Take 5 with Guy Shahar



Guy Shahar is an autism consultant, writer and author of two books. In 2016, he founded The Transforming Autism Project, a charity that aims to transform public and professional understanding of autism and support autistic children and their families. His son, Daniel, was diagnosed with autism as a toddler.

What is your earliest memory?

Standing on an upstairs windowsill next to a big, open window, confused about why my parents were panicking.


What sums up happiness for you?

The profound inner presence I experience from practising Heartfulness meditation.


What makes you angry?

Suffering caused by cruelty or willful ignorance.


If you could be anywhere right now, where would it be?

Probably an isolated tropical beach or forest.


What did you want to be as a child?

I think I wanted to be Prime Minister. Can’t imagine why.


What’s the worst job you’ve done?

The first thing that comes to mind is doing the night shift cutting sheet metal in a factory. I didn’t last long in that role.

Though when I think about it, the cumulative effect of being smothered in the culture of a multi-national corporation for eight years, followed by a (worse) year in a small local company, was much harder.


What would your superpower be? 

My son recently had to choose a superpower for a school project. He wasn’t interested in any powers that we came up with, apart from the power to make other people happy. I can’t think of a better answer than his.


Have you ever been mistaken for a celebrity?

Yes, but nobody I actually look like – usually obscure snooker players for some reason.

Nobody has mistaken me for George Clooney yet but it’s no doubt just a matter of time.


What’s your favourite book?

I read very little but have been fortunate to read a few life-changing books. As a teenager, I read Labyrinths of Reason by William Poundstone, which really opened my mind to philosophy in a down-to-earth, inspiring way.

A little later, I read Franz Kafka’s The Trial and also The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro, both of which have had a profound influence on my own writing.

More recently, The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer is by far the most powerful personal development book I have ever come across.


Which living person do you most admire, and why?

A corny answer, but probably my son for how resilient and resourceful he has been, and how he has managed to prosper in the face of adversity.


If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would be better able to handle other people’s negativity.


What would you change about the world to make it a better place?

For everyone to commit to looking inside themselves with honesty and humility, seeking the best in themselves and bringing that out more and more in daily life.


How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who helped to radically improve quality of life for people with autism.

Watch Guy’s talk, The Beautiful Reality of Autism, here.

For more information on Guy’s work, visit the Transforming Autism Project at


Interview by Rosy Edwards

Organisers to attend TEDFest in New York City


Kay Chauhan is the Organiser for TEDxWandsworth 2017. Ahead of her trip to TEDFest NY, she talks about her hopes for the event, her dream TEDx line up and her passion for partying…


Kay, you’re jetting off for TEDFest NY – what exactly is it?

TEDFest is a four-day event in Dumbo, Brooklyn for TEDx event Organisers from around the world.

We’ll join around 500 other Organisers to watch the Global TED Talks in Vancouver, Canada, via Livestream. There will be various networking activities, sight-seeing tours and, I suspect, some good old fashioned partying.

As relatively new Organisers we will meet more experienced ones to swap ideas and build connections, which will help us create an awesome TEDx event when we get back home.


What are you hoping to get out of TEDFest?

I am looking forward to finding out how Organisers from different countries put on their events, asking about their challenges and successes, and maybe…fine, definitely… ‘borrowing’ a few of their ideas.

I am also keen to learn how TEDx Talks and audience engagement activities – at other TEDx events – have helped delegates to continue the conversation, and inspire delegates to transform great ideas into community projects.


If you could only ask three questions of your fellow TEDx Organisers, what would they be?

How do you recruit, energise and incentivise volunteers? How do you relax and enjoy your own TEDx event? And: ‘Looking back, what would you have done differently?’”


What’s the one thing all TEDx Organisers should know?

You can never start organising early enough.


Who would feature on your dream TEDx line up?

Prince Harry, Majid Nawaz (founder of Quilliam Foundation), and my Gujarati grandmother (now deceased).


TEDFest NY sounds pretty lively…do you prefer a big night out or a quiet night in?

Definitely a big night out.


What’s on your New York to-do list?

I last visited New York in 2000 and stood at the foot of the World Trade Centre. This time we’ll be paying our respects at Ground Zero.

I have also been alerted to an eaterie called Avocaderia, which involves a lot of avocado, dressed up in intricate ways and served on toast. There is also Enoteca Maria, a social enterprise restaurant where New York grandmas from around the world cook up traditional feasts for foodies and regular punters.


What are your travel essentials?

A hot water bottle, a phone charger and four types of footwear: boots, sandals, trainers and smart shoes.


If you could visit any city for TEDx, where would it be?

Is there a TEDxHavana?


