Amadou & Mariam
They were once known as the 'blind couple of Mali' before they went on to become international superstars who have supported Blur, U2 and Coldplay. Amadou & Mariam fell in love through a shared interest in music at Mali's Institute for the Blind, a school they continue to support. At last year's Manchester International Festival they premiered Eclipse – a performance of words and music that takes place entirely in a darkened theatre and tells the story of their life and work together. It has since been performed in London and Paris.
Plan B, or Ben Drew, is emerging as one of Britain's most imaginative and dexterous artistic talents. A singer, musician, writer, actor and director he first made his name as a hip-hop artist with the release of his critically-acclaimed debut album in 2006. Two years later he appeared in his first film, Adulthood. Later this year sees the release of iLL Manors, his first film as director-writer, charting the lives of a group of young people living in East London. Meanwhile, in the autumn, he will appear alongside Ray Winstone in the remake of the 70s TV classic The Sweeney. In an Observer interview last year Plan B said that much of his film and music work is inspired by injustice and much of it reflects on his life and upbringing as a youth in east London.
Giles was a photographer who, some years ago, tired of celebrity photoshoots and the attendant egos and tantrums that often accompanied them. On one occasion – exasperated – he flung his camera on the photoshoot bed and it bounced out the window into the streets of Soho. At that point he decided to change course and dedicated himself to using his camera to "tell unheard stories of those caught in conflict and economic hardship around the world". His work took him to Sudan, Angola, Ukraine and Bangladesh among other places. Early last year, on assignment in Afghanistan, Giles stepped on a landmine. Though he became the story, the real story is his photographs.
Robin, currently Director of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology of the University of Oxford, is renowned for creating a formula which is now known as 'Dunbar's number' - and that number is 150. This calculates the 'cognitive limit' of the number of people we can hold meaningful friendships with. When it was first formulated it created a fevered debate about the nature of and the differences between, online and real 'friendships'.
Robin will explore the psychology and ethology of romantic love to find out if the brain - and science - can help us explain how and why we fall in love.
In 2006, Rick Falkvinge, a Swedish software entrepreneur, founded a new political party centred around the subjects of file sharing, copyright and patents. He called it the Pirate Party and it rose to prominence after a government crackdown on the file-sharing site, the Pirate Bay. Since then, the Pirate Party has swept Europe and beyond to become an international political movement, active in 40 different countries with representation in the European parliament.
In Sweden, it's the largest party for voters under the age of 30 with 25% of the vote, and in September 2011, the German Pirate Party won an unprecedented 8.9 per cent of the vote and now has several members in the Berlin state parliament. Focused on the subjects of government transparency, internet privacy and copyright law, the Pirate Party hosts Wikileaks on its servers and uses new technology to leverage political power in new and interesting ways. In 2011, Foreign Policy magazine called Falkvinge one of the top 100 global thinkers.
Lianne La Havas
A new British singer-songwriter talent. Her debut EP was released last year and her debut album will be released in May. She made a critically-acclaimed debut on Jools Holland's TV programme last year, alongside American folk band Bon Iver. Following the programme Lianne supported Bon Iver on their US tour, and was hailed as a bright new British star. In October last year the Observer ran a One to Watch feature on La Havas, whose painfully honest lyrics are written from the heart.
Peter is a reader in psychology and principle lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, but his first love was dance. Before entering academia, he trained at the Guildford School of Acting and the Cecchetti Ballet, and worked as a professional dancer. Later, he went to study psychology and computational neuroscience and in 2008, he set up the first Dance Psychology Lab. This has enabled him to combine his twin passions of dance and psychology and, through experimental work, to explore the ways in which dance, and different types of dance, can affect the brain. His most recent work, and the subject of his talk, has involved investigating the effects of dance on people suffering from Parkinson's Disease. Dr Peter Lovatt's talk at TEDxObserver 2010 was cited by many in the audience as one of their highlights of the day.
