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In Digital Discussion with: Andy Farenden

Andy Farenden was the mastermind behind TEDxBrayfordPool since its launch, and without him, this platform where I interview people digitally wouldn’t even exist. Now that’s an achievement.

In February 2017, Andy Farenden led a small team to put on the first TEDxBrayfordPool conference ever, since then, he has curated all of the events so far. To the TEDxBP team and alumni, Andy is like our dad: warm, considerate and inspirational, but outside of TED they also have a career to write home about! They are a Non-Executive Director of Mint Lane CIC, Founding Partner of 3 Degrees of Innovation, Director of Creative Rebel CIC and just a general changemaker.

For the first time in a while, I sit opposite him; I expect some monumental life advice to come my way, he’s always been good at that.

“Hi Andy, can you give me a brief introduction about you and your story?”

“Hi Annie, I’m Andy Farenden. I’m a designer, coach and social entrepreneur and together with Kieran Jordan, I bought TEDx to Lincoln. I’d love to say it was all meticulously planned but it was actually one of those daydreaming ‘wouldn’t it be nice if….?’ conversations that started the journey.”

Despite being shocked that he was one of the first that had humoured this silly format I had, by responding to me as if I were really beside him, I continued.

“What is your job as a TEDx Curator? Why did you initially venture into the TEDx sphere?”

“As curator and licensee, I’m pretty much responsible for everything from sponsorship to speaker selection. However, I don’t do it alone. There are an incredible team of volunteers that work relentlessly to make our TEDxBrayfordPool events happen. From our incredible production coaching team right through to the on the day event management team it is a real community effort.

As for the why, I return to the ‘wouldn’t it be nice if…?’ conversation. Kieran and I wanted to bring something to Lincoln that challenged the traditional perception of the city as a heritage tourism site. Yes, we have some phenomenal world-class heritage attractions in the city, but we are also a vibrant cosmopolitan centre of new ideas and learning. What was key to both of us at this point was to find a balance between traditional university-led knowledge generation and ideas from the wider community. I’m incredibly proud of the fact we’ve created a balance that allows for stories to be told from many different perspectives. We are the custodians of ‘ideas worth spreading’, and for me, that has to be as accessible as possible.”

“Awesome! Moving on, what do you think makes a great TED talk?”

“Sharing something that is completely unique or a unique take on a pre-existing idea. Being able to tell stories that are relatable and leave a deep, lasting impression on the audience, or give the audience a call to action, are to me the most powerful. We’re able to bring change with our stories and I’m most proud of the fact that TEDxBrayfordPool has been the launchpad for turning some of those ideas into action. When I consider speakers such as Thomas Dunning and how he’s gone on to create a programme to support people with mental health issues as they get into running for wellbeing I’m awed. This platform changes lives and I’m so incredibly proud to be a part of that.”

“What are some of your favourite memories of the speakers and crew over the years?”

“Weirdly, my most poignant memory is of the year everything went wrong. 2018’s flagship TEDxBrayfordPool event was very nearly an insurmountable disaster due to a number of factors, but the consummate professionalism of our hosts Katy Baggot and Richard Askam, as well as the perseverance of the production and event teams, brought us back from the brink to create a really enjoyable (if somewhat stressful) day. The collective sigh of relief at the end of that day was tangible.”

“I know we’re all like your children, but whose TEDxBrayfordPool talk would you say is the most memorable?”

“That’s such an unfair question!”

That was why I asked it.

“You know very well that I try my hardest to be neutral. However, there are always going to be talks that strike a chord. When we talk about a unique take on a pre-existing idea, I think that must be Ruchi Aggarwal’s 2018 talk that asks the question “Are you blocked by a glass ceiling or trapped by a sticky floor?”. That was really poignant to me at that point in my life. It’s such a simple twist of thinking, but it makes all the difference.

Sophie Lavender’s is another talk that sticks with me because she uses comedy to talk so openly about some hard subjects in a way that makes it feel okay to see the funny side. On a similar note, the legendary Labi Siffre holds a special place in my heart as our closing speaker in our inaugural year.”

“What book or books have most inspired you?”

“How long have you got?”

All-day, this isn’t technically a real encounter.

“I consider myself a prolific reader. However, I keep going back to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. It’s arguably the book that gave me the courage to apply for our TEDx licence. I’ve just finished reading Sam Conniff Allende’s How to Be More Pirate, which is an incredible read mapping the effect of the Be More Pirate movement.

At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve just finished reading the latest Chronicles of St Mary’s book, Plan for the Worst, by Jodi Taylor, which follows the adventures of the disaster magnets of the St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research as they ricochet up and down the timeline to observe historical events in contemporary time. As a series, they’re hilarious and well worth a read if you fancy something a bit lighter. They kind of remind me a little of the TEDxBrayfordPool team.”

“Finally, what does YOUR Spotify Wrapped look like?”

“I wish I remembered… but the playlist for 2020 features lots of The Chicks, Alanis Morrissette, Hayley Williams, The Cure, Robyn, Saves the Day, Fatboy Slim, Skunk Anansie, Robyn and Amanda Palmer. Let’s just say it’s been a bit of a year…”

“Good choices.”

“Thank you so much!”

You can watch Andy Farenden’s talk her… wait, he hasn’t got one. Right, you can find everything he does elsewhere but these are probably his babies: Creative Rebel CIC and 3 Degrees of Innovation.

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