We know what inspiration you’re looking for – now, what souvenirs will you bring back for the TEDx Wandsworth team? 

Ooh, cheeky! You’ll have to wait and see. It will definitely be related to our theme.




Amman Abid took the lead on last year’s TEDxWandsworth and is along side Kay for the 2017 event. Before he departs for TEDFest, he talks clean pants, TEDx passion and the problem with finding good pastrami…


What are you most looking forward to at TEDFest NY?

Meeting TEDx Organisers from all walks of life. I’m looking forward to hearing the stories of their own TEDx events, and to the amazing TED Talks we get to watch.

It’s been more than a decade since I’ve been to New York and I’m looking forward to seeing the sights of this amazing city.


If you could only ask three questions of your fellow TEDx Organisers, what would they be?

#1 What made you decide to organise a TEDx event?

#2 What’s the most amazing place you’ve been to on the planet, and why?

#3 What’s your favourite heavy metal track of all time?


What’s the one piece of advice all TEDx organisers should know?

Organising a TEDx event is something that must come from within you. It’s the process of creation, taking an idea and turning it into something tangible that lives on in other people’s minds.

Do it because you have something to say. Because you want to do something in your life that is transcendental and you’re willing to put 100% and more into doing it.

It’s never about you; it’s about what you believe in, and sharing amazing stories about what is happening where you live with an audience who also believes in an idea worth spreading.


Who would feature on your dream TEDx line up?

Mahatma Gandhi, Sophocles and my dad, who passed away many, many years ago.

He could talk about why people of different religions, who lived in harmony for centuries, would later turn against one another during and after the partition of India and Pakistan.


TEDFest NY sounds pretty lively…do you prefer a big night out or a quiet night in?

I’m damned either way – too boring or too manic! Our Programme Manager, Andrew Ballantine, was surprised that I’m sharing a flat with eight other TEDx Organisers, so let’s hope there are some big nights!


What’s on your New York to-do list?

Having a good New York pastrami sandwich – you just can’t get them in the UK. New York is an eaters’ paradise and I’m looking forward to eating without boundaries.

They have some great beers, too. I’m looking forward to a bottle of Sam Adams’ Cherry Wheat beer, and Dogfish 90 Minute IPA. You can’t get that here either, and people rave about it.


What are your travel essentials?

My smartphone, to keep me connected (and because I’m forever getting lost); my toothbrush, and clean underwear and socks to last me more than 14 days. I hate feeling that I’ve run out.


If you could travel to any city for TEDx, where would it be?

Boston, to see TEDxBeaconStreet.

Interview by Rosy Edwards

5 minutes with… Harbinder Birdi


Harbinder Birdi is an Architect and Partner at Hawkins\Brown, a leading London-based firm that is currently delivering the architectural designs for Crossrail and Thames Tideway.

In his 2016 TEDxWandsworth talk, “The art of infrastructure in the heart of London” Harbinder reveals the lessons he has learnt from designing and constructing within the world’s oldest underground metro system, and asks how architecture and art inform construction, and reflect the communities that use transport everyday.

What is your earliest memory?

Being an arsonist at the age of four. I accidentally set my home on fire exploring how matches worked.

What sums up happiness for you?

A smile.

What makes you angry?

Unhappy rather than angry: our inability, as a species, to see the impact our constant craving to consume has on society and the environment.

If you could be anywhere right now, where would it be?

Lost in a new city without Google maps.

What did you want to be as a child?

An automotive designer. I grew up in Coventry, which has a rich heritage in car manufacturing. On an open day I noticed that the coolest students were those who were studying how to create beautiful cars. I was seduced immediately.

What’s the worst job you’ve done?

Working in a city bar on New Year’s Eve. Deciphering drunken orders is never fun, especially when you are already getting them wrong at 10.30pm.

What would your superpower be? 

Convincing my son that I love him more than his IPad does.

Have you ever been mistaken for a celebrity?

The magician David Blaine. I have absolutely no tricks up my sleeve but I do wish I had his arms.

What’s your favourite book?

Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. It is a beautifully written exploration into how we all see and understand environments through our own particular lens.

Which living person do you most admire, and why?

No one, actually. I don’t believe one person should be honoured in that way. I believe in the collective.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

My ability to negotiate terms with my son about his IPad.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Designing Tottenham Court Road station, a fundamental piece of my city that will serve my fellow traveller.

What one thing would improve your life?

Completing the design of our home.

What would you change to make the world a better place?

I would instigate a sensible approach to the distribution of wealth.

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who brought out the best in others.

