Ideas Taking Centre Stage Unveiled

We’re excited to unveil our roster of ideas which will take centre stage at the Aberdeen Arts Centre on 31 July 2021!

From unlocking new secrets with forensic science to using artificial intelligence to improve sustainability in the agri-food sector.

From tackling climate change through the power of learning to challenging our consumption of news and the perception of truth.

From reinvigorating forgotten and declining communities to mastering moodset to the Aberdonian habit using the word ‘fine’ – TEDxAberdeen has curated a thought provoking line up.

Elisa Doucette, TEDxAberdeen programme curator says: “TEDx events are unique in the way they are organised, curated and attended. They are all about the ideas and the power of those ideas to change lives and ultimately the world. A TEDx programme consists of a series of short and inspiring talks on a diverse range of topics and perspectives. These talks, up to 18 minutes long, are designed to challenge current thinking or introduce new concepts linked together by a theme – our theme is ‘new ways of seeing old things’.

“After receiving an unexpectedly high number of applications from across the region and much deliberation, review and discussion we are excited our final line up is now ready to share. The deliberations have also had the added complexity of me still be in America because of covid travel restrictions!”

She adds: Choosing the final roster of ideas has been a rigorous process given the overwhelming response to our call for applications. As programme curator, it is my job to read through all the applications, watch the videos and prepare the short list of ideas for consideration by the wider team and ensure the ideas flow together, creating a memorable experience for our audience and speakers alike.”


In preparation for the event on 31 July, each speaker will now embark on a coaching programme with local business mentors Bob Keiller and Derrick Thomson.  Bob and Derrick will support the speakers as they refine, hone and practice their talks ensuring they are all TEDx ready. Bob Keiller is no stranger to TEDx having previously been a speaker himself and coaching TEDxGlasgow speakers.  

Sam Stephen
Actor, dancer, educator, survivor
Talk title: Limitations don’t limit your chances

Sam Stephen began his professional training in contemporary dance and classical ballet at the Scottish School of Contemporary Dance, Dundee and went on to complete his training in Musical Theatre at TTC, Essex. 

Since graduating Sam has worked around the world performing on stages in North America and Europe. Most recently he has performed closer to home as part of an original musical at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. 

Parallel to a performing career Sam has worked as a creative consultant in education. His specialty is working in learning and development for children and adults who have severe or complex needs, adverse childhood experiences and trauma. 

Working from a blueprint of inclusivity, diversity and equality his practice uses a variety of techniques and methods to create a fully cohesive environment for all. Sam achieves this with creative innovation at the heart of his work which is inspired by his passion of performing and his purpose of creating a space for everyone to flourish. Sam’s talk is about how trauma can present itself, after time, as a gift and provide you with the answers you didn’t know you were searching for. Limitations don’t limit your chances of living a happy, full and successful life. 

Sam says: “I am excited to be speaking at TEDxAberdeen. There is a lot of hope in this city, hope for success and hope for innovation. But change will only start from the inside out. It’s a joy to be playing a small part in this event which I hope will inspire new ideas, creativity, innovation and most importantly, spark conversation for change.” 

Youssra Bennadji
Aspiring Veterinarian and school student
Talk title: What humans can learn from animals’ uncomplicated approach to life

Learning is the greatest gift life has to offer. If I were to describe myself in one world it would have to be a ‘learner’. A couple of years ago I was quite bored, I was too comfortable. So I decided to challenge myself to learn more, to say yes to more opportunities. Not only could I see growth, but I could feel it. I began drawing inspiration to learn from anywhere and everywhere, including animals. My interest in animals’ treatment and behaviour stemmed from childhood. Coming from an Algerian background, I spent my summers in that beautiful land. Absorbing in all the wildlife and nature it has to offer. This soon flourished into a deeper understanding of animals and what us humans can learn from them.

As an aspiring veterinarian Youssra has a deep fascination for animals, not only in their treatment, but what we can learn from them. She is captivated by the way they think and act in complex situations. Humans have this subconscious, deeply rooted mentality that we are superior to animals. However, how accurate is this part of our thinking? Youssra will reveal a side of animals we’ve never seen before. Animals are the universal teachers we didn’t know we needed. 

