In 2015 Andy and Kieran hatched the plan to bring a global brand to Lincoln. Our goal was to begin to shift the perception of Lincoln from world class heritage city to world class heritage site with a thriving community of thought leaders from all walks of life. After two years of procrastinating and asking, “why TED would want to host events in Lincoln?” and “why on earth they’d let us run it?”, we finally submitted the application.
They said no.
Thankfully, they supported us in amending our application and eventually granted us the licence for TEDxBrayfordPool (because TEDxLincoln is in Nebraska!).
We naively set forth with TEDs rules of engagement and guidelines about how to organise a TEDx event in hand. We built a holding page, sent out a press release to say that TEDx was coming to Lincoln, and crossed our fingers that people would apply – Think the 1989 Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams; “If you build it, they will come.”
And come they did!
We received emails and messages from a great number of people saying that they’d been hoping to see TEDx arrive in Lincoln for years, and how could they get involved? We were overwhelmed with offers of support and some of those fantastic volunteers are still with us to this day, helping develop TEDxBrayfordPool to go above and beyond year on year. It’s worth noting here that no one gets paid to organise or speak at a TEDx event. We genuinely do it for the love of it.
We received a staggering (to us!) 40+ applications for our very first event - in truth, we’d only really expected half a dozen at most. We quickly realised that there was a thriving host of ‘ideas worth spreading’ in the city and county. Our goal was to showcase the best ideas from Lincoln(shire) and some of the best ideas from further afield to the county. We managed to whittle the application pool down to 15 speakers and 5 performers; including internationally renowned musician and poet, Labi Siffre (a feat to this day that we still don’t quite know how we pulled off!)
Once we had our line-up, we turned to funding that first event. TED only allow events to be funded through tickets sales and sponsorship, which presented us with our biggest opportunity to succeed or fail. Bootstrapping any project is hard work. Thankfully with the ability to capitalise on incredible power of the TEDx global brand it was perhaps easier than expected. We managed to secure £2000 of funding and a huge amount of in-kind support to make the event happen, and on 28th October 2017 we welcomed our first 100 delegates to the inaugural TEDxBrayfordPool.
What happened during the day was magic.
Not just the speakers and performers, or even the incredible wood fired pizza, but the connections being made in that space during that day. There was an electricity in the air. We saw the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police connect with psychology students over a Lego Serious Play workshop, and community music practitioners turn the whole room into a choir. Frankly, we were blown away by just how many people from so many different walks of life joined us as we started this journey.
In the back of our minds was a rough five-year plan to build upon the first event year on year. Year two we’d add a TEDxYouth event, year three we’d add TEDxSalon events, year four we’d add a TEDxWomen event culminating in year five by applying for our Level 2 licence cementing Lincoln as a platform for leading global thought.
The reality of it went out the window within a couple of weeks of announcing our first event, and a week after that inaugural TEDxBrayfordPool we held our inaugural TEDxYouth@BrayfordPool event in response to the overwhelming desire of young people in Lincoln to share their own ideas. The rollercoaster of growth continued with the addition of TEDxBrayfordPoolSalon and TEDxBrayfordPoolWomen in 2018 making us one of the fastest growing TEDx programmes in the UK – Something that we still can’t quite believe!
Bootstrapping is a brilliant way to achieve community ownership.
Over the course of the 4 years that we’ve been curating the TEDxBrayfordPool series we’ve seen the investment in the events grow. Not from large businesses, but small, independent companies that want to really affect the shape of the communities their part of.
Never underestimate the enthusiasm of the community.
As we said, we were awed by just how many people not only stepped up as potential speakers, but also those who volunteered their time to make these incredible events happen. Without our volunteers we wouldn’t be even remotely as successful as we are. Again, those volunteers really own the process. We really hope that once the COVID-19 pandemic ends we’ll be able to turn all that enthusiasm into tangible social actions to affect real change in our wider community.
Listen to what people
With our TEDxBrayfordPoolSalon series we tried something different. We co-curated the events with the participants. They told us what they wanted to do at the next session. It really helped build ownership of the process, but also took us in some incredible directions we wouldn’t have explored were we to have simply dictated the content.
You can’t always plan growth.
When we started this process, we had a five-year plan. It flew out the window within a matter of days. This again comes down to listening to the community and being able to put them at the heart of what you do. Sometimes, losing the plan is the best thing that can ever happen.
Appreciate and share your successes.
Within the first three years of the series, we’ve seen a staggering £1.5m social return on investment, not bad considering we started with a budget of £2000! The community that has developed around TEDxBrayfordPool are a phenomenal group of people. They are invested in seeing Lincoln thrive and continue to drive the TEDxBrayfordPool platform to new heights.