Inspirational talks at TEDx Bedford

Jamie Chalmers.
Jamie Chalmers.

An eclectic group of speakers came together in Bedford to deliver a day of inspirational talks for the TEDx Bedford event.

People from Brazil, Canada and France joined more local experts to talk on the theme “By Design”.

Jo Atherton

Jo Atherton

Topics ranged from the need to teach creativity in schools to the environmental cost of bad design and non-fairtrade precious metals; from using handicraft as a protest to weaving with flotsam.

One of the speakers gave the challenge of recognising the rights of tribal people around the world whose traditional lifestyles are under threat.

Nixiwaka Yawanawa grew up in the Amazon forests and moved to London to learn English. He works for the charity Survival International.

He said: “Learning the language is a powerful way to communicate with the international world and express our feelings.

“Some people think tribal people are backward, but they are not. They just live differently.”

Also speaking was Bedford-based artist Jamie Chalmers who talked about the meditative powers of x-stitch. After more than 10 years creating works of art with a needle and thread, he said it is not an outdated pastime for old ladies. “I consider cross stitch a gateway craft,” he said. “Mastering the simple stitches is an entry to higher craft. With needlework, we can all be activists.”

His talk led seamlessly into Sarah Corbett’s speech on activism through craft, or craftivism. For her, the act of stitching is a “gentle way to challenge” people. She embroidered her new MP a message on a handkerchief begging her not to “blow it” and secured a meeting with her.

One of her protests reached a global audience via social media - it was a small embroidery tied to the railings outside a flagship clothes store highlighting the pittance paid to those who make the garments.

Part of the power of these messages lie in the time taken to make them. She said: “I use a lot of yellow, which is a hopeful colour, and positive fonts in the pieces I make.”

The main theme emerging from the 19 talks encouraged the audience to consider the beauty and function of design as a way of enhancing and protecting our natural environment.

This was beautifully illustrated by Jo Atherton who creates weavings out of the mountain of plastic which washes up on our shores.

She said: “Every object or strand found on our beaches has a story. The best place to look for things is Cornwall where items arrive on the Gulf Stream.”

Speaking about a piece she made with lobster pot tags washed ashore from across the Atlantic, she explained each tag has identification marks. “I wonder about the fisherman was, what they ate for lunch, what they were like.

“But,” she added, “it is also a tale that highlights the global marine debris problem. This plastic is not going away. We all have to take responsibility for that.”

The non-profit TED talks concept began in America in 1984, and has become a global movement for spreading ideas relating to technology, entertainment and design.

Speaking on behalf of the TEDx Bedford volunteers Kayte Judge hoped the speakers and audience found inspiration from the day.

She said: “We’re in Bedford and this just happened. It’s more proof of what a great town this is.”

For more information and a full list of speakers, go to www.tedxbedford.com