Youssra says: “I am excited to speak on my topic as it can open doors for people on many levels. It can allow others to broaden their horizon on where they draw educational inspiration. It can also revolutionise the outcome of tough situations in human life. Aberdeen is a true family, it is a wonderful jigsaw made up of inspirational and aspirational individuals, making this event very special.” 

Pete Tipler

Sales & Marketing Director, Xodus

Pete has been fortunate throughout his career to be surrounded by great people and exposed by great opportunities. His passion for learning and development has not only helped him in his own career but has helped him to influence, shape and evolve the business he works for. Pete recognises that he was repeatedly given the freedom to learn, experiment and sometimes fail! in a safe environment and surrounded by people who knew what they were doing. If we are going to solve some of the biggest climate and energy challenges, Pete believes we need to do more of this and quicker.

Pete’s talk focuses on the using learning to unlock the climate change conundrum.

Pete says: “We all know that our house is on fire. And we need to act more quickly, to responsibly bring about lasting change to our planet. Why not transform the way we harness minds for workplace learning to focus on what really matters? Every person entering the professional workforce for the first time spends their first year learning behavioural and analytical skills. That’s 2,000 hours of learning. Imagine if that time was spent learning the same skills but on world-saving projects!”

He adds: “Actually, imagine if we could create a movement in Aberdeen that sees every graduate spend their first year on addressing climate challenges…I’m excited to share this idea because the opportunity is massive!”

Bethany Galley

Student & Photographer

Through the Lens: True Perspectives

Bethany Galley is a Communication Design Graduate of Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen. Throughout her time at university, her academic work had a strong social and political dimension, with a keen interest in social justice, ethics and equal opportunity. Bethany’s final year project – ‘Through the Lens’ – went on to win her the prestigious BP Design Award 2019 and she is currently in the process of working on having her dissertation – ’The Courage of Franklin’ – published. This gives an insight into the introduction of the first African American character in Charles Schulz’s comic strip, Peanuts, in 1968.

Due to current travel restrictions, stopping Bethany from doing what she loves most, she has decided to further her studies at the University of Glasgow from September where she will study a Master’s in Global Security.

Bethany will talk about how photography has the power to tackle social injustice and change perceptions amid today’s saturated media content. She will focus on her time living in the favelas of Brazil and the potential that she saw in the children growing up there. Bethany realised that the children in these places had never been given the opportunity to show their perspective of life in the favela, so that’s what she set out to do.

Bethany says: “Photography is a fascinating art which gives people the power to freeze a specific moment in their lives. More often than not, we are influenced by the media and don’t gain a true perspective of a situation. However, ’Through the Lens’ has allowed me to show the favelas in a way that they have never been seen before and I cannot wait to share this perspective at TEDx Aberdeen and make the audience question the way that we see the world.”

Jonathan Christie

CEO of charity The Cabrach Trust

Jonathan’s talk is about communities at risk of being forgotten. He will outline how a theory of change built on tradition, place and heritage can fuel sustainable community renaissance. Exploring the importance of being disruptive, Jonathon will share how a small group of likeminded individuals can turn the tide on community decline.

Jonathan says: “I am massively excited about TEDxAberdeen and the platform this creates to showcase the creativity, innovation, and attitude which Aberdeen, and the North East, has in abundance. I am humbled by the opportunity to contribute and to talk about place-based working as a means of bringing about meaningful, sustainable change.”

Georgios Leontidis

Interim Director of Data and Artificial Intelligence, University of Aberdeen

Georgios is the Interim Director for Data and Artificial Intelligence at the University of Aberdeen, where he is leading the development of the global challenge around Data and Artificial Intelligence. When he is not teaching tomorrow’s scientists, Georgios and his team are carrying out cutting edge research on new technologies that can be used for social good, improving sustainability across the agri-food and energy sector, and making our technologies more accountable, trustworthy and ethical.

Georgios will talk about how the technology, data and artificial intelligence we are using in our daily lives, in one form or another, can contribute to our sustainable future. Considering that we need new ideas, new perspectives and new ways of seeing things, investing in and inspiring young people – the scientists of tomorrow – is of critical importance.

Georgios says: “I’m excited to give this talk in a city such as Aberdeen that is working towards its ambitious plans to become a sustainable and smart city – what better place to start the conversation than TEDx!”

