Monthly Archives: June 2015

TEDx Glasgow, June 12th, 2015


At this year’s TEDx Glasgow the theme was “Why Not Here?” and showcased some of the innovative and inspiring projects that are born on our doorstep. What quickly became apparent was – where it all really begins – inside yourself. A quality which was seen in all the speakers – Passion.

Behind the scenes, TEDx curator Gurjit Singh Lalli accompanied by a band of partners and volunteers put together a great event. The Tramway in Glasgow was an excellent venue, the catering was delicious, there were interesting breakout labs, everyone got a goody bag and even the weather was sunny.

The day was hosted by Sanjeev Kohli and Heather Suttie. The first speaker was Mark Beaumont, TV presenter, broadcaster, cyclist and adventurer. He’s been round the globe on an 18,000 mile bike race where he smashed the previous world record by 82 days. He appeared at TEDx not long after completing his latest trip – cycling from Cairo to Cape Town in just 41 days.


Someone who is constantly leaving home might be oddly placed on a bill discussing “Why Not Here?” but when he said “your passion is your best starting point”, you understand the catalyst – and Beaumont has passion in spades. He gave an inspirational insight into his adventures. He said we should recognise, nurture and share our passion with the world to give other people confidence, because you don’t know what you could inspire them to be.

Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer for Aviva Investors – is passionate about finance. It can be easy to associate finance with greed and corruption, but Steve Waygood demonstrated a passion for the collective effect of people and how we can shape companies to provide ethical funds and solutions to our banking.

Norman Drummond, CBE, FRSE, took us to the ‘hill road.’  In a world of constant communication overload via multiple mobile devices, how often do you step back and switch off? He advised us to find a “hill road”, referring to Ramsay MacDonald, who was born the illegitimate son of a housemaid and farm labourer and rose to become the first Labour Prime Minister of Britain in 1924. MacDonald reportedly said “if friends fail me, the hill road never does.”  Norman Drummond speaks of it in his book Step Back. Do you have a hill road in your life? Find a place of refuge and retreat to the solitude. It can be a physical place you can get to, Drummond’s is in the Isle of Skye, but it’s enough to switch off in your head and go somewhere in your imagination.

Judy Murray and tennis are inextricably linked and she gave a fascinating insight into her quest to bring tennis to Scotland, where there were limited opportunities for children to take up the sport. Judy’s talk epitomised creating a silk purse from a sow’s ear. She started with a blank canvas and a fierce passion. “You’re only as good as your grass roots”, she said, so she taught herself everything from nutrition, coaching, IT skills, media relations to completing funding applications. She’s shaken up the sport in Scotland and brought many benefits, including world class players and coaches. Her work continues with her Mis-Hits project where she encourages girls into the sport.


Rachel Robyns Laird said she shouldn’t be here. She went to the doctor aged 17 and as she described it – heard  the three words which changed her life – “you have cancer”. She has now been in remission for two years since she received the shock diagnosis of Leukaemia. While having treatment she started her blog called Rachel Bouncing Back. At TEDx she was supporting a campaign to encourage more people to give blood. Around 40 blood transfusions kept her alive during her treatment, and she told us how just one donation can save up to three lives.

Rachel’s Blog – Rachel Bouncing Back

Karen McCluskey is the Director of the Violence Reduction Unit. Straight talking and fiercely passionate, she’s the type of person you would go to if you ever needed someone to fight your corner. She showed us a Glasgow we don’t want to see or we deny exists. Thankfully people like McCluskey don’t shirk, deny or shy away from problems but tackle them and get straight to their roots. She said early years are crucial for children as they follow their parents lead and she spoke of Scotland’s Dandelion Children – the children who emerge through the cracks, fighting to survive and strive in a world where they have no positive male role models around them.

As part of a project she rounded up gang members and listened to statements such as “without a gang I’m nothing” and also let them hear the words of a mother who had cradled her 16-year-old son as he lay dying, the victim of a gang. Those gang members then received a confidential escape route, a helpline to contact for advice on where to go and what to do if they wanted to make different choices. McCluskey never expected to hear from any of them – but hundreds made contact.

She also spoke about an employment scheme where some people who had never worked were helped into work around the time of Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games. The fact that now 80% of those people are still in full time employment is vitally important to McCluskey as between them they had around 100 children. She left us with three questions to ponder: Who are you? What do you do? Why does it matter?

Professor Jim Duffy is listed as the Chief Executive Optimist of Entrepreneurial Spark. He told us to stop the negative self talk that appears in our heads. He said we should move outside our comfort zone and think and act like an entrepreneur in everything we do in life. And Why Not Here, Why Not Now?  Take action he said #GoDo.

