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BBC Backstage at TedX Manchester

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Adrian Woolard | 14:27 UK time, Friday, 9 October 2009

Last Friday, TedX Manchester took place in the philharmonic studio at BBC Manchester, Oxford Road.

BBC Backstage working in partnership with Codeworks, FutureEverything and NW Vision & Media produced a free public event bringing some of the experience of the TED conferences to the North of England. Mixing talks and conference videos, there was a rich set of presentations from inspiring experts (regional and BBC) on the future of technology, entertainment and design.

Over 250 folk - students, academics, indies, staff, corporates and regional agencies took time out to listen, network and hopefully get more sense of an Open BBC. You can get a small sense of the day from these photos on Flickr.

There are numerous reviews and summaries of the event that are well worth looking at - try here or here as good starting points.

It's also worth noting that the whole event was captured as a purely tapeless digital production in HD using BBC R&D's Ingex system. We should have all the video of the presentations as well as edited highlights up in couple of weeks as a new episode of R&D TV.

It's through events such as this that we can build in the future BBC FM&T's commitment to the overall ambitions of BBC North.

Dr Adrian Woolard is Project Lead (R&D North Lab), BBC Research & Development.


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Andrew,
    Hope you are well and thanks for this post.
    You say "It's through events such as this that we can build in the future BBC FM&T's commitment to the overall ambitions of BBC North". That comment is so telling.
    Are events like TEDx Manchester really intended to be a platform for spreading corporate messages? I don't think so. In my opinion, the BBC's contribution, in terms of actual talks, was the least inspiring at TEDx Manchester.
    Instead of talking about buildings and internal corporate structures etc., it would be lovely to hear more about how BBC North wants to work with, help, encourage, develop, and support all sorts of talented people, ideas, and projects, to facilitate opportunity, include a broader range of folk, and help make things happen that matter to a wider public.
    Please could you help me, and this post's readers, understand what you mean by saying people "took time out to listen, network and hopefully get more sense of an Open BBC"?
    Many people I've talked to and heard from say they understood TEDx Manchester, in the spirit of TED Global, to be about inspiration, new or ambitious ideas, helping us see ways we can work together, and make a positive difference in our world locally and globally.
    Having said that, I'm grateful TEDX Manchester did bring us some excellent speakers and sparked meaningful conversations and new relationships between all kinds of interesting people.
    Thanks for reading this comment.
    All the best,
    Ian Aspin.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Ian and Adrian

    One important way that people will have got "more sense of an Open BBC" is in the way the BBC collaborated on the TEDx event with organisations active in the digital space in the North, working as a partner in a network of equals.

    TEDxManchester was an inaugural collaboration between BBC, Codeworks and FutureEverything, something we have been referring to informally, and only slightly tongue in cheek, as the "northern technology conference alliance" or "northern alliance" for short.

    So irrespective of the content of particular talks, the drawing together of these partners, and the mix of speakers, all the ingredients which went into a great TEDxManchester event, should give the sense of the BBC working in a more open way.

    More than this, the arrival of great new BBC people in the region has helped to develop collaborative conversations which did not previously exist, most notably but not exclusively, between Codeworks and FutureEverything. This is not the same as "spreading corporate messages," but it is a halo effect of the BBC move.

    The TEDxManchester event was very successful, in terms of quality of the programme and numbers attending, especially in view of the fact that such "TEDx" events are organised largely without funding on a voluntary basis.

    At FutureEverything we are lucky enough to enjoy a fantastic relationship with the wider community, there is a lot of love in the air for us. At TEDxManchester it was interesting to see how the Beeb can generate some animated discussion, quite aside from the content of the talks.

    As Director and CEO of FutureEverything, and also Associate Director of ImaginationLancaster, I look forward to the next collaboration with our pals in the northern alliance.



  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Adrian,

    Thanks very much for taking the time to write this post. I should also thank Ian Aspin, Louise Bolotin, Ian Forrester among others who have taken the time to write in their blogs on TEDxManchester.

    I've said this before but I also really need to thank Future Everything, the BBC, our speakers & volunteers for putting so much effort into TEDxManchester. It was, by some distance, the largest and most ambitious of the TEDxNorth events I've been involved in. A tremendous amount of time and effort went into making what I thought was a really successful event.

    Some points I'd like to make:

    1. Hats off to the BBC for the fabulous venue & staging and for finding a way to make the very limited networking/break space somehow work.

    2. Holding the event at the BBC was great in that it brought out a large crowd most of whom stayed to the event's end. The low dropout rate & high retention were both very impressive.

    3. On the downside, holding the event at the BBC brings dramatically different event expectations.

    - On the delegate side, people clearly had much higher expectations than at the other TEDxNorth events. I was stunned to learn that some people had actually thought we'd flown JJ Abrams over to Manchester from LA to do an 18 minute talk!

    - On the production side, the amount of BBC event engineering was sort of stunning. Perhaps this is a reflection of the TV production culture but I thought it at times to perhaps be a bit too much love & attention?

    - These expectations perhaps shouldn't be surprising. The BBC is obviously a huge brand that stands for globally leading content. Add to this the TED brand which is becoming a huge global brand promising some of the best talks & presentations you are ever likely to see. Maybe this is where the TEDx name fails? In my opiniion, TEDx's are meant to be closer to BarCamp than the TED Conference. For 1 thing TEDx like BarCamp costs delegates £0.00 where as TED costs up to $6000 per ticket. Maybe TEDCamp or UnTED Conference would set expectations closer to reality?

    4. With regard to speakers/content, I really liked all the talks. Some were more universally loved than others but I thought all our speakers made a real contribution. As an American, I didn't realise just how much emotion the BBC can sometimes generate. To be fair to the BBC guys, they were expressing early on real concerns about not wanting to make this an overly BBC-centric event. I actually argued against thinking that having a few BBC faces on stage would be both interesting & valuable given the relocation & reconstruction of big chunks of the Beeb in Salford over the next few years.

    5. I know there have been some critical comments about the speakers and the content. Quite simply, you can't please all of the people all of the time. I thought each & every talk worked and added value to at least some big chunk of the audience. Were they all as inspiring as the recorded TEDtalks from folks like JJ Abrams or Ben Zander? Of course not but even the main TED Conference fails to meet that standard. Some huge names who make it to the TED stage can have an off day. I recently commented on Ian Aspin's blog that notables like Stephen Fry & Edward de Bono have completely bombed at TED. Chris Anderson actually got on stage to interrupt de Bono's blatant onstage advert for his consulting practice. Even Bill Clinton managed to give a flat and frankly dull talk. I didn't think that was actually possible by Clinton but at TED 2007 he found a way :-(

    I really thought TEDxManchester was a very good event and even better considering it was the first. I think all of the people involved have got things they would change but I surely hope there will be support for a TEDxManchester v2.0.


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