By Laura Burgoine
Great brains of Brixton and beyond will gather at Lambeth’s first ever TEDx conference: TEDx Brixton, for a mind-expanding conversation around the theme of change.
Starting in California in 1984, the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) talks were a forum for the earliest demonstrations of Sony’s Compact Disc and the Apple Macintosh computer. Now they are an annual Long Beach conference dedicated to ‘ideas worth spreading’ featuring some of the world’s most influential and innovative thinkers, among them Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, speaking on subjects as diverse as 4D printing, giant squids, mental illness and keep sex going in a long term relationship. They are now filmed and posted on http://www.ted.com, where talks receive hundreds of thousands of views.
TEDx (independently organised TED events) Brixton is based around the theme of transformation, as particularly befits the area, says organiser Stephanie Busari. “We want to converse broadly about all the changes in Brixton. It’s not focused on regeneration, rather we want to have a local, national and international conversation about this idea.”
Among the speakers are space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, associate director of the Olympics Opening Ceremony Paulette Randall, director of the Brixton Pound Simon Wolf, and co-founder of Brixton-based youth engagement agency Livity, Sam Conniff.
“We’ve found all these amazing, creative people who live near Brixton and beyond and hopefully we’ll create some magic by bringing together all these people and their ideas,” Stephanie says. “Brixton is such a creative hub but unfortunately it’s enflamed in this stereotypical story of crime and gang violence and that perception is very wrong.
“I’d hate it if Brixton became like Notting Hill. At its core is real activism, a strong sense of community and passion.”
Conversations with 50 Cent: Robert Greene, author
While working unhappily as a Hollywood writer, author Robert Greene met a book publisher who asked him to pitch a book idea. He “improvised” what was to become his first novel The 48 Laws of Power, a book that went on to become an international best-seller, the most requested book in American prisons and a favourite of Will Smith, Jay-Z, Kayne West and 50 Cent.
“I’d seen all these power games going on and no one talks about it; it’s this insane secret,” Robert explains. “Things in history are so much a part of our present. Whenever there’s people in power an aristocratic court establishes itself around them almost like a law of physics.”
The commonly held perception that success is about “politic-ing” or being a genius is something Robert aims to dispel across his five books. “You need to be good at what you do. That’s the ultimate form of power; to be creative and have skills,” he says.
His fourth book the 50th Law is a collaboration with rapper 50 Cent, who approached the American writer after reading his book the 48 Laws of Power. “That book is particularly popular with rappers. Black artists in the late ‘90s were really trying to change that dynamic and get control and they found the book helpful,” he explains. “I treated 50 like a historical figure, in the same way I do Napoleon Bonaparte and wanted to find out what the force of his success and power is because if you look at where he came from there’s no logical reason for it,” Robert tells. “I found it was his fearless attitude towards life, work, taking risks and that’s what this book became, a meditation to what can happen if you’re fearless.”
During his TEDx speech Robert –who lived in Brixton for five months back in 1986 – will present his idea on the process needed to make lasting change. “It’s about transforming the brain, your skill level and the group you work with or society at large,” he tells. “It requires getting to the root, and changing the structure. I use Charles Darwin as an example of someone who transformed himself from this wandering lost soul to a great scientist. I’ll show people how… in 15 minutes!”
Flip-flops as a force for change: Rob Forkan, founder of Gandy’s
In just under a year brothers Rob and Paul Forkan – who lost their parents in the 2004 tsunami – have already achieved international success with their humanitarian company Gandys Flip Flops, which raises money for orphans worldwide.
The duo were just 13 and 11 years old when their parents ‘upped sticks’, leaving their Croydon home to take their boys travelling around India. During a family Christmas trip to Sri Lanka, both of their parents were killed in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, which claimed the lives of 230,000. Their plan is to recruit 230,000 brand ambassadors for Gandys.
Starting the company in their tiny Brixton flat, Gandys flip flops have just launched in Selfridges, House of Fraser, Schuh, Soletrader, Office, and Topman Oxford Street. Nordstrom will also be launching them this summer in the US.
“We haven’t re-invented the wheel but our success isn’t only due to us having a good story; you can’t get into Selfridges with that alone,” Rob (pictured, right) said. “Our flip flops are made with good quality rubber, the rope design on the strap is unique, we have cool new prints, which are different from most flip flops in that they go all the way around the sole and the soles are coloured to match the straps, which is sort of our trademark,” Rob explains.
The money Gandys raised from last summer funded a teacher for an entire community of orphans in India as well as educational equipment. By 2014, the brothers aim to have opened their first orphanage in memory of their parents, to mark the first anniversary of the tsunami. It’s been a rapid ride so far, but the pair – now aged 25 and 23 – won’t stop until they’ve knocked Havaianas off their global flip flop mantle, Rob jokes.
The sixteen-speaker TEDx event has already sold out, but the Weekender has a pair to give to two lucky readers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, contact phone number and age by Monday 8 July. TEDx Brixton is on July 13 from 9am to 5.30pm at the Evelyn Grace Academy, 255 Shakespeare Road, SE24 0QN. 020 7737 9520. http://www.tedxbrixton.com Talks online from September.