Dr Libby McGuigan has been an NHS emergency medicine consultant for nine years. She posed the question – why do some people survive, recover and thrive against the odds? She argued that our thoughts influence our physiology and used the excellent example of Viktor Frankl who wrote his book Man’s Search for Meaning after he survived imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp. She cited his quote “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  Viktor E. Frankl

She also mentioned Cathie Grout’s book “Rabbits Don’t Get Lymphoma, Kissing My Cancer Goodbye”, where Grout imagined her tumors shrinking.

The message from McGuigan was – what we think matters, and repetitive practiced thought changes outcomes. You have to want to live and engage with life. Studies have shown that optimists live longer and have better immunity. She said, true empowerment is choosing how you think and feel – Why not here? Why not now?



Image from MadeBrave – for more on their design see: MadeBrave Website

Phil Smith is the CEO of Cisco for UK and Ireland. He represented Team GB in his age group at the Triathlon World Championships in Edmonton , Canada in August 2014. His used his passion for sport to explain the business world. Key elements of competing in triathlons include making good use of resources, how you react and adapt to transitions, and having the stamina to complete something. Three also seems to be a magic number, as Smith identified the three components of change – business is changing, people are changing and change is changing. He saw the future of business as being a battle for talent and he stressed that it’s important to be seen as someone who is human rather than a business leader.

Amos Miller is director of Enterprise Strategy Microsoft Asia. He was born with sight but with a genetic condition which meant he knew he would lose the ability to see. By the time he graduated from university he had his first guide dog and he also became a trustee of the Guide Dogs’ Trust.  He knew technology had a part to play in helping blind people and he set about developing headsets that describe surroundings and paint a visual picture. Miller reminded us of things we take for granted – the everyday getting from A to B, the lights were dimmed and he said “you have to feel that very experience in your bones.”  We went on a few journeys, one where the world was chaotic and another wearing an imaginary headset which added information and colour, and in Miller’s words “light up the world with sound.” The headset journey reminded of the movie Amelie,  when she took  a blind man by the arm, lead him through the streets of Paris and described the world around him in great detail, and the blind man’s face lit up with joy. Miller reminded us that there is much more to a journey than orientation and that blind people do have imaginations. On trialing his headset he has received feedback from participants who have said  “I feel more connected, I felt more confident, I feel more resilient and I am more aware of my surroundings.”

2015-06-12 17.36.31

Anne Richards is the Chief Investment Officer for Aberdeen Asset Management. She gave an honest insight into her family, and used the example to illustrate the changing roles of women. Richards’ great grandmother didn’t work and had 10 children but contrast this to Richards’ own mother, 60 years later, who graduated in law. We heard that in 1911 35% of women in the UK worked while in 2014 that figure stood at 68%, and we also heard how technology changed women’s lives – especially inventions like the washing machine. She also identified a need to get more girls interested in STEM  (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). She said the media was often guilty of reinforcing stereotypes and some employers succumb to gender bias. It was suggested we remove our names and the school we attended from our CVs to get a more open recruitment process and she emphasised that mixed teams make better problem solvers, as she called for more diversity.

Paula McGuire is listed as a recovering recluse and is the author of blog Paula Must Try Harder. Like a little ball of energy Paula lit up the stage during her talk about anxiety. She’s an amazing example of how to turn something which appears negative into a positive. For her, going into a shop at age 32 was as big an adventure as leaping out of an airplane. And while her adventures are very different from cyclist Mark Beaumont, the two of them share an intrepid travelling spirit. Their adventures start from within. Paula said “adventure is in the inside, you have to take it with you.”  To battle her extreme anxiety she became known as the girl who tried everything – including all 17 Commonwealth sports. She even tried triathlon when she couldn’t swim. Her talk was full of great inspirational soundbites such as “Don’t think you don’t deserve adventure, adventure is a part of you” and “turn anxieties into your biggest adventures”.

And what about barriers?  Paula admitted that she had lots, but she turned her “barriers into climbing frames”.  She said her climbing frame was her twitch – something she hated about herself and made her want to hide but now she uses it to give people an insight into her and help them lower their guard. She reminded us “own your faults and then they can’t own you.” 

Paula’s Blog – Paula Must Try Harder

Professor James Brewer is chair in Basic Immunology at University of Glasgow and in a fascinating and entertaining talk, he likened our immune systems to dating. Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time. We heard how our immune system produces millions of cells called lymphocytes. Each lymphocyte is specific for something but they need to find their partners among the millions of potential options travelling around the body.

Sometimes you just have to have an unshakable belief even when people scoff at your ideas. When Craig Clark, CEO of Clyde Space, said  Glasgow was going to be a space capital of the world, more than a few people raised a cynical eyebrow and retorted “we don’t do space in Glasgow”.  But now the city has 35 satellites waiting for their final destinations with the first one being launched this year. This is a new breed of satellite, lighter, cheaper and smaller, and they can be used to tell us so much more about our environment. The Space Capital of The World? Why Not Here?

