Conquering The 'Can't': Courage And Creativity

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“I could show my prowess,
Be a lion not a mow-ess,
If I only had the nerve.”
- The Wizard of Oz, Lion

When we launched TEDxYouth@Brum on Monday 31st July, we asked attendees what Courage meant to them. The cross-section of examples of answers were amazing. Some of these included:

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“Standing up against injustice”
“Expressing one’s opinion”
“Making the best out of every situation”
“Showing emotions”
“Coming out”
“Being yourself”


Everyone we speak to seems to have a different idea of what they think courage means. Ask your parents, ask your grandparents, ask your friends. Ask yourself. But at the same time as this, we noticed through these examples given that there seems to be a common through-thread of building, holding and keeping your identity, of owning it, and expressing it. And I think creativity is a huge element of self-expression. In whatever form this may come in. We are the non-speaker content team, made up of Amerah Saleh, spoken-word artist, producer and General Manager of Young Giant; and myself, Bethany Slinn, spoken-word artist, facilitator and founder of Agora Poetry, and we are programming the performers and artists at TEDxYouth@Brum.

Every time you step out onto a stage takes courage. Putting yourself forward for a gig takes courage, let alone doing it. Then the adrenaline that builds up in your veins takes over and it’s go time, and courage drives this too. Every time you perform, you are presenting a part of yourself you have shaped and worked on to someone else. It can feel like the biggest thing in the world. It’s finding your brave every single time. In this sense we were oversaturated with options for performers for TEDxYouth@Brum. It’s been so exciting to think about this along with Amerah Saleh (Beatfreeks), who knows Birmingham’s arts inside out and has so much pride for Brum and its young people and all we have to offer.

When we sat down to think about who we’d like to get on stage for the first TEDxYouth@Brum, we wanted to firstly celebrate the diversity of output coming from Birmingham’s arts. There are several thriving communities flooding poetry, grime, dance, theatre, classical music, visual arts and more through these streets and wider, and so we have focused a lot on bringing a range of mediums in here.

But also, to acknowledge the human stories of courage behind these pieces of work. Every performer is courageous, but whose content touches on courageous acts? Whose stories are courageous in themselves? Why have these artists chosen, or felt compelled to share these stories? When you’re being creative you are finding your way of being brave, whether its writing or rapping or moving or playing, your medium is your means of being brave. The artists we’ve approached to perform at TEDxYouth@Brum are using their art for their brave, and also in doing this, enable others to find their braves too.

Because it wasn’t and isn’t just about the performer, the work or their story. For what is an artist or performer without their audience? And this is who TEDxYouth@Brum is for, fundamentally. The TED platform ask individuals to come and share their stories and ideas, to inspire others to do the same. Performers, artists come to express themselves to get closer to themselves, but also to bring the individuals watching and listening closer to themselves too. You as the listener are courageous, because you have put yourself in a position where you are open to being moved. You are open to impact. You are open to self-exploration, to new ideas and possibilities, and in this you are brave, in this you are courageous.

We are so excited to present these performers to an audience made up of Brum’s young people, for the collective and individual identity of Brum’s youth. For where we’ve come from, from our social history, and from other cities telling us we don’t produce anything, well we do. For now, for uncertain times with environmental and social pressures which can make us feel far away from ourselves. And for the future, where we can actually be any self that we want to be.

The act of stepping on stage or into an audience, of finding your brave big or small, does not start or end at TEDxYouth@Brum on Wednesday October 11th, it is spread far and wide across this city and it’s wicked contribution to UK arts and global ideas every day. Before this event, why not explore something new that Brum’s arts has to offer? Why not surprise yourself? You never know you might discover a new part of yourself you didn’t know about already…

As we move through this process, as we talk to more and more individuals about this definition of courage, we find it changing for ourselves too, and that’s cool, it’s a big idea. It’s also exciting to live in this grey area and to keep learning too. I think that’s a big element of creativity, to know there isn’t one answer to anything, that it could and should be an open dialogue. Why don’t you join the conversation? Follow TEDxYouth@Brum 2017. Starts here.

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Non-Speaker Team

Bethany Slinn - Twitter: @BethanyPoet
Amerah Saleh - Twitter: @VoiceOfThePoets