Off to TEDxHoP tomorrow! Wrote this for my old SitP crew over at Birmingham Skeptics.

ImageFor some reason I can never quite get over visiting Parliament, despite my slight anarchistic tendencies. So when I heard that June 22nd would see the first ever TEDx event to be held within the Houses of Parliament, I knew that I’d have to be there. After all, it combines AT LEAST THREE of my favourite things in the world: listening to people talk about clever and exciting things, doing a spot of political boggling, and taking a day off work. Plus, all of my previous trips have been to attend the infamous karaoke nights in the Sports & Social, so it’ll be nice to feel like I’m actually engaging in debate about society rather than just getting pissed and singing Madonna really loudly.

I’m a big fan of TEDx events – mainly because I’m a big fan of TEDevents, but can’t actually afford to go to them. TEDGlobal (being held this year in Edinburgh, around the theme of Radical Openness; and yes, it does look as amazing as that sounds) will set you back a lump sum of $6000. Which, in pounds sterling, amounts to A LOT. And even then you might not manage to get in, as entrance is at TED’s “discretion”. For a conference focussing on openness, that feels – well, how can I put it? – a tad closed off.

For those of us who hanker after the TED experience without breaking the bank, there are two options. One: watch TED talks online, most of which have been offered freely available for viewing since 2006 under Creative Commons. Or two: attend a TEDx event. TEDx – as I’m sure most skeptical readers know already – was created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading”, and is designed to give communities a chance to engage in dialogue and debate at the local level, in a TED-like experience.

The TEDxHousesofParliament event will be based around the theme of ‘Democracy’, and will juxtapose science, poetry, architecture, music, history and law with technology – all in the historical grandeur of Banqueting House and the Houses of Parliament.  Speakers include Rory Stewart MP, Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield, and Robert Rogers, Clerk of the House of Commons, amongst a regular smorgasbord of other writers, scientists, activists, artists, et cetera et cetera.

All in all, the event should be like a great chance to bring public debate and a spot of tech-savvy into the Westminster Bubble – a space which sometimes risks being seen as being a little out-of-touch with the world around it. It’s great to see Parliament making efforts to engage people with the political landscape and the future of democracy (and letting the commoners in through the doors for a change!) and I’m looking forward to the conversations and ideas that should be sparked throughout the day.


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