Tim Wigham

Head of Performance, Exceed

Tim Wigham is Head of Performance at Exceed in Aberdeen. He leads a team of performance coaches who implement and guide improvement solutions on upstream drilling, production, and decommissioning workscopes in the energy sector. Tim was a Captain in the UK Royal Marines before completing his MBA in Cape Town, South Africa where he is originally from. He then specialised in performance coaching for professional teams and became a director at Exceed in Scotland in 2012. Tim is also a published author and competitive CrossFitter.

Tim will talk about mastering ‘moodset’ – the concept of ‘mood’ is known to most. However, the significance of mood in helping to master a mission, is massively underestimated. Tim’s aim with his TEDx talk is to unmask the idea of mood or ‘moodset’ as he likes to call it, and to inspire others with reference points and ideas for enhancing moodset at home, at work, and for any mission.

Tim says: “I am excited to be talking about this at TEDxAberdeen because this city has given me so much since moving here 10 years ago, and I feel that many in this part of the world underplay their potential. Moodset is a way to inspire excellence and I want to share ideas on this with fellow Aberdonians!”

Lorna Dawson

Forensic Scientist, James Hutton Institute

Lorna is a soil scientist and Head of Forensic Soil Science at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen and a visiting professor at RGU. She is a registered expert with the National Crime Agency and has provided over 100 reports to the Criminal Justice System in the UK and overseas and regularly present evidence in court. Lorna is also the Knowledge Exchange lead for Environment for SEFARI Gateway and co-chair of the Food Farming and Countryside Commission inquiry for Scotland. 

Lorna’s talk will cover the important role of soil in the criminal justice system and provide examples of how new research can deliver to cold case investigations. It will also link to how life’s experiences can profoundly impact on ones life’s achievements.

Lorna says: “There is no date stamp on crime, even after 10 or 20 years, forensic analysis as it develops can help deliver justice. New methods are being developed all the time, allowing us to look at smaller trace material and reveal hidden secrets such as soil and plant material. No matter how old, new methods will reveal old secrets. I am excited to be presenting on how the natural sciences can play a role in making our world a safer and fairer place. As the James Hutton Institute, the home of soil research, is located in Aberdeen, I hope to show the value of long term research in providing assistance in criminal investigations.”

Graeme Gordon

Tech Entrepreneur

I am a reformed electronics engineer, swapped my soldering iron for sales targets, DJ decks, radio studio and a comfy seat as a CEO – cofounding sort of what IFB is today back in 1996 – which means I am only halfway to where we can get to. I’ve been involved with some great organisations at a board level including trade bodies, education and economic development bodies.

Graeme will talk about the most basic, probably most frequent and most important of human interactions – our greetings and our responses. He’ll explore most common greeting response, and perhaps the most used word in Aberdeen, the worst four letter F word – ‘fine’!

Graeme comments: “Being accepted to speak at TEDxAberdeen is an amazing privilege and like many people, not just in Aberdeen, the last 12 months have been anything but fine. I am relishing the opportunity to be in an actual room with real people sharing energy the ideas and the talks together. This is especially exciting for me to be part of TEDx in my home city.”

Chris Moule

Head of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Robert Gordon University

Chris will talk about  ‘Recombinant Innovation” – the converting of old ideas into new ones, adapting them from one context to another for example taking ‘the wheel’ and ‘the suitcase’ to become the ‘wheeled suitcase’ – and the creation of truly innovative cultures which foster open-source innovation.

Chris says: “I’m delighted to be speaking at TEDx Aberdeen on the subject of innovation. Aberdeen and the region is embarking on a journey of renewal and renaissance, building upon its incredible people and fascinating history – and innovative thinking should be at the heart of that transformation.”


TEDxAberdeen Licensee, Moray Barber added: “The response to the call for speaker has exceeded our expectations however, it demonstrates what we knew all along the North East is a hotbed of ideas, creativity and passion to succeed. Our history and culture demonstrates the adaptability of our region and we’re clearly forging our new future at this pivotal time.”

David McDowall, President & Chief Operating Officer of Brewdog, has decided to withdraw as a TEDxAberdeen speaker.