Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

It’s good to talk

It seems that we’re in the middle of a talking boom. Over the last couple of years, talking shops of one stripe or another have popped up around the country as people seek out venues to chew the fat, argue …

Tue, Sep 11, 2012, 09:08


It seems that we’re in the middle of a talking boom. Over the last couple of years, talking shops of one stripe or another have popped up around the country as people seek out venues to chew the fat, argue over stuff and meet like-minded souls. While there’s always been the summer schools to bring the great and the good to various locations to scratch their chins and deliver erudite (or faux-erudite) papers, the new talking shops are a lot less formal in how they go about their business.

The new talking wave began with Leviathan, Naoise Nunn and David McWilliams’ occasionally raucous public debates and conversations which have now spread their wings to the Electric Picnic’s Mindfield zone. Since then, there’s been a whole raft of similar events powered by having the public chats including the Monthtly General Meeting, Dublin Intellectual, Trailblazery, Enlightenment Night, Ignite, Banter (DOIs apply left, right and centre with that one) and others. We like to talk, talk and talk – and even listen.

And then, there’s TED, the global talking shop dedicated to the distribution of good ideas, and its TEDx offshoots, which was responsible for TEDx Dublin at the weekend in the city’s Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. Now, this was talking as box-office gold. When you sell 2,000 tickets for a talking shop on a sunny Saturday afternoon, you know you’re onto something.

The view from the stalls at TEDx Dublin before the talking begins

But it would be wrong to think that you’re looking at a future where thousands of people are going to pay €30 a skull to listen to a dozen people talking. Promoters looking to make a quick buck can stand down. Make no mistake about it, the big draw here was the TED name. Remember that some of the speakers on Saturday’s hit-list have already spoken at other events (and there are some I’d cross the street to avoid in the future, especially that appalling, tedious, annoying band The Amazing Few who played during the afternoon), but the TED brand and Science Gallery’s promotion of the event is what drew the masses.

Some speakers provided oodles of takeaway brain-food. I could have listened to artist Dorothy Cross talk about how she works for another few hours, a really engaging, interesting and enthusiastic speaker. Her fellow artist Fergal McCarthy talked about his fascination with the Liffey, which has led to projects where he has lived on a man-made island on the river for a week (No Man’s Land) and set a bunch of Monopoly-like houses afloat in the middle of the city (Liffeytown). There was a lot of interest in what inventor Jane Ni Dhulchaointigh had to say about Sugru and the various applications for that colourful, pliable lump of silicone rubber.

Many will remember the brilliant Dublin transport map which Aris Venetikidis produced a few years ago and the Greek-born graphic designer talked about how the city’s confusing public transport cartography prompted him to do this. Dublin City Architect Ali Grehan spoke about how great cities are where people want to live with their families and discussed some council projects aimed at fixing that conundrum when it comes to attracting young famililies to make the city-centre their home. Another great city trait is that of civic duty and pride, which dominated Trevor White’s talk. Formerly the publisher of The Dubliner, White is now involved in the Little Museum of Dublin and the City of A Thousand Welcomes initiative.

As is often the case at an event like this, the talks you have absolutely no prior interest in turn out to be the most engaging and such was the case with Emma Teeling. The bat biologist based at University College Dublin talked about, well, bats, genetics and survival. It did what all great talks should do and made you think about stuff outside your domain. Watchwords for anyone planning events, talks and conferences of a similar ilk to work by.