TEDxYouthCroydon roundup

By - Tuesday 19th November, 2013

Rajdeep Sandhu spent the day experiencing Croydon’s first TED event, aiming to inspire, educate and inform local young people

As part of TED’s global conversation on youth, Croydon hosted its own TEDxYouthCroydon event on Saturday fittingly held at the BRIT School.

Tom Messenger talks about the Street Child World Cup

There was a long line-up of speakers to provide the audience with inspiration and passion. The day included poetry, dance and even a touch of comedy. The speakers were from different ages, backgrounds and industries. Students from local schools gathered to hear them all speak and anyone else who felt like giving up a Saturday to hear stories that could promote ‘ideas worth spreading’ from Croydon to the rest of the world.

Split into three parts, the morning session began with entrepreneur Chirag Patel’s speech called ‘The World is Changing’. He spoke about his grandparents who learned to use to the internet from a village in India in order to stay in touch with him, showing how we need to keep up with the developments of our world and adapt our learning techniques.

Following Chirag was Vivian Arsanious who decided to break from the tradition of her family and friends to study something that wasn’t law, medicine or engineering. She told the crowd how most of our decisions are based on the desire to belong, so we water down our views to fit the group. Then came Blessing Maregere who is only 20 years old and has his own successful business. His speech, ‘Let Passion be your Alarm Clock’, resonated deeply with the audience, as he spoke about the hard work it took to make his business a success.

Next came Tom Messenger, who is getting ready to go to Brazil next year to help with the Street Child World Cup that started in South Africa during the last World Cup. He showed the stark reality faced by children who had to live on the streets in Durban and the idea that helped to change their lives. Finishing off with a moving poem inspired by W.H. Auden, Tom said “the best advocates for young people, are young people”.

After a quick lunch break came Najite Graham who started with some eye-opening spoken word. She spoke of the IPF Trinity, where I is for individuality, P for passion and presence and F for footprint, which is what we should be measuring our success through not money.

Gary Smith told us about the many barriers he has faced since the age of seven with various health and learning issues. He told the crowd “but you get over it, you really do” as he put a question to us: was pain a barrier, or a hurdle in life?

Rosina St James came on stage next, recalling a story of when her careers advisor told her she would only be good enough to work on the checkout in Tesco. Seeing her years later, Rosina was able to prove her wrong. Her question for the audience was “what will you leave behind?”

Justina Kehinde completely blew me away with her hard hitting spoken word performance of Grandmother’s Hands which spoke of identity and imperialism. Judging by the swarm of people around her after her performance, the whole room connected with her witty and stark language as much as I did, encouraging everyone to write their own story before someone else does it and gets it wrong.

The TED platform offers Croydon a bigger say in how it is perceived by the world

During another quick break there was time to write a message on the graffiti wall that had been created. Back into it, John and Joshua Okungbaiye told us of their simple idea behind High Spirit bags. The brothers have created backpacks which let you carry your belongings in a safer way, by moving the zip from the front of the bag to the back. Despite their belief in their product they were routinely rejected. Their message was to never waiver in your determination.

Mandem on the Wall were the last speakers of the day. They brought their philosophy, P.E.P., to the masses; the acronym stands for planning, execution and persecution. Being comedians by nature, there were more than just a few laughs. They even slipped into the their characters recently seen on Channel 4′s Youngers.

Elaine Powell, who organised the event, said: “The speakers were fantastic, the audience were touched, moved and inspired and our host, The Brit School were so supportive. Our live stream of the event has been one of the most viewed of the TED Youth Day events worldwide which is amazing and shows the power the youth have in making a difference.”

The consensus of the day was that it had given everyone lots to think over, like answering the question ‘what do you do’ – not just work or school, but ‘what do you do for the world?’. Pretty deep stuff for a grey and chilly Saturday afternoon. As my brother told me when I interrogated him on it: “inspired is a bit clichéd but that’s how I felt, really proud to be part of it and I even met some new people so I didn’t have to talk to you all day”. Despite the lack of sibling love, I’m glad he felt he was part of a bigger conversation about what young people can do, not just to change the world, but to contribute to it. The TED platform offers Croydon a bigger say in how it is perceived by the world, sharing the stories of people who have pride in the borough. That is going to have a great impact and for some people it will be the first time they have ever heard of our home.

This was just the start – the event will be back next year and, if you missed it, you can watch it all here.


Rajdeep Sandhu has been a lifelong resident in New Addington, apart from when she studied journalism in central London. Now she works in book publishing and when she isn't working, can be found reading, writing or tweeting. Most of all she is excited about how New Addington will benefit from the changes in Croydon.

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  • Elaine Powell

    Thanks for sharing your experience of being at the TEDxYouth@Croydon event. I am so glad people had an amazing time and were giving things to ponder over about themselves and their lives. Great article. Thanks.