At one year old, Daniel was diagnosed with a cancer called retinoblastoma, which destroys the retinas. At age 14 his eyes were removed, in order to save his life. Now 46 Daniel uses 'echolocation' – sending sound waves from his tongue that bounce off physical objects and allows him to gauge his whereabouts – to help him to navigate the world in remarkable ways. Echolocation is how bats and beluga whales can 'see' and he has dedicated himself to teaching the technique to a new generation of blind children in America and throughout the world. Many blind children intuitively use clicks to orient themselves but this behaviour is often discouraged by mainstream blind organisations and carers. Here, Daniel will explain why 'that tongue click was everything to me".
One of the giants of South African music, Masekela's work has closely charted the history of his country of birth. Throughout the 60s and 70s the legendary trumpeter's music was inspired by the hardships and humiliations visited on his countrymen by the apartheid regime. His musical styles have ranged from township jazz and blues to funk and rock; he has toured with Paul Simon and appeared on stage with U2 and many others. Throughout his career he has remained outspoken on civil rights, and he has being steadfast in articulating and defending the heritage and culture of his fellow countrymen.
Son of a farmer, Kamal set up Beirut's first Farmer's Market in 2004. Called Souk el-Tayeb the farmer's market is a celebration of food and its traditions – this is especially important in a country like Lebanon which has had a tumultuous history and has long suffered from ethnic and religious divides. Kamal uses the Souk to assist local producers to become sustainable businesses and uses the Souk's kitchen – where different local women from surrounding villages cook each day – to help break down religious, political and cultural barriers. He has been recognised as an Ashoka Arab World Fellow.
Rosemary arrived in Soweto nearly 20 years ago after she heard about a group of children who were struggling to learn music. She arrived to help fundraise and to teach. Now, as Founder of Buskaid and director of the Buskaid Soweto String Project - she has spent nearly 20 years teaching music to young black children in South African townships. Her pupils have gone to win places at prestigious music schools in Britain, and the group appeared with John Eliot Gardiner at the BBC Proms in 2007. She will talk about how to build a world-class music school and how that helps builds world-class young people.
Last summer, as violence broke out on the streets of cities around Britain, one woman made her voice heard: Pauline Pierce, a community worker, on her way home in East London. She was filmed standing up to a group of rioters and told them they ought to be ashamed of themselves. The footage was posted online, and within hours two million people had watched "the heroine of Hackney" as she quickly became known.
Colombian-born and raised, Álvaro trained as a dancer in New York and was soon dancing professionally across the globe. But instead of pursuing this career he decided to return to his home country to teach contemporary dance to children from disadvantaged areas of Cartagena, on Colombia's Caribbean coast. Colegio del Cuerpo doesn't just teach dance, but teaches students all aspects about their body. Through this world-class institution children from poverty-stricken backgrounds have realised that there is another way – and that they can lead creative, fulfilled lives. Much of Colegio's dance work also reflects on Colombia's difficult history involving race, terrorism and exile.
Tali is a neuroscientist currently based at the Wellcome Trust Centre at University College London. Her recent book (featured in the Observer, see below), The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain tries to tease apart the neurological basis for optimism. She has studied how brains of optimists and pessimists differ and looks at how we generate hope – and what happens when that fails. In a world of ever-increasing challenges and when the reality of all our situations are looking bleaker and bleaker, why do some of us insist on looking on the bright side?
Head of Spain's oldest family-owned winery, Miguel Torres was recently hailed by Time magazine as one of the most influential global figures trying to figure out what happens to wine in a world of rising temperatures. After watching Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth Miguel became convinced that he needed to do something to raise awareness in his industry of the dangers of a warming world. Now his winery experiments with growing grapes at different temperatures to see how grapes and wine might be affected by climate change. He plans that his company – the closest you get to wine royalty in Spain - will become carbon neutral in five years. He said, "I want to do whatever I can, in the interests of my children and grandchildren. I at least want to be able to say we did whatever we could."
A member of the team of doctors who work for the Facing the World charity which provides life-changing surgery in England to children with severe facial disfigurement in the world's poorest countries. Simon is also one of the doctors who travels abroad to provide training to doctors and medical staff so that children can have these treatments in their own countries. Simon is Consultant Craniofacial Surgeon at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital. Last year he was one of the team of surgeons who successfully operated on the conjoined Sudanese infants Rital and Ritag Gaboura at great Ormond Street Hospital.