Tuesday, 31 December 2013

My TEDxEuston journey and an invitation to stay with us in 2014!

By Chika Unigwe

In 2000, the Economist branded Africa in an article, a “hopeless continent.” I had just returned from Italy where I met an amazing Nigerian social activist, Isoke Aikpitanyi, ex trafficked sex worker who started an NGO to help trafficked women who wanted to quit the trade. Meeting Isoke and others like her who were driven to contribute what they could, refusing to be intimidated by the hurdles ahead of them was a life-changing experience for me. I spoke to my friend Chikwe, about the brain drain that was Africa’s curse, but we also traded stories about people we knew who were returning or who had effectively relocated from the West to Africa to invest on the continent. We also discussed Bianyavanga Wainana’s seminal essay, How to Write about Africa. Chikwe then told me of a conference he had been to with another friend, Ike Anya two years before, and about their idea to have one in London. I was intrigued and so I did not hesitate when he asked me to speak at the first TEDxEuston. I wanted to share stories of people like Isoke with
Speaking at the first TEDxEuston at UCL in 2009
whom I had come in contact. 

My first TEDxEuston was an unforgettable experience. As a Nigerian living in a suburban Flemish community in the North of Belgium, where having a job as an African taxi driver or supermarket cashier was a big cause for celebration, and where despite having two degrees and studying for a PhD, I was offered work as a cleaner by a job centre employee who did not bother reading my CV, being at the event and being confronted with all the different stories brought me very close to tears. The energy in the small room at the University of London in which that first event was held was infectious. I came
The audience at the first TEDxEuston in a UCL classroom

away- as did many of the 100 people in attendance - invigorated and challenged to do more than just complain about everything that was wrong about Africa. We were motivated to walk the walk in addition to talking the talk.  The next year, I joined the team. It is still one of the best, most fulfilling decisions of my life. 

In the thirteen years since the Economist article, there has been a significant shift, so that these days Africa Rising has become an ubiquitous phrase, and there is nowhere where that afroptimism is felt more than at a TEDxEuston conference. Focusing solely on Africa, it is a window into not just a fuller, more balanced narrative of the continent, but also of the possibilities that could be. It is an invitation to think differently of Africa.      

With speakers drawn across several fields: from the arts to business to leadership, TEDxEuston creates a platform for varied discussions around the continent. It challenges the notion of the “single African story.” More than that, it encourages ongoing engagement with and dialogue about Africa. Testimonies from attendees almost always reference the conversations that continue beyond the day. 

TEDxEuston speakers in 2013, in keeping with tradition, were people who not only excelled in their fields, but are in one way or the other helping to shape alternative narratives about Africa. They are representative of the shift in the single African story which is still ongoing. Mixed with performances and some carefully selected talks from the parent organization; TED.com, TEDxEuston 2013 made people laugh, cry, think, but above all to be inspired.  

Every TEDxEuston event is an opportunity to be confronted with Africa that refutes every stereotype of it.

My TEDxEuston journey has evolved from the 'single' story of Chikwe's invitation to a much more complex story of a group of friends that have become more like family; the TEDxEuston team. For a full year, we work hard at putting together an event that represents our hopes and aspirations for our continent without hiding the challenges that we confront daily in achieving the future we seek. In 2014, that journey will continue, and I invite you to stay with us....

With my brother and team mate Paddy Anigbo at the first TEDxEuston

From the first week of January, we will be releasing these talks online. Some of the previous ones, like this one by Chimamada Adichie has been watched almost half a million times after the event. Please do keep in touch, to give us advice, speaker and sponsor suggestions and to encourage us on our journey of inspiring new ideas about Africa.

And finally, a few bits from our TEDxEuston community.....

One of our most committed fans Chidi Ejimofo is part of a choir at the hospital where he
also works as a Consultant in Accident and Emergency Department. This year the choir recorded a CD single on behalf of charity (Macmillan Cancer and several local healthcare charities). The song “A Bridge Over You” ...watch it. Please back the song and cascade the links to buy/download it to friends and family. The song is available for download on iTunes and Amazon  as well as being sold in CD format on the choir website.

And there is a beautiful piece titled GOING HOME by Chibundu Onuzo. 

We wish you a great and to 2013 and all the very best in 2014. Together with the rest of the team, we will be working hard to put together another beautiful and inspiring event together for you....in the mean time, do your bit!

