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Ideas For Our Time, TEDxByronBay 2021

How do rainbows affect your neural pathways? What’s it like to dive under the North Pole? Can the internet save us? So many questions. And so many answers dished up at TEDxByronBay 2021.

Nell Schofield at TEDxByronBay2021
On stage for TEDxByronBay 2021

We stirred up a colossal cauldron of ideas at this groundbreaking event and as M.C and co-curator, I really loved hearing how each one landed.

Working closely with the line-up of speakers from the Byron Shire and beyond, I helped prepare them to take to the Byron Theatre stage and present their ideas with the world.

Speaker Line-up at TEDxByronBay 2021

Aunty Delta Kay welcomed us to Cavanbah (Byron Bay) on the land of the Arakwal people of the Bundjalung Nation which we respect as a traditional gathering place full of beauty and a magical healing power renowned the world over.

The theme for the day was 'The Spaces In Between', an idea sourced from Indigenous astronomy which explores the blackness as well as the stars. The Dark Emu, for instance, is the black space in the Milky Way known to aboriginal people since time began.

First to take the stage was Gadigal artist Kate Constantine who walks the space between being black and white on Bundjalung land. Her work explores ideas of negative space and colonial caste equations.

Elle Davidson is a young indigenous planner who works at creating cultural safety and spatial order so that First Nations people feel included, empowered and celebrated.

Fresh from the 10th anniversary of his organisation’s global digital rights conference, Access Now’s Executive Director Brett Solomon brought us up to speed on internet shutdowns and the defence of human rights in the digital age.

Dr. Gregory P. Smith charted his amazing journey from “sociopath” to sociologist via a decade-long stint as a hermit in the forest behind Byron. Gregory now owns his own small forest and works on the Premiers Priority Project to slash rough sleeping in NSW by a quarter.

Landscape architect and TV host Costa Georgiadis brought his inimitable enthusiasm to the stage with a talk about the power of art to transmit scientific concepts, dancing in that space between science and creativity.

Dharma teacher and empathic activist Catherine Ingram challenged us to find freedom in being hope-free. Feeling hopeless or hopeful in the face of climate collapse, she claims, denies us the reality of what is happening in the Anthropocene.

And yet positivity is at the core of artist Hiromi Tango's practice. She works with neuroscientists to understand the impact rainbows have on the brain and creates contemporary installation art woks to explore how colour therapy can connect communities.

Emilia Decker recently completed her PhD in ecoacoustics and shared some of the amazing sounds she has recorded in creeks with hyrdrophones. Revealing new information about our world, this academic data can help protect it.

Franck Gazzola ditched a successful corporate career to dive under the ice in Greenland and the North Pole and takes photographs where others fear to venture. He works with marine biologists to extend knowledge of the life aquatic and actually slept underwater for four days! He shared some of his best photographs along with stories of a shark attacks that rattled him, and us, to the core.

Maverick ‘Deathwalker’ Zenith Virago walks alongside the dying and their loved ones towards death and beyond. She also teaches people how to build courage and understand the natural continuum of life and death. And while not with us in person, her pre-recorded video presentation in front of a live audience in the same theatre was powerful.

And finally our very own Shire Choir Mistress Melia Naughton worked her magic on our audience and turned it into a spontaneous harmonic convergence!

And just as the curtain fell on the event, the borders closed once again. Covid restrictions were enforced and we all went back to our designated zones but this time, infused with inspiration and a renewed sense of purpose.


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