Q&A from Anna Shields & Emily Garsin

Anna Shields and Emily Garsin are the founders of Startling Arts, an arts and performance company that runs a range of vibrant singing performance and training workshops for businesses, arts organisations, schools and communities. Following their insightful talk last year on ‘Why the World Needs to Sing’, Emily responds to our Q&A, shedding light on the age old question of the importance of talent vs hard work.

Why should the person reading this article consider attending TEDx Square Mile?
TEDx Square Mile 2015 was a day of unexpected inspiration, where everyone was exposed to things we didn’t even know we didn’t know! TEDx talks take you back to an almost child-like curiosity, which is why we were so keen to get involved in TEDx Square Mile. You don’t go to a TEDx event because you think you know everything, you go because you are the type of person with a thirst for new ideas, skills and perspectives. In 2015, the two of us used our experience of running Starling Arts to speak about the power of group singing in bringing people together (and even got the crowd belting out Whitney Houston…) alongside sessions on Mindfulness, Laughter Yoga, Men’s Health and expeditions to overcome depression. Part of the joy is being surrounded by others with the same insatiable thirst – and it rubs off. The atmosphere is almost electric and you will walk away buzzing.

Which top three skills do you think one should develop regardless of the industry in which they work?
Curiosity, passion and collaboration. It’s all very well knowing what you know and plodding on with life. But that’s where boredom and complacency set in, surely the biggest killers of creativity. Passion gets things done, it cuts through the monotony of smaller tasks to reach the bigger goal. Collaboration is the key to supporting both curiosity and passion. It’s the thing that turns good ideas into reality. We sing with large groups of people from all walks of life – from schools, to businesses and communities. Often these groups have no experience of singing, which can feel very daunting for them at the start. Yet groups are able to achieve amazing and surprising musical results, which is only possible because those singing choose to be open and curious about what they can achieve together, contributing their passion and ultimately working together.

Which is more important: talent or hard work?
Talent is pretty useless without a driving force to turn it into something. Although natural talent might get you so far (especially in school), it can breed a sense of entitlement, leading to laziness. That’s when the hard worker takes over. The nimble and athletic hare lost the race to the slow and steady tortoise because it lacked the stamina and drive to succeed. Take a lesson from the shell and don’t stop walking. You’ll get there eventually. Not everyone is born with the natural vocal talent of Adele, but anyone who can speak can learn to sing in a way that improves their health, well-being and sense of community.

Emily Garsin, co-director of Starling Arts, getting groups singing

Q&A from Jamin Brahmbhatt, MD, Urology & Men’s Health Co-Director @ The PUR Clinic

Dr Jamin Brahmbhatt has a special interest in men’s health and is passionate about using science and technology to improve health. Dr Brahmbhatt is one of the co-founders of the national campaign, Drive 4 Men’s Health, which has reached over 400 million men and encouraged them to improve their overall health. After falling in love with his talk last year, we invited him to share his journey since TEDx Square Mile 2015 and give us his view on The School of Tomorrow.

How did your TEDx Square Mile experience inspire you over this past year?
The past year has been incredible. When I’m needing a little extra energy or inspiration I just close my eyes and take myself back to the TEDx stage when I had the privilege of sharing my story. I continued my fitness journey and now have lost over 30 pounds. I am in the best shape of my life! I have had the opportunity to speak and inspire millions through the Drive 4 Men’s Health. I continue to be active in the national media, sharing stories of health and wellness. I have made lifelong friends with the other speakers. We all may have come from different backgrounds and countries but our desire to inspire and be inspired is what united us.

What made you want to be part of the TEDx Square Mile event last year?
I love sharing my story in the hope of inspiring others to live healthier (mental and physical) lives.  I am grateful and forever in debt to the TEDx Square Mile team for allowing me to share my story.

Why should the person reading this article consider attending TEDx Square Mile?
Attending TEDx Square Mile puts you in a room full of individuals with inspirational stories and ideas. Each share a common bond — to inspire and be inspired. I left the day motivated like never before. You can always watch the videos online but nothing beats being in the room and soaking up all the positive energy.

What do you envisage for the School of Tomorrow?
The School of Tomorrow will be all digital. We will need to figure out as a society how to remain physically connected as our world and encounters are becoming increasingly less intimate.

What do you wish you were taught/you learnt at school?
We can’t expect to learn everything in school.  I am happy with the education I received up to medical school. It’s up to us as individuals to go beyond the box and teach ourselves life skills. It is also important for us to surround ourselves with individuals that lift us up. If you didn’t learn it in school — go learn it now!

Which top three skills do you think one should develop regardless of the industry in which they work?
Ability to build meaningful relationships, Work well in teams, Self-Confidence.