Interview by Rosy Edwards



Apply to be a speaker at TEDxWandsworth 2017


Find out more about TEDx talks and how to apply to speak at TEDxWandsworth 2017 from our FAQs, below.

 1. What is a TEDx talk?

A TEDx talk has a powerful idea at its core – an ‘idea worth spreading’.

The most successful TEDx talks are more than just a lecture, which delivers facts alone. A TEDx talk is centred around one, powerful idea that is supported by facts. It doesn’t have to be a scientific breakthrough, a genius invention, or a complex legal theory. It can be a simple how-to. Or a human insight illustrated with the power of a story. Or a beautiful image that has meaning. Or perhaps just a reminder of what matters most in life. An idea is anything that can change how people see the world.

At our TEDxWandsworth event, TED Talk videos and live speakers will combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group.

Whilst TEDx talks are influenced by TED talks, TED and TEDx are not quite the same. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events, including ours, are self-organised, staffed and funded by volunteers within our community. The ‘x’ in ‘TEDx’ stands for “independently organised events” and TEDxWandsworth is no different.


2. What should my TEDx talk be about?

TEDx talks cover a vast array of topics across a variety of areas. If you’ve identified a unique issue that you are passionate about, the TEDx platform can be a great place to share it.

Perhaps you have identified a challenge or problem that is important to you. The difference between a speech on this subject and a TEDx talk is that TEDx speakers present the issue then offer a solution. This ability to both identify and solve the problem is what makes TEDx speakers so unique.

The best TEDx talks offer listeners something practical, or a new perspective that the audience can adopt in their own lives. The ideas that resonate for you are likely to do the same with others.

Your talk should be original, unique and engaging for your audience. This is a chance to present an idea or issue that has never been discussed before.


3. Can I talk from my own experience?

Your own story can provide an excellent basis for your talk as you will have unique insight and be passionate about your subject, both of which are vital components of a TEDx talk.

However, after many years and thousands of TED and TEDx talks, we know that simply sharing your biography does not make a successful TEDx talk, even though your story is undoubtedly fascinating. This is a challenge faced by numerous TEDx speakers. Some talks end up being what you might call “stories of self,” which offer compelling anecdotes from a person’s life but no central idea that wraps the narrative together. These are heart-breaking, because they’re often wonderful, fascinating, popular talks that offer interesting commentary on local culture. But without the wrap-around of an idea, they’re just stories, or biographical sketches. They aren’t idea-centered talks.

Rather than simply relaying your experience, think about how you might use it as a link to an overall theme.


4. What makes a good TEDx talk?

The common perception is that only the most inspiring, animated individuals give the best TEDx talks. In fact, it is not the person we are searching for but the person’s idea or innovation.

This is a great way for us to decipher between a TEDx speaker, and an interesting person with an “okay” idea. What will the audience walk away knowing – that this person exists, or a new idea?

For example, if you were to describe a potential talk to a stranger and say more about the speaker (“this lady who runs that local charity,” or  “this guy who made this film”) rather than a specific idea, that’s a clue that you need to go back and dig deeper to find the idea.

We are looking for ideas that need to be defended – not something self-evident, but an interesting argument, perhaps with an antagonist.

The most successful speakers change perceptions with their talks. This could be anything from a scientific discovery that changes how you think about frogs to a philosophical argument that reshapes your notions of friendship.


5. Does my talk need to follow a specific format?

TEDx talks do not have a prescriptive approach or formula; this is what makes each one so unique. If you watch TEDx talks regularly, you will see that people give talks on a wide variety of topics and present them in lots of different ways. Often, the more creative, the better.

There are seven different types of talks that you might want to use as the basis of your own. Of course, you want your talk to be more than just a copy of someone else’s but watching other TEDx talks is a good place to start.

Take a look at the types of talks below. Do any seem like a good fit for your idea?

  • The big idea

The talks that make one or two very strong points, and it’s important. Examples: Bryan StevensonOnora O’NeillChimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  • The tech demo

An onstage look at some clever new invention that the speaker was a part of creating. Examples: Tan LeMarkus FischerRaffaello D’Andrea

  • The performance

Music, dance, magic, puppetry, or some other performance that will captivate your audience. Examples: Usman Riaz + Preston ReedArthur BenjaminPilobolus

  • The artist’s statement 

In these talks, artists showcase their art and explain the meaning and process behind what they create. Examples: Raghava KKLiu BolinAparna Rao

  • The ‘dazzle with wonder’

These talks are mainly about the amazement of science and discovery. Examples: Yoav Medan, Marcus ByrneJanna Levi

  • The small idea

These talks are not about one big, world-changing idea, but instead a very engaging take on an interesting topic. Examples: Mary RoachJoe SmithCharlie Todd

  • The ‘issue’ talk

These talks expose your audience to an issue that they may not otherwise know much about. Examples: Rodrigo CanalesLawrence LessigRose George


 6. Are there rules for giving a talk?

The few rules there are will all help you give the best talk possible.

