TEDx Plymouth

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Rachel Carruthers tells SU:Media what she loved so much about the TEDx talk that recently graced Plymouth University.

Three Thursday evenings ago on March 9th, the university welcomed thirteen guest speakers to take to the stage in the Roland Levinsky Building. In front of an eager audience of approximately a hundred TEDx fans, they were to voice innovative ideas in regards to the topic, 'The Evolution of Inspiration'. From each speaker stemmed a unique branch of interest, from robotics to environmentalism to gender equality. There was something that would appeal to everyone, and the personal stories interwoven into each presentation invited the audience to really engage and understand why each idea was so important to its presenter. All the speakers that evening provided enlightenment, having us recognise issues in society that we may not have even considered before.

For me, there were two speakers that stood out: Tracey Guiry and Ismini Vasileiou.

Tracey Guiry: ‘Is There Anybody There? The Power of Poetry to Unlock Memories.

Director of The Poetry Archive, former CEO of Literary Vocation in the South West, and present PhD student at Plymouth University, it's fair to say Guiry is an expert when it comes to the world of literature. However, her presentation was not about the ways in which the world and its surroundings inspire us to write poetry, nor was it about the ways poetry can inspire the world around us; it was much more personal than that. Opening the presentation by reciting from memory Walter De La Mere’s ‘Is There Anybody There?’, Guiry went on to share why the poems important to her and why she had memorised it.

Sadly, Guiry’s mother is deteriorating from dementia and so she searched to find a way to help revive some of her mother’s fading memories. Dame Judi Dench once revealed her attempt to learn and memorise a poem a day, in the hope that it would strengthen her memory. It was the knowledge of this that led Guiry to go on a journey to find a poem that her mother would have known from childhood, to see if reading it to her would trigger her memory. Walter De La Mere’s ‘Is There Anybody There?’ is a poem her mother would have likely read as a young girl at school, and whilst reading it aloud, her mother interrupted her with: ‘And his horse in silence champed the grasses’. Amazingly, this led to her mother opening up about the horse her family owned when she was a child and for the first time in a long while, Guiry felt she had part of her mother back. This was a truly moving story to hear and highlighted the fact that inspiration and help can be found in the most unexpected of places.

Dr Ismini Vasileiou ‘Unconscious Bias: Confronting Stereotypes’

With International Woman’s Day just days prior, Doctor Ismini Vasileiou’s talk was relevant and truly engaging. Vasileiou is a lecturer at the University of Plymouth and an international STEM learning leader, educating students in academic fields dominated by men: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Further, Vasileiou is Chair of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity committee and part of BSc Women, an organisation devoted to offering a myriad of opportunities to women with a Bachelor of Science degree.

Now, you may be wondering how Vasileiou achieved such great academic success and how you can do so also. Well, in the talk, it was highlighted that the path wasn't smooth running; there were several bumps along the way. Having been raised in Greece, Vasileiou learned early on of the expectation that she would grow up to marry a Greek man, have children, and be a stay-at-home mother. However, Vasileiou had plans for a different life for herself; one of academia. So, she bravely packed up her belongings and moved into Plymouth Universities Halls of Residence and became an international student.

I admired Vasileiou’s courage and openness in sharing information on her past struggles with the audience. She told us of the route her life took, meeting a Greek boyfriend whilst at university, and later getting married and having children. Everything seemed great; until we were informed of the unfortunate news of her marital separation and the blame her relatives put on her for this. She was told it was because of her want of a career and academic ambition. This was truly heartbreaking to hear and really highlighted the cultural disparity across the world in regards to attitudes towards female education.

What was personally inspiring to hear was her response to this blame. Instead of viewing all these things: education, marriage, divorce, and single parenting as things to be ashamed of, or discouraged, it was evident that she had accepted this identity and embraced it. She demonstrated that life’s journey is not a straight, flat path from A to B, and not to let others opinions get in the way of you achieving what you want. Most importantly, Vasileiou encouraged acceptance of the self and being happy with who you are.

For further information on any of the speakers at TedxPlymouth 2017 please follow the links below:



Rachel Carruthers




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