What is the most important lesson you have ever learnt? Why?
Be humble. It is important as you become more successful to remain humble and not let your ego get in the way of progress. A “thank you” or “I appreciate you” can go a long way.

Who inspired you the most in life?
Pramukh Swami Maharaj.

Which is more influential: nature or nurture?
Seriously? It is impossible to decide between these two choices. Philosophers have argued for years on the importance of each. I say the most influential is not nature or nature — it’s passion. Regardless of your background (whether it is in your genes or knowledge gained through life experiences) you can defy all odds using positive energy and following your passion.

Which is more important: talent or hard work?
Both can get you to the same destination. Use whichever you have to achieve your goals.

Q&A from Erik Fairbairn – CEO, PodPoint

Voted as one of London’s most influential people, we were thrilled to have Erik Fairbairn join us at TEDx Square Mile last year with his talk ‘Mission Driven, today’s entrepreneurs need a social goal to succeed.’ Erik is the founder and CEO of POD Point, one of the UK’s largest electric vehicle charging networks. With POD Point Erik has put his entrepreneurial flair to one of the biggest global social issues we are facing. Here Erik shares his reflections on last year’s TEDxSquare Mile event and this year’s theme, The School of Tomorrow.

How did your TEDx Square Mile experience inspire you over this past year?
TEDx SM encouraged me to be more vocal about my views that entrepreneurs should all tackle a major social issue. I’d always believed that, but TxSM showed me how many people shared that vision, and wanted to be a part of it.

What made you want to be part of the TEDx Square Mile event last year?
TEDx is the number one speaking opportunity for people who wish to share their vision. London, and particularly Tech City, has a massive supply of innovative people keen to move the world forward – combine those two things, and you have a hot bed for producing the next visionary leaders.

Why should the person reading this article consider attending TEDx Square Mile?
Just go along and listen. You will learn. I can’t tell you what you will learn, because that will be different for each of you, but learn you will!

What do you envisage for the School of Tomorrow?
The school of tomorrow should allow people to learn a wider selection of skills – we have to choose our education path too early in life, I think. I spent years working on my engineering degree, only to discover much later that I’m much better at building businesses than I am doing detailed engineering!

What do you wish you were taught/you learnt at school?
I wish I’d been taught a wider set of real world skills. I’m not against the classic subjects – Maths and Science have served me well – I would have happily skipped Art and Home Economics, and instead gone for idea generation, inspiring others, leading people, understanding others, and basics of business.
To me, the school of tomorrow celebrates the individual more, and accepts that we need a base education in certain areas, but then we should be exposed to a wide variety of other education programmes to help us work out who we are and what we are best at.

Which top three skills do you think one should develop regardless of the industry in which they work?
Curiosity, Desire to question the status quo, Tenacity.

What is the most important lesson you have ever learnt? Why?
One I got from Winston Churchill – “When the going gets tough, just keep going”

Who inspired you the most in life?
For me, it is Elon Musk. He doesn’t accept limitations, he doesn’t accept the status quo, he has courage to chase big goals, and brings people along with him. He asks the big questions, then works really hard on them until they work. He runs his businesses because he thinks their outputs are important, not to gain wealth.

Which is more influential: nature or nurture?
As long as you are always willing to learn, it doesn’t matter.

Which is more important: talent or hard work?
Hard Work.

Q&A from John Dennis – Founder and Chairman of Dare2Express

John is an mental health campaigner who has fused his love of adventure with raising the profile of depression, trauma and mental illness. John is a big believer in the power of ‘getting connected’ and after his inspirational talk last year ‘Overcoming depression by getting connected’ he’s back to give us the lowdown on the past year and his thoughts on the School of Tomorrow.

How did your TEDx Square Mile experience inspire you over this past year?
I found TEDx hugely inspiring. Not only from the other speakers, which were wonderful,  but from a personal perspective also. It gave me confidence in my story and what the dare2express campaign means. Since the event the campaign has gone from strength to strength and this event played a huge role in me being able to portray my story.

What made you want to be part of the TEDx Square Mile event last year?
I was asked to be part of the event. It was a great challenge for me socially as much as the event itself. My mental health has played such a role in my negative perception, so being asked forced me to step outside my comfort zone and take on a completely new challenge.

Why should the person reading this article consider attending TEDx Square Mile?
There are many varying reasons for taking part in this event. None more so for me was to experience a room full of likeminded people who genuinely had an interest in what was being delivered. Overriding that is the unique experience it delivers.

What do you envisage for the School of Tomorrow?
Logical learning. Children are being forced to undertake more and more exams, for what seems to me, to make our future generations robots in their thinking…………………..don’t get me started!!!

What do you wish you were taught/you learnt at school?
Empathy for other’s needs.