Firstly, talks should last a maximum of 18 minutes, which might seem brief but it is plenty of time if you construct your talk carefully.

TEDx talks are not a sales pitch. You will naturally promote yourself and your idea through your inspiring talk but the guidelines are clear that TEDx is not an opportunity to sell products or services, or those of a company that you work for. The only exception is where a speaker has specifically been invited to give a powerful product demo, or to describe the ideas in their book, but even here the focus should still be on the technology and/or the ideas.

If, at the end of your talk, your audience is keen to learn more about you, they may approach you in the breaks on the day of TEDxWandsworth or contact you via social media.


7. I don’t have much public speaking experience. Can I still give a talk at TEDxWandsworth?

Anyone has the potential to be a great TEDx speaker. Having previous experience of speaking in public will certainly help but this does not mean you have to be a professional.

It’s great to hear of the many professional and semi-professional motivational speakers that have helped others to improve their lives, but after much trial and error we have found that our platform may not be suitable for such motivational speakers. At TEDxWandsworth our focus is very much driven by an idea or innovation rather than personal transformation.

Before you apply, it is worth considering whether you can spare the time required to perfect your talk. You’d be surprised to learn of the amount of work it takes to create a good talk. It can take up to 3-4 months with drafts (and breaks) to craft a talk.

In addition, the speaker will need to provide drafts to the TEDxWandsworth team at the agreed milestones, as well as taking part in a practice run in person (or via Skype). This helps us to track the progress of the talk and to provide constructive feedback. Being accepted as a TEDxWandsworth speaker is just the beginning of the process, and we work closely with all of the speakers right up until the day itself.

In some cases, a speaker may decide he/she is unable to continue due to the immense preparation of a TEDx talk. This is quite rare, and most of our speakers feel very well supported, it’s just something that we ask potential speakers to be aware of.


8. Does my talk need to be about Wandsworth?

It is not necessary for your talk to focus on Wandsworth or local issues. At TEDxWandsworth, our aim is simply to include as many speakers who live and work in and around the borough as possible.

We are looking for ideas that originate in our community but are widely relatable.


9. How do I apply?

This year we’ll be using Submittable, an on-line application system that streamlines the application process. We plan to open the application in mid-March and it will run until Friday 30 June at 23:59.

We will typically ask you for:

  • Outline of Proposed Talk (~ 500 words)
  • Cover Letter: (~1000 words)
  • Your favourite TED or TEDx talk
  • Why would you like to speak at TEDxWandsworth?
  • Upload files / links to videos or websites to support your application


10. What will happen if I am accepted as a speaker?

At TEDxWandsworth we are determined to help you deliver the very best talk you can. This reflects well on you and maintains the high quality of the TEDx brand.

We will coach you from the time you get accepted right up until the day of the TEDxWandsworth event. It is common for us to ask our speakers to write the whole of their speech out word for word in advance so that we can give you in-depth feedback.

This may sound like a daunting task! Certainly, it is no mean feat. However, our past speakers have commented on how valuable this process is as it helps to pinpoint your key messages and streamline your talk into a clear, cohesive flow.

In the days leading up to the TEDxWandsworth 2017 event you will need to spend a considerable amount of time rehearsing so that you know your talk off by heart. We invite our speakers to a dry run the day before the event so that they can practice giving their talk on the stage before the audience is present.

When the day comes, our best advice is to be confident that you know your talk, then just relax and enjoy it. No doubt it will feel like it’s over in a flash but giving a TEDx talk is a fantastic experience.


11. Will my talk be available to view online?

All TEDx talks are filmed as a matter of course and submitted to the TEDx YouTube channel. Your talk will also appear on the TEDxWandsworth website.

We use social media like Twitter and Facebook to promote talks further and notch up the views. This is a wonderful opportunity for your talk to be seen around the world and for your idea to spread even further.


12. Application process

Once an application has been received you will be sent an automated email acknowledging receipt of your application. The application review process may take several weeks so please be patient as we carefully review each application. Those who are successful will be contacted with a view to arrange a meeting or Skype call with the speaker curator.

Even though the deadline is end of June, we advise that you submit your application as soon as you are clear about your idea, as we will be making decisions throughout the submission period. So please do not leave your application till the last moment. This is to ensure that all speakers selected will have sufficient time to prepare for their TEDx Talk.

To apply as a speaker at TEDxWandsworth,