Peter Geoghegan

Journalist, author, broadcaster

Better FED than TED

Next Monday, Edinburgh plays host to the second UK conference of TED (that’s Technology, Entertainment and Design to you and me). When I mentioned this to a friend in town recently, she was delighted. ‘I’ll definitely be there. Where do I book my ticket?,’ she asked excitedly.

Like millions of others around the world, my TED-loving friend regularly downloads talks from the TED website and follows the discussions on their forums and blogs. She won’t, however, be attending the Edinburgh conference – because it costs $6,000.

TED – with its tagline of ‘ideas worth sharing’ – is a modern phenomeon. Since its first conference in 1984, TED has become remarkably popular and influential. Previous attendees have included both David Cameron and Gordon Brown; scientists Richard Dawkins and Craig Venter; biomimicry guru Janine Benyus and singer Annie Lennox; adventurer Bertrand Piccard and “soft power” theorist Joseph Nye. Last year’s event was addressed by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

This year’s TED Global conference at the EICC is estimated to be worth £6.7 Million to the local economy. over 4500 delegates will listen as Philip Blond waxes lyrical on the Big Society, Niall Ferguson presents his version of history and vie for the chance to grab a drink with Alain de Botton.

But what if you don’t have six grand spare to mingle? Or would rather participate in a space that radically rethinks – and influences – how we live our lives today?

Presented by myself (as Realpolitik) and the ever-excellent Bella Caledonia, ‘FED – Ideas Worth Sustaining’ is a homegrown alternative to the increasingly corporate TED model. This one-day event takes place at Inspace, University of Edinburgh on July 9 and will feature talks, discussions, videos and, most importantly, ideas for a sustainable future for both humans and the planet.

Just like TED, the line-up of speakers is inspiring, including Robin McAlpine, Lorna Waite, Kevin Williamson, Gerry Hassan and Kevan Shaw.

And like TED, there will be an artistic angle, with the afternoon’s deep thinking and talking finishing with poetry from Elspeth Murray.  And of course a few drinks and a stimulating blether once it’s all over.

But unlike TED there will be an opportunity for members of the audience to have their say and pitch their ideas and views. Also, while TED costs an austerity busting £3,700 to attend, a day at FED will set you back an altogether more modest fiver.

As blogger Kate Higgins, who will be speaking on the day, says, ‘Without hearing a single pitch or presentation, without even stepping over the door, I’m prepared to go out on a wing and declare that FED beats TED.’

FED starts at 1.30 pm, Saturday July 9 at Inspace, University of Edinburgh. The full line-up for the day is available here and you can book tickets here.

You can also follow FED on Twitter, if that’s your kind of thing.

Better FED than TED

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