Create your own CubeSat from Clyde Space website

Create your own CubeSat from Clyde Space website

Alice Thompson is co-founder of Social Bite, a Scottish based sandwich shop that operates with a philosophy to change people’s lives for the better. She told us about Joe who was homeless and how Social Bite offered him a job and a different way of life. This wasn’t a sugar-coated Hollywood movie story but a realistic and rocky journey, with many challenges along the way for both Alice and Joe. The experience has proved invaluable to Social Bite as it has helped them form a strategy where adequate support networks are in place for employees. Now Social Bite currently has 16 members of staff who have come from homeless backgrounds and Alice reiterated that all employers can play a part, that they have the capability to change a person’s life by giving them a job and a chance. She said “Break the chain and employ a homeless person. Why now here? Why not now?”

For more information: Social Bite website

Finishing off the day was Chris Hampson, the Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet who are a great example of creativity born on our doorstep and taken all over the world to thrill, entertain and inspire others. He introduced us to Scottish Ballet’s Oxymore, a “duet” of two solos choreographed by Sophie Laplane.

If ever we needed proof that this is a great country  – events like TEDx Glasgow are there to remind, reinforce, educate and inspire us.

For more information see: TEDx Website




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Al Pacino, Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow, May 19th 2015


It’s not often you get the chance to see a real Hollywood legend being interviewed in front of a live audience in Glasgow. The tickets were expensive, but highly sought after.

The audience sat quietly waiting for the Godfather to appear, and after a 20 minute delay – the air hung with anticipation and a slight nervousness. A film montage set the scene – the list of movies endless, and everyone a winner – from The Godfather, Serpico, Sea of Love, Scent of a Woman, Heat, Donnie Brasco, Carlito’s Way, and many more …

Al Pacino is 75 and wearing well. He counts Johnny Depp as a good friend and looking at him, you imagine he adopts the quirky younger actor’s dress sense, as the large screen behind him allows glimpses of his hands which are adorned with clunky rings.

And as Pacino wandered on stage, he introduced Scottish broadcaster and music journalist Billy Sloan, who had the squeaky bum job of interviewing the Godfather …

Al Pacino

Al Pacino in Glasgow
Picture Credit – Wattie Cheung

We went back to Pacino’s upbringing in the Bronx where he would reenact various movie roles for two aunts, one of whom was deaf. We heard how Francis Ford Coppola was adamant that the then young unknown Pacino would star as Michael Corleone in 1972’s smash hit film The Godfather, much to the bewilderment and annoyance of Warner Brothers. Pacino himself wanted fired from the movie because he wasn’t enjoying filming and the feeling of not being wanted. However, it turned out that Pacino’s portrayal of Corleone showed a canny character interpretation which he had taken from the book by Mario Puzo on which the film was based. The producers were finally convinced after they saw him act out the restaurant scene when Corleone kills Virgil Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey in cold blood.

There was a lot of good-natured and impromptu humor too, as Billy Sloan set up the questions and allowed Pacino to go full flow from one engaging story to another, occasionally gently reining him in and prompting him in another direction. And Pacino proved an engaging and entertaining story teller. There was the first meeting with his idol Marlon Brando, who had a disconcerting way of eating chicken with his fingers while simultaneously chomping and chatting, with hilariously messy consequences.

Then there was the time Pacino left the studio while filming Serpico, and hadn’t quite left his character behind, because he tried to pull another car over for creating too much pollution.

He said he was still waiting for Harrison Ford to thank him for his career because Pacino turned down Star Wars. And who does the best Al Pacino impression?  Kevin Spacey does a good one but according to Pacino, it’s his pal Johnny Depp.

The audience questions were at times cringe-worthy but when asked what young actors would still be around and being afforded the same adulation  – he singled out a few – namely Johnny Depp and Leonardo di Caprio, although he admitted it could be argued that they are not really “youngsters”.

From gangsters, to cops and the romance of Frankie and Johnny to the role of Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman, which won him the long-awaited Oscar, he rightly has legendary status.

Al Pacino and Gabrielle Anwar in Scent of a Woman

Al Pacino and Gabrielle Anwar in Scent of a Woman

Movies aside, he makes no secret of his love for theatre and writers such as Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde. And it was good to see an acting legend displaying his craft. Pacino read a section of the Mamet stage play American Buffalo, which he performed in London in 1984. Even better was his recital of The Ballad of Reading Gaol  by Oscar Wilde.

Bringing us up to date, he also discussed movie Danny Collins which was released around the time of his tour, where he plays an ageing rock star.




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