Story by Greg Lane
The first TEDxBellingham event, called “Here by Choice,” will take place Nov. 12 at the Pickford Film Center in downtown Bellingham. Although tickets are sold out, several venues will be broadcasting the event live.
TED is a nonprofit organization that invites people from around the world to share their stories, and focuses on “ideas worth spreading.”TEDx events are organized by various communities and share the same focus, but are not officially TED talks.
“The ‘x’ stands for independently organized event, which means it’s a TED type of experience and you’re going to find a similar format,” said David Wiggs, who volunteered to organize TEDxBellingham.
Wiggs said the event will include 18 performers and speakers, and each will have 18 minutes to present. The demonstrations will be posted for future viewing on the TED website.
“I’m bringing the TEDx event to Bellingham to share with the world my community’s ‘ideas worth spreading,’” said Wiggs. “We are fortunate to live in a very special place, with incredibly talented people, and I look forward to seeing, hearing, and feeling how each speaker interprets our ‘Here by Choice’ theme.”
The 18 speakers and performers who are part of TEDxBellingham are all local or regional, and Wiggs said they have all made significant life choices worth spreading.
There will be performances by artists such as local band The Gallus Brothers and Swil Kanim, a violinist who recently performed at Whatcom Community College as part of the “Dreams Unlimited” event.
Speakers will include mixed martial arts champion and fitness trainer Scott Sonnon, Daniel Kirkpatrick, the director of Bellingham’s Explorations Academy who won the 1999 Willi Unsoeld Award for his work with experiential education, and many others.
Galen Emanuele will be speaking as part of the event. He is the entrepreneur and president of Shift Yes, an enterprise that teaches organizations and businesses how to use the principles of improvisational comedy to further develop their operations. Emanuele said he has been performing and teaching improv for almost 10 years, with much of that time spent at The Upfront Theatre. He said that he is excited for TEDxBellingham.
“I’m looking forward to the other speakers,” Emanuele said. “I feel so grateful to be one of the people that get to talk.”
Emanuele said he plans to talk about the relationship between business and improv during the event, and his intention is to positively change people on a core level.“Improv changes the way you view everything in the world,” he said.
Emanuele said improv can help reveal universal truths about relating to others, and that his goal is to inspire people.
With TEDxBellingham, Emanuele said he wants to show how improv and the philosophies behind it can push people forward.
“‘Yes’ is the meat and potatoes of improv,” Emanuele said. “A common saying in improv is to jump off a cliff and build a plane.”
Improv notwithstanding, Wiggs said he and the TEDxBellingham team have picked speakers from a variety of backgrounds to talk about a broad range of topics.
“There’s a talk about nutrition, there’s a talk about death with dignity,” Wiggs said. There are some heavy topics and some that are more uplifting, like how to tap into your potential, [and] there’s talks about technology,” Wiggs said. “It’s really all over the board because we wanted to make sure we reached a broad range of audiences.”
Although tickets for the event are sold out, Wiggs said people can still watch and listen to the speakers at live viewing parties, such as the one being held in Whatcom’s Syre Student Center. The viewing will be in rooms 107/18, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m on the day of the event.
Wiggs encourages Whatcom students to attend this free broadcast or to stream the event live from their computer.
Wiggs said other live viewing parties will be held at Western Washington University’s Viking Union multipurpose room at 516 High St. and The Upfront Theatre at 1208 Bay St.
These viewing parties were made possible by TEDxBellingham’s sponsors, such as Saturna Capital, Whatcom Educational Credit Union, Samuel’s Furniture, and Whatcom Community College, Wiggs said.
Although it is a licensed TED event, Wiggs said TEDxBellingham was organized locally.
“The biggest difference is that this event is built by independent volunteers,” Wiggs said. “We built this from the ground up.”
Wiggs said the TEDxBellingham “Here by Choice” theme is open to interpretation. He said that he had heard many people in Bellingham say they were “here by choice,” which is where he got the idea for the theme.
“They either grew up here and stayed because they loved it, or came here because they loved it,” Wiggs said. “But the ‘Here by Choice’ theme isn’t just about physical location.”
“We chose it because it is a broad topic and maybe you chose to follow your passion and you’re doing what you love but making a lot less money,” Wiggs said.
This concept of “ideas worth spreading” is vital to a successful TEDx event and deciding who would talk was a difficult decision, Wiggs said.
“We had about 95 people apply to speak,” Wiggs said, adding that selecting 18 speakers was a long process.
“We have a very full schedule with 18 people and a lot to get in,” Wiggs said. “It’s unfortunate really because there were a lot of people who were great, people who we really would have loved to put on stage.”
Wiggs said he hopes to reach out to the people not selected to speak this year, as they hope to hold another TEDxBellingham event next year. He said the Nov. 12 event is only the first to come.
“Hopefully next year we won’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Wiggs said. He said the other volunteers have put in a lot of hours to make TEDxBellingham possible and the process has not been without its difficulties.
“Probably one of the biggest challenges we’ve had is that every single person involved in this enterprise is a volunteer,” Wiggs said. “We don’t make any money doing this, we just love a lot of these ideas and we have a love of the TED experience.”
Wiggs said the volunteers have all been working around their normal lives and the amount of hours some people have put in is significant.
“It’s kind of like picking your favorite kid,” Wiggs said. “They’ve all worked so hard but there are definitely a few that have put in countless hours.”
Wiggs said that some core volunteers include Creative Director Lindsay Baugh, Volunteer Coordinator Cindi Pree, Event Manager Marla Bronstein, and Speaker Chair Marli Williams.