Which top three skills do you think one should develop regardless of the industry in which they work?
Empathy – Forgiveness – Ethics

What is the most important lesson you have ever learnt? Why?
Not to judge. My mental health has forced me to see things for what they are, not for what we perceive them to be. By doing this, we have an open mind and an open mind, is a learning mind.

Who inspired you the most in life?
I’ve never been inspired by one person. I am inspired by those who continue life with disabilities, tragedy and such like. People who continue to carry on with life no matter what, is incredibly inspiring to me. There are clearly people who have done great things for society, or achieved wonderful goals in life, but truly, those who carry on regardless are my heroes and I greatly admire such determination. I saw a lady who had disabilities the other day. She was walking, with sticks, her body contorted, with knees touching each other, both feet in opposite direction, her face looked in pain and was distorted as a result. Yet when I walked by she was smiling and humming to herself. This is a person who, by society’s account would be locked away, yet here walked a woman, in pain, but smiling as life continued. For me, there can be nothing more inspiring in life than that moment. I have seen her since, spoken to her and spent a good hour talking. She has a major in English and Science, but was struck by an illness (I could not make out what she said) so severe that she went from running marathons and teaching to the state she is in now. Still she smiled and was thankful to be alive and see her kids grow. I’ll openly admit I walked around the corner and sobbed.

Which is more influential: nature or nurture?
Tough question and almost unanswerable. I like to think we should nurture nature. Both run hand in hand and hugely important.

Which is more important: talent or hard work?
Both. Take athletes for instance, or high achievers – you have to have talent to do well, but talent alone is not enough to see you through. This is where the hard work comes. One cannot exist without the other. Equally, hard work can create talent.

And that’s a wrap! TEDxSquareMile2015, you were fantastic. We’d like to say a massive thank you to all who attended, to all our speakers and to Cass Business School for having us. We hope that you all enjoyed getting connected with the myriad ideas and people present.

DSC_0137We heard John Dennis’ compelling story of how he overcame the bleakest times through connecting with others, and Arturs Ivanov’s plea for the audience to reconnect with spontaneous laughter. Then there was Tariq el Kashef’s suggestion that we connect by disconnecting and stepping outdoors, Stephanie Bosset’s warning that we need to be more sceptical of the information we receive through social media, and Anna Shield and Emily Garsin’s rousing finale, in which we all connected through singing in three-part harmony.  These and other key moments throughout the day provided new chances to get connected, with ideas, with other people and with ourselves.

Coming soon…Speaker videos

We also hope that you’ll stay connected with us though, particularly since all of the speakers’ presentations have been recorded for posterity (with thanks to Courage Media) and we’ll have all of the videos available for you to watch online via the TEDx YouTube Channel in due course. Watch this space!DSC_0147

More than that though, we hope that our event has encouraged you to get more connected in your daily life, in whatever way will bring you peace, happiness and satisfaction.

TEDxSquareMile 2015 – How it all began

The power of connection can achieve a lot, as demonstrated by the way the event itself came about. Five months ago, the seeds of TEDxSquareMile 2015 were sown when organiser Alex Dobre reached out for volunteers to help plan and organise the event. At that point we didn’t know each other, we didn’t have a venue, speakers, a set date for the event, or anything else. All we had was the desire to put on a TEDx event exploring what it means to get connected.

Our motivations for doing so were in the vein of the TED philosophy of ‘ideas worth spreading’. As all volunteers were unpaid and all money raised by ticket sales and sponsorship went into actually funding the event, TEDxSquareMile, and all those like it held around the world, is a direct challenge to the dominant idea in our society that the carrot of financial gain is required for motivation.

A different way of organising

Since that initial starting point, the event has grown and evolved in a decentralised way, according to Alex’s bold idea for each member of the organising team to simply do what they wish and take any initiatives they can to progress. WeDSC_0144 each took a role in democratically voting for the speakers who would eventually appear on stage, and everybody had a part to play in making the event what it was. With no leader and no clearly defined roles, some might have feared chaos and a lack of direction, but we hope you’ll agree that it all came together beautifully.

In the days before and on the day of the event itself, we continued to work in this way, with each member of the team fluidly moving into the roles where they were most needed and to which they were best suited (with some exceptional help from Aurore Hochard and Peter Adjobia at Cass Business School).

When people come together and work towards a common goal without constraints or dictation from on high, the results can be unpredictable, remarkable and immensely positive. We hope that some of you will be inspired to see what you can organise yourselves, simply by getting connected with others in your community or even on the other side of the globe.