Chika Unigwe for the TEDxEuston team!

Follow us on Twitter @tedxeuston

Thursday, 5 December 2013

...and now; the After-Party!

Its 2 days and 2 sleeps to TEDxEuston 2013! Can't wait? Neither can we! 

It will be a busy day for the mind as we take you on a roller coaster of emotions on Saturday, so at the end of the day, there's no better way to give the mind a rest than to focus on the body!  That's exactly what we'll be doing at the after party! Last year, for the first time ever we opened up the after party to our community. This year, we are taking it to a whole new level...and we really wished we could tell you more! So, for those planning to leave early, think again. If you have arranged childcare - please extend the hours and don't expect to leave until.....well, late. Whatever you do, put on comfortable shoes.

Don't forget - share the love #TEDxEuston

DJ DIBBS will be in the house

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


TEDxEuston is sold out! All the 500 places available are gone! 

If you were unable to get a ticket this year, or you are outside London and want to join us on the day - we will be livestreaming the entire event live on our website www.tedxeuston.com or you can go directly to the link below.

Click on this link for the livestream: http://www.livestream.com/tedxeuston

One year's worth of work, finally comes down to the last few days. One year of emails, skypecalls, google hangouts, negotiating with partners, speakers, venue, caterers, designing the stage, getting the props, developing the website, registration, social media, media planning, arranging for the book stand, logistics for our speakers, all the techinicall stuff, planning the after-party, packing the goodie bags....and it all comes down to the last few days. Last night, some of the team met physically for only the first time this year! The meetings before the event are sometimes tense affairs as we interrogate every aspect of the event. Every year we try to make it slightly better than the last one. Its hard to imagine how it has come to this, from that classroom at UCL where it all began. But in 3 days time, we will offer you a view to our continent that we hope you will be truly proud of and its a pleasure for all of us putting this together every year. The journey is the reward with the bestest team in the world! From wherever you are in the world, join the conversation online, tweet with the hashtag #tedxeuston.

Time to deliver.....

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Volunteers at the heart of TEDxEuston

Today, five days to TEDxEuston 2013, we celebrate our volunteers. On Saturday, they will be at the heart of the delivery of the event, but the work has long started on social media, on the registration platform and will continue long after the event on Saturday.You will find some at the registration desk, on the book stand, working with the various media outlets attending, keeping everyone to time and  generally attending to all your needs.  On Saturday – do not hesitate to ask any of them for help – they will go out of their way to solve any problem you have, the best they can.

Volunteering on TEDxEuston, is special, special for the volunteers, special for the team. There is little else that gives such fulfillment, as to contribute to a journey that says a lot about our shared humanity as it says about ourselves. Last Saturday, we gathered at a central London venue, for what we have called our annual packing party! "Party" indeed you may think, cynically! But what is a party - well, I have just looked it up; and "it is a social gathering of invited guests, typically involving eating, drinking, and entertainment". It was indeed a beautiful party, yes we packed, but we also had great music, food, drinks and a sense of purpose that will be hard to match!We are definitely all fired up for Saturday - its time to deliver! 

TEDxEuston Packing Party 

TEDxEuston Packing Party 

TEDxEuston Packing Party 

TEDxEuston Packing Party 

TEDxEuston Packing Party 

TEDxEuston Packing Party 

Monday, 2 December 2013

5 days to TEDxEuston 2013 - Follow us on Twitter!

The final countdown has begun, sound checks are being done, and your goodie bags are almost full (with a few surprises this year, thanks to our partners). Rehearsals are on-going, presentations are being finalised and the stage is being designed to perfection. Gosh...can we really beat the stage from last year?

Stage at TEDxEuston 2012

Social media is buzzing with expectations on TEDxEuston 2013! So join the buzz! Follow us on Twitter @TEDxEuston, Let us hear your voice (tweet) before, during and after the event. Like our Facebook page here and on Instagram search for "tedxeuston". Share your thoughts, pictures, anecdotes.....Be part of the journey! 

Tag all your tweets with #tedxeuston

While we absolutely loved the feedback you gave us on the board last year :) - we want you to also share it with the world, and with us. Can't wait for Saturday? Yes....we can't wait either! We have 7 tickets left on sale - we will announce the lucky person who buys the very last ticket! :)....so you can hedge your bets! See you on Saturday! 

Feedback at TEDxEuston 2013