TEDx was the talk of the town again

TEDx was the talk of the town again
TEDx talks at Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall

Speakers covered a whole gamut of topics under the theme of ‘Connection’ on Saturday, February 1.

These ranged from a talk on male suicide, to the value of gardening for the soul, pioneering research into heart muscle regeneration, to the expected and unexpected impacts of building compassionate communities. 

Audience members were also invited to come up on stage to give a one minute TED talk, with the four chosen speakers given just 30 minutes to prepare their talks, which ranged from a request for 20 mile per hour speed limits in Tunbridge Wells, to taking time to pause.

The 950-strong audience were also entertained by a tap dancing troupe, and a performance from the Paul Dunton Orchestra.

Gaining momentum each year, TEDxRoyalTunbridgeWells, which is also streamed over the internet, has now presented over 90 speakers across seven events, and has been viewed more than 4.5 million times online.

“We are enormously proud of the speakers and the team that made this day possible. Under a theme of connection, connect was exactly what we did. Over laughter, over tears, over talks that covered an incredibly diverse range of topics and fields, and that all challenged and inspired us in some way to think or behave differently,” said organiser Lizzie Bentley-Bowers

She continued: “As a not for profit event, we simply couldn’t do this without the support of our sponsors and we are very grateful to Southpaw, Cripps Pemberton Greenish and Hotel du Vin for supporting what we want to achieve for our community, and the opportunity we want to give our speakers.”

She added that the box office has already witnessed a flurry of early ticket sales for next year’s event.

For details of next year’s event on Saturday February 6, 2021, visit:



Former speaker puts ‘demons  to rest’ to net an Atlantic record


A TUNBRIDGE WELLS rower who spoke of how he nearly died as he attempted to row the Atlantic Ocean – has repeated the challenge and become a world record breaker.

Max Thorpe and rowing partner Chris Williams were both 25 when they were picked up by an oil tanker in the middle of the ocean after their boat caught fire during the 3,000-mile Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in 2017.

They spoke about their ordeal at the Tunbridge Wells TEDx talks in 2019, when they told the audience how they had been caught in a severe storm and capsized under the impact of immense waves.

The Tunbridge Wells pair were left to fend for themselves for more than 16 hours in a force nine gale before a passing oil tanker arrived and the two rowers were hauled to safety from ropes dangling down its side.

Two years later, with Chris away in Australia, former Sevenoaks School pupil Max found a new rowing partner in Dave Spellman, a childhood friend who went to Tonbridge School.

Last month they broke the World Record for the Fastest Pair to Row the Atlantic.

Max who grew up and still lives in Tunbridge Wells, said the 2017 experience had left him traumatised. “It was a particularly horrendous experience and I spent much of 2018 coming to terms with that traumatic time.

“I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, but I also knew I didn’t want it to set a precedent for the rest of my life. I wanted to come back and take charge again and put those demons to rest.”

He said the TEDx talk in 2017 helped him come to terms with what had happened, but he was determined to not let the experience ‘define who I am’, so decided to repeat his attempt at the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.

As reported last month, Max and Dave completed the event in a world-record-breaking 37 days 7 hours and 54 minutes, in their boat, Resilient:X.

“I wanted to show that resilience was a fundamental part of who I am – hence the name of the boat,” said Max. “The days and weeks leading up to the event I was having a constant battle with myself but once we started the adrenalin took over.”

He explained they covered the 3,000 miles sleeping in shifts, getting about three hours a day, with Max even celebrating his 27th birthday at sea.

He continued: “The last leg was pretty fraught. “In 2017 we experienced the worst storm ever in the event, but the last 14 hours of this challenge was just as bad, but we were so determined to finish, especially as it was so close.”

He explained they broke the previous record by just 14 minutes. “All my family were there in Antigua to welcome our arrival and it was such a good feeling to have something that was wholly negative, and was equally as traumatic for them in 2017 as it was for me, and then to sturn it into something positive was something I’m very proud of.”

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