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VOL. 128 | NO. 218 | Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ignite Memphis Connects People, Ideas

By Andy Meek

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In a couple of weeks, via a series of structured slide-based presentations, a group of creatives will try to live up to the event’s official billing and ignite Memphis.


Undercurrent, which holds regular events around the city to help people connect with fellow Memphians, is producing the latest version of Ignite Memphis, which happens Nov. 19 at Crosstown Arts, 430 N. Cleveland St. The gathering will pack in everyone from former I Love Memphis blogger Kerry Crawford, who’ll talk about the secret to happiness, to Rhodes graduate Peter Hall, outlining 10 businesses that can be launched in Memphis for less than $1,000, and Opera Memphis general director Ned Canty, who will touch on video games, pop culture and opera by the time he’s finished.

The goal, said a-m ventures director Patrick Woods, is to expose people to new ideas – and each other.

“Ignite is a platform for the city’s most interesting people to share their passions,” Woods said. “But they have to do it quickly. Each of the 12 featured presenters has five minutes to make their point, along with 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. Speakers for Ignite represent a myriad of backgrounds, from nonprofit, business, civic and (religious circles). And the topics are as diverse as the speakers, with talks ranging from art to opera to nuclear war.”

Those topics include the art of storytelling – a natural choice for WMC-TV reporter Lauren Squires.

She picked up on Ignite after a few friends from Start Co. mentioned it to her, then she saw it generate chatter on Twitter.

The title of her presentation is “Contagious Storytelling: How one story can change the world.”

“In television news, we are always under time constraints, so the idea of telling a story or giving a timed talk seemed fun to me,” Squires said. “When I was submitting a talk, I thought about what I am most passionate about, and storytelling came to mind.

“I think we have the power to change the world for the better if we share our stories and inspire each other. I’ll be citing a few examples from my day-to-day experience in TV news at Action News 5 and hopefully calling others to action at the end.”

Joining her in making a presentation is Canty, who has given his presentation the quirky title of “All your opera are belong to us.” It’s a take on a popular video game meme.

Canty, who’s participated in Ignite before, said his talk “is about Gilbert and Sullivan as pioneers of mash-up culture, how Japanese video games and pop culture remix American icons, and how we turned all of that into a production of The Mikado that (Opera Memphis is) doing in January.”

“I love the event, and the folks who attend,” Canty said. “Lots of creative thinkers and tons of creative energy. Everyone in that room is passionately engaged in making Memphis a better city, and those are the kind of folks I choose to spend time with.

“One of my first speaking opportunities in Memphis was the very first Ignite, and I gave the presentation ‘Opera Doesn’t Suck’ for the first time. Since then, I’ve done that presentation for literally thousands of Memphians, but I don’t know I’ve ever been more on-point than that first time. The format really forces you to hone your ideas and think about what is most vital to each point you are trying to make. I’m very accustomed to standing up and talking to people, but the time limits really add an edge and a shot of adrenaline to the whole process.”

Woods said Undercurrent is producing the event along with Start Co., the New Memphis Institute and Orion Federal Credit Union. Tickets are $15 and include beer, wine and food.

“What I love about Ignite is that two great things inevitably happen: People connect with each other, and they connect with new, big ideas,” Woods said. “New connections between people keep the city vibrant and healthy, and exposure to new ideas challenges us all to make an impact on Memphis.”

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