Peace, love and connectivity,

The TEDxSquareMile 2015 Organising Team


Alex Dobre, Brenda Kerson, Irina Ursu, Jay Shetty, Chris Glithero, Antoni Peychev, Diana Mitra, Adelaida Manolescu, Maud D’Agostini, Nina Yordanova, Leanne Forster, Jennifer Travers, Eunhye Grace Lee, Jiajun Tan, Rachel Ricketts, Emil Petrov, Aneliya Petrova, Rahil Baig, Dengei Calunod, Matthew Hoffbrand, Jasna Ana Bibic

An interview with Dr Harry Witchel

TEDx SquareMile 2015 is now upon us, and there’s just time for one final interview with one of our speakers. Dr Harry Witchel, Discipline Leader in Physiology at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, will be presenting a talk with Lisa Lavia from the Noise Abatement Society. The thharry_witcheleme of their talk is ‘Applied soundscapes:How sound connects us’…

How did you and Lisa Lavia meet?

We met as part of the university’s engagement with the community.  We started collaborating together with Brighton and Hove City Council on planning, development and arts events.  It was fun, impactful, and we got data that neither we nor anyone else internationally could get in another way.

What does connection mean to you?

Connecting is more than adjacency.  It involves caring, sharing, and doing one’s best for others.  In the best connections, it means knowing what people want, sometimes even before they themselves know.

How do you stay connected?

Connection is not effortless – you have to work at it.

Describe your TEDx talk in 1-2 sentences?

Applied soundscapes are the future path for people to connect to each other and with the built environment.  Sound is everywhere, you can’t ignore it, it turns a space into a place.

What’s the best advice you have received?

The power of music can connect us.

Why should people come to TEDx Square Mile?

You will see some important, thought-provoking and enjoyable speakers.  Your mind will thank you for it.

What is your favourite idea spread through a TED or TEDx talk?

If we do things the way we always have done, we will not progress.  Innovate and thrive; fear and unquestioned conventions lead only to ritual and away from creativity.

Interview by Brenda Kerson

With a little over a month left till we ‘Get Connected’ with some awesome talks in the City at Cass Business School, we’re pleased to announce that we’ve almost sold half of all tickets for the event. So, if you’re planning on coming, NOW is the time to grab yourself a ticket before they sell out.

You can purchase your tickets here.

The event will take place on Saturday 28th November, from 10AM to 6PM.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Octavius Black, Mind Gym CEO
  • John Dennis, adventurer and mental health campaigner
  • Hayley Quinn, dating expert
  • Radhanath Swami, spiritual leader
  • Erik Fairbairn, POD Point founder
  • Craig Twyford, Director of Octopus Analytics
  • David Keene, Google for Work head of marketing
  • Tariq El Kashef, adventure tour leader
  • Further speakers to be announced soon…

Get connected with a host of fascinating talks – buy your ticket today.

What does it mean to get connected?

On November 28th at TEDxSquareMile 2015 in Cass Business School, a selection of inspiring guest speakers will explore what it means to ‘get connected’. 

Getting connected can take place at the smallest personal level,TedxSqareMile but it can also occur on a truly global scale. As humans we crave connectivity, and over millennia this basic need has driven us to create ever better ways to get connected: from the development of spoken language and physical gestures such as handshaking and embracing, through to writing, the telegraph, telephone, radio, TV, satellite communications and social media.

How can we get connected?

Getting connected can be as simple as calling an old friend, saying hello to a new colleague or attending a social function, and it can be as complex as devising new ways for people to access digital information faster, wherever they are.

Today we have more ways of getting connected than ever, from texting and email, to social networking and blogging. Hundreds of digital TV channels and streaming video sites such as Youtube provide us with unprecedented access to information and entertainment. Ideas spread at lightning speed, crossing the globe in the time it takes to ‘share’ and ‘like’. Today the human species has the potential to communicate with and inspire one another like never before, and the TED movement has taken a leading role in this.

How can we reconnect the disconnected?

But despite these myriad forms of connectivity, there remain barriers to getting connected in the modern world. From the isolated pensioner deprived of human contact to the depressed teen who hides their troubles behind a smile; the homeless person on the fringes of society, and the abuse victim who dare not speak out. What does ‘getting connected’ look like to these people, and what can others do to help them connect?

Global communication has led to truly global clashes of ideology, the devastating effects of which can be seen in the news headlines on a daily basis. Could ‘getting connected’ mean putting aside differences and hatred to communicate and work together towards peace?

What should we be connected to?

Finally, in the face of blisteringly fast technological progress over the past 200 years, have we become indifferent or even at odds with the natural world that we are part of? Could ‘getting connected’ mean rediscovering our connection to the Earth that sustains us, individually and as a species?

We hope you’ll join us at TEDxSquareMile 2015 to explore these and other themes. In the meantime, let us know what getting connected means to you by responding in the comments section below.