“Tell your story” said Arnaud Collery before he continued: “Not sharing yours, is a crime against yourself.” In a cascade of English words, uttered with his French accent, he talks about his youth and several profound life experiences. He makes me think about the value of stories. And about the responsibility of the curation team on this 6th TEDxMaastricht edition. 

The curation team has to design a well-balanced composition of ideas and stories, and has to engage the most inspiring owners of these stories. In Maastricht the curation team consists of Gonny Willems and myself. A compact team might be practical, but makes the task also time-consuming. In particular after the high scores of the edition 2015, the bar has been raised high.

Besides the task of finding stories and speakers, the order of performance on the day itself is crucial. This year’s edition we had a good kick off. Jeangu Macrooy has the ultimate voice for the stage. One single guy and his guitar blew us into another reality.  And after his first song he whispered almost like an apology: “Goodmorning TEDx”

It’s impossible to have a detailed idea in advance, about the effect of the line-up. A special chemistry is required, and that depends on a thousand things. But this year we were blessed. From the beginning all speakers and performers caught the full attention of the audience. And all of them had authentic messages to share. Our pitch night winner, Samina Ansari, stepped onto our red TEDx dot with great self-confidence. Samina came with her family from Afghanistan to Europe, as a refugee. In her almost poetic story she expressed her definition of what it means to be home. “My roots are wrapped around me like a sari. Wherever I go, my home goes with me.”

We closely followed our audience’s response during the day, checking tweets and reviews on social media, and discovered not one single indication of disappointment. All comments were positive and that’s extremely rare in the tradition of TEDx events. Was it the balance between academic presentations and personal stories? Was it the vulnerable tone of voice by most performers? Like for instance – one of my favourites – Michel Huisman. He created a bumpy ride with a lot of pictures, which reshuffled our old frames about economy, quality of life, art and housing. He played with the word “perspective” in a lot of intelligent and humorous ways.

But also others came up with new insights, like improved election methods for democracy (Rudy van Belkom), or the awareness of misleading figures and statistics in media (Sanne Blauw) and a positive answer to climate change (Jelmer Mommers). All these topics deserve attention and reflection. They reset our perception, which may have been framed the wrong way or have become out-dated for many reasons. Rianne Letschert gained our full attention with her story on the victims of mass human rights infringements and genocides. Her performance was a mix between a thorough academic analysis and many personal touches, fully in style.

Preparing the line-up takes months of search and discussion with advisors, our brain trust, team members and other curators and alumni speakers. On several occasions friends ask how the search for good speakers is getting along. Honestly, we avoid searching for big names and individuals. For us it is primarily about people’s ideas and perceptions. As a result, we not only found four professors who shared their academic expertise, but also five speakers with a personal story, few unusual artists, and some exceptional journalists. Maybe this nice variation of content was the key to this year’s unique and well received line-up. Dancer and choreographer Joost Vrouwenraedts got our trust together with his dance partner Maïté Guérin. They presented an incredible dance for two, with creative components of struggle and fight. We were convinced he would go for something completely unique and provocative. That’s why we asked him.

The wonderful presentation by Marieke van der Velden gave a complete new dimension to the topic of refugees and foreign cultures. Just like her work, Marieke is very authentic herself. For the audience the day offered an emotional, exciting, interesting and authentic rollercoaster. At 4:00 p.m. the theatre was still fully packed, despite the Indian summer sun on the Vrijthof Square nearby. For the almost 2.000 registered applicants who we could not offer a seat for this year’s event, all talks will be shared on-line. And I bet that most visitors at TEDxMaastricht 2016 will watch and share them too.

On behalf of the whole TEDxMaastricht team, and the curation team in particular, I want to thank all speakers for their wonderful contribution. It was enjoyable to work together with them, in that unique and friendly atmosphere. They have touched the audience and all those who were involved. It was a great event.

Jean-Paul Toonen
Curator and partners