew has two children, and a dog who has his own Instagram account and who brings much love to those who choose to engage with him, in the real world and online alike.
‘Resilience’ and ‘Self Care’ are the wellbeing buzzwords of our time, but what do they really mean, and how do they apply when life knocks you devastatingly off-course?
Former soldier in the Household Cavalry, David O’Mahoney was living his dream and at the height of his profession when a freak car accident left him fighting for his life, with the doctors suggesting his life support be turned off. David’s TEDx talk charts his remarkable personal journey as he battled with life-changing injuries and crushing depression to create a radically different lifestyle and daily regime in order to survive.
He argues that waiting until you have a burnout or breakdown before you address your mental wellbeing is no longer a strategy for success.
David’s story of overcoming continued adversity demonstrates that anything is possible with the right approach, and continued resilience can result in a journey or empowerment and personal enlightenment.
He’ll share three powerful tools to increase your mental resilience so that when adversity strikes, whether personal or professional, you can meet it from a position of strength and come out on top.
David O’Mahoney spent much of his childhood moving from home to home, living in areas where crime was normalised. He kept himself out of trouble but witnessed friends and family frequently imprisoned and living on the wrong side of the law.
Age 24, David decided a positive change was needed in his life and joined the British Army. He quickly found himself posted to Knightsbridge barracks in London, where he would go straight into a ceremonial season full of pomp, pageantry, and working hours that were incomparable to anything in civilian life.
Having escorted Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II on numerous state occasions such as the State Opening of Parliament and Trooping the Colour, David was achieving things personally and professionally that meant he was flying higher than he could have ever imagined.
In 2011, David’s life was to change beyond all recognition. He was knocked over by a car and suffered a brain injury with a mortality rate of 97%. Doctors wrote him off but he fought for his life and won. He soon learned that surviving would be the easy part - struggling to adjust to life outside the Armed Forces and living with the side effects of his injuries, which included anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
However through a lot of personal work, and a chance encounter with a mental health professional who challenged him to start a ‘gratitude’ diary, he has carved out a new life which adapts to his injuries but still brings challenge, ambition and connection. He says:
“Growing up in London in a tough neighbourhood, I never dreamed I would be where I am today. Now my biggest wish is to help others triumph over their own tough times, so I’ve started a business inspired by my personal battles. I share my own hard-won lessons and the tools I use every day with veterans suffering from PTSD, schoolchildren, young men in prisons, major corporate execs and more.”
His journey post-injury has taken him from walking the flag in at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics just days after brain surgery to becoming a dynamic, outspoken voice for mental health awareness.
What if we could reinvent leadership to be more like nature? What if our human systems – our schools, businesses, cities and communities – were designed and developed using the principles of life?
Andres Roberts takes us on a journey into human stories that go beyond relentless growth, competition and consumption. It shows how we can work with nature to grow resilience, connection, wisdom and care.
And as we look to the future, it is a call to start this kind of leadership in ourselves. It may be the most important innovation of our times.
Andres Roberts believes a better world is possible if we could only find a way to work with nature.
He believes that we have to, for the sake of all of life.
Andres left the world of big organisations early on in his career. He set up an agency for playfulness in his mid twenties, before setting out to work with nature. He did a remarkable masters in responsible business business at Ashridge Business School. He then went on to study with a number of wisdom teachers.
Today he supports a range of people and organisations, from Patagonia to pioneering leadership schools like THNK and the Amani Institute, and alliances such as the World Benchmarking Alliance.
He is the co-founder of Way of Nature UK, where he guides journeys to help people reconnect with the things that really matter in life. He is also the founding partner of the Bio-Leadership Project - an initiative that is helping to grow new forms of leadership and human innovation by doing it with nature.
Behind his work, Andres is interested in how to lead more whole lives and how to nurture a more whole world. These matters have taken him on a journey through learning, leadership and sustainability - and then deep into the wilderness, where he once sat alone on a mountain for 28 days, and to study with wise and wonderful teachers and elders from around the world.
Today, he respectfully brings some of these lessons back to modern life. Andres is starting to learn that we need more kindness. He is also learning how to be a Dad, a better friend, and a how to stay an adventurer.
He thinks we can make that better world.
Muneera performs around the world winning hearts one mic at a time.
Through her poetry and performance she colourfully etches a space of dialogue, accessible regardless of religious and cultural boundaries. Rooted in spirituality she uses communication and art for edification and change.
She charms audiences with her wit and warmth before taking them on a confronting journey exploring themes such as love, spirituality, womanhood, history, now and the future, all through the lens of a person who sits on the margins of multiple identities.
Vanessa Feltz has described Muneera Pilgrim’s performance as balletic, rhythmic and enchanting. According to rappers Mos Def and Talib Kweli, if we listen carefully, we will be met by the sounds of the city breathing.
In this piece especially for TEDxBristol, Muneera shares her interpretation of what Bristol has been trying to articulate for so long.
Muneera Pilgrim is an international Poet, Cultural Producer, Writer and Broadcaster. She conducts expressive based, purpose-driven workshops, shares art, guest lectures, host and finds alternative ways to educate and exchange ideas.
She is a co-founder of the Muslim female Spoken Word and Hip-Hop duo Poetic Pilgrimage, and since that point has been exploring narratives and stories that are rarely centralised.
As a writer and broadcaster Muneera regularly contributes to BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought and has written for The Guardian, Amaliah, Huffington Post, The Independent, Al Jazeera Blog and Black Ballard and many more.
Muneera holds an MA in Islamic studies and an MA in Women’s Studies where she focused on intersectionality, spirituality, auto-ethnography and methodologies of empowerment for non-centred people. For her academic work and use of poetic enquiry she won the Ann Kolaski-Naylor award for creativity.
Muneera is the current Artist Associate with The English Touring Theatre where she is writing her first play, and she is a Resident Creative at Pervasive Media a hub of creatives, technologist and academics.
If she were asked to describe herself in three words, she would say ‘Just Getting Started’.