Albertopolis

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This is an incredibly belated blog post, but hopefully its lack of presence in 2013 will make an entertaining start to 2014. Back in September, we were lucky enough to go along to the Royal Festival Hall for an afternoon of TEDx talks.

For those who haven’t heard of it, TED is a non-profit organisation devoted to ‘ideas worth spreading’. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from the worlds of technology, entertainment and design. TED is an absolutely brilliant resource and I would highly recommend checking it out.

Albertopolis was the first TEDx event (the x representing an independently organised form of TED) to be held at the Royal Albert Hall. The topic of discussion was how art and science fit together in the modern world.

The afternoon was as diverse as you can get, with presentations spanning live music, dance, and making clothes from kelp. The subject of this event was a fascinating one, and particularly relevant to healthcare communications, where it’s important for us to make this link between art and science to help people.

So, I’m sure you’re itching to know what happened on the day, so without further ado…

Nicholas McCarthy (click name to view video)
I read Malcolm Gladwell’s David & Goliath a couple of months ago and this really resonates with Nicholas McCarthy’s story. Born without a right hand, he wanted to become a concert pianist. Rather than conceding defeat, he played his weakness as a strength and is now performs his passion, recently playing piano at the London 2012 Paralympics closing ceremony.

Jessica Thom
Jessica Thom’s talk was fascinating. Suffering from severe Tourette’s syndrome, Jess set up a charity called Tourettes Hero which celebrates the creativity and humour of Tourettes. Her talk was about utilising the powers you have to make change happen, as there are things we can control, and those we cannot. Rather than giving up, Jess turned what many would see as a disadvantage into a massive advantage.

David Braben and John Halpern
The popular games creator, David Braben, absorbed us in a talk about how rules can be beautiful, and John Halpern’s talk about cryptic crosswords was equally as engaging. It was a fascinating insight to how the human mind works. To paraphrase John, “Suppose you put your hand up in class and get the question wrong. You are far less likely to put your hand up again, in case you fail again. Crosswords allow you to fail again and again, until you succeed.”

This is crucial to creative output. Without risk-taking and failure, ideas will never rise above the mundane. John also talked about success, and how much better success tastes when you’re not expecting it. “The moment someone works out a cryptic crossword, there is joy!” It’s something I can really relate to.

Andrew Shoben
Andrew Shoben’s vanishing music box was incredible. Using the space within the Royal Albert Hall, he created a beautiful piece of music out of seemingly random questions, applying this assumed randomness to a music box style system. I’d recommend watching the video above reading this crappy explanation!

Sally Davies
I think if I was to take anything out of the afternoon it was Sally Davies’ talk, ‘the drugs don’t work.’ Sally is the Chief Medical Officer for England. She spoke about antibiotic resistance and the fear she has about it. Around 25,000 people die in Europe every year because of antibiotic resistance, which makes it a massive cause for concern. Considering the last major antibiotic find was in 1987, there is currently a ‘discovery void’ and we cannot continue the casual use of antibiotics. In my faux-naïf ignorance, I’d always believed I was safe, purely by limiting my antibiotic intake. I was both surprised and disturbed to discover that the antibiotic resistance can come from anywhere and can be out of your control. The way meat is treated (to plump it up) for consumption, often involves the use of antibiotics. Sally ended by saying the world needs to reacquaint itself with the simple concept of bathroom hygiene. I for one will give an earful to the next bloke I see leaving the bathroom without washing their hands.

Ryan Francois
Ryan Francois (great name!) described the evolution of the Lindy Hop and how four styles of the dance have amalgamated into one main style, purely thanks to the internet. I found his final comment relatively profound, about not letting creativity die. If things are just copied, original variants will die a death.

Roland Lamb
Roland Lamb ended by demonstrating an instrument he’d designed. His talk included a taster of the Royal Albert Hall’s monumental organ, followed by piano, keyboard and his instrument, the Seaboard.

All of the talks are available online so all is not lost if you could not make it to the event.

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