TEDxFengdongSquare: Reliving the Trains Keynote

Posted by on Jun 26, 2017 in China, Public Events, Public Speaking, Trains | No Comments

10:02 (UTC+08:00), 26 JUN 2017 | CHN ONBOARD TRAIN D6811

It’s a funny kind of day, and it’s all about trains. Brilliant skies today in this part of Central Western China as I’m on my way out west to Baoji (never tried that on the new HSR line), and the launch of the new Revival trains on the Beijing-Shanghai HSR. All trains, promised. But the big thing: TEDx.

To have mic access as a keynote speaker as in being the first onstage — that was something I hadn’t been expecting for quite a while. But to do this on the TEDx stage as the lead speaker was just absolutely wild.

My 18 minute talk (which I nailed with only about half a minute more to spare) was about my documentary, Next Station: China, that’s in the making, but far more also about how I’ve come to discover and appreciate the views, the items evoking curiosity, and the plain unexpected in doing this documentary.

The stage was indoors but part of the great outdoors. In essence they put us in a massive greenhouse with a huge display, a sound system and plenty of plants. There was rather annoyingly a support pole by the main stage, which made it somewhat awkward for photographers, but it wasn’t that thick, so any “damage” or “disturbances” were limited. Plus, with a lot of speakers and their amazing stories part of the afternoon-moving-into-early-evening, they (as in the speakers) would be more captivating anyway.

Having arrived very early on, I was given plenty of sound-check opportunities, rehearsing both the displays, the sound, and everything. Next up, action! (Some of these pictures were taken during the brief rehearsal; the differences between the “pre-run” and the actual thing are very minor.)

The whole thing started out when I was young. In 5th grade, I abandoned the school bus, free as it was (apparently), and decided to go on the train to and from school. Sure, this involved a sole transfer at Zürich Stadelhofen station, but you could decide whom you could sit next to, and you wouldn’t be stuck on winding mountain highways all the time.

The Swiss railway system was so good I got myself annual tickets. Unfortunately when I returned to China for the first time in 2000, the railway trains here by comparison was a complete disaster. So I had to “make do” with a car (and it had to be a manual!). Even with the cars and the free exploration that came with one, I was wondering when I’d try national railway trains in China for the first time ever.

That day came 01 August 2008, the start of at least one journey on the trains every month as long as I was in China. In 2012, these went nationwide, such as this shot of Wuhan Railway Station with HSR trains.

The best thing was that the network would continue to expand (here, a works site on the Beijing-Shenyang HSR). China already has the world’s largest HSR network.

An expanding network would mean that you could in future get tickets to pretty much anywhere you wanted to go to across the whole of China. Be that mini-villages by the county highway or massive, ginormous megalopolises, they’d probably take you anywhere…

The audience was awesome. We had the whole thing in a greenhouse-tentish-thing like I mentioned before. The audience was well in the hundreds. Thankfully, no mosquitoes, as I remembered. (Nothing as scary as what happened to Adele onstage, either…)

A few of us almost fell a wee bit on the wrong side of the 18-minute rule, but most of the talks were very inspirational, and one was particularly musical! The Beatbox speaker rocked the microphone like an absolute angel.

Mission accomplished! (OK, not on a mission for anyone in particular… except for to share my love of trains?)

Right, now off to Qishan Railway Station for the next station on the documentary… for all railway stations in China…