Community

Penticton's Hughes dedicated to ideas worth sharing

Brian Hughes, former president of the Rotary Club of Penticton and organizer of Penticton’s third TEDx conference with the logo promoting the event. Hughes is one of the many volunteers who work to make the city a better place to live. - Mark Brett/Western News
Brian Hughes, former president of the Rotary Club of Penticton and organizer of Penticton’s third TEDx conference with the logo promoting the event. Hughes is one of the many volunteers who work to make the city a better place to live.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

When it comes to festivals and events, Penticton has something for everyone: Elvis, classic cars, music of all types, children’s entertainment.

But in recent years, Brian Hughes and a group of volunteers have added TEDx Penticton to the list of things to do, an event dedicated to helping some of the area’s most interesting people share their stories and ideas.

Volunteers bring a lot of different things to a community, but the one thing they all have in common is a desire to improve the fabric of the community. Hughes, an investment advisor, is involved in a few volunteer efforts, but the one that is keeping him busy at the moment is putting together Penticton’s third TEDx conference on April 5.

“The first TEDx was exactly five years ago and our first was in June of 2011, with TEDx Okanagan College, when the new college building was opened,” said Hughes. “I had been doing the Philosopher’s Cafés for about eight or nine years and my friend Nikos Theodosakis was doing the beach blanket festival and we were due for something new.”

TEDx grew out of the annual TED Talks, a way to bring the “ideas worth sharing” concept to the local level.

“It kind of put together a lot of things we were trying to do. There is great storytelling, there are fantastic, very interesting people in this area,” said Hughes.

Besides helping local people take their ideas to a larger audience, Hughes said TEDx Penticton has had a side effect; the recordings of the talks, available online, are an important record for the community.

“TEDx Penticton is creating kind of a high-definition historical library on important residents of the valley and their ideas,” said Hughes, using a talk given by Carroll Beichman, telling the story of how a Massey Hall grand piano found its way to Okanagan College, as an example.

She told of how her grandfather purchased the original piano from the famed Toronto concert venue and brought it out to Naramata via train, the SS Sicamous and horse-drawn wagon. Much later, the family decided to donate it to the college.

“Before that, no one knew the story,” said Hughes, adding Beichman has since passed on, but the recording of her story has acquired the status of a historical document.

Hughes and the TEDx team are trying to expand the concept to include youth this year with IDEASfest for Youth running on the same day.

“We find we are bringing all this amazing talent to town and it would be wonderful if we could share that with the youth,” said Hughes, who describes IDEASfest as a way to empower youth.

“We are trying to inspire the youth to create change, that is our latest project,” said Hughes. “I am almost more excited about that in some ways than the TEDx.”

IDEASfest  is just the first step, according to Hughes.

“During the course of the year, we are going to try to get other activities going to keep the ball rolling and provide some support for youth projects,” he said.

Hughes said the desire to offer TEDx to Penticton falls in line with one of his earlier volunteer offerings, the Philosopher’s Café series, where, for over a decade, he fostered discussions between the community and people with interesting lives and experiences.

“That has also kind of morphed into kind of a living portrait series in that I have them all recorded,” said Hughes. “I think we interviewed over 50 people from Tibetan monks right through John Ralston Saul and Adrienne Clarkson and all kinds of people in between.”

Hughes comes by his fascination with helping people share their stories naturally.

“My father Bill Hughes had the longest running radio program in the world; he would interview people on the tour busses down in Vancouver and did that for years and years,” said Hughes.

“So interviewing has always kind of been in the blood. I am always curious about people’s stories and their histories.”

Hughes is also a long-time member of the Rotary Club of Penticton, and a past-president.

“Rotary is a great venue to get together with other people who want to do something for this community and when you get a critical mass like that, things get done,” said Hughes, who is excited about Rotary’s latest project, fundraising to help build a community kitchen at the Shatford Centre.

“I was also involved with the social development advisory committee with the city for about five years and so I got to see from that perspective what was needed in Penticton as far as affordable housing and some of the social needs.

“Rotary is a great venue, once you understand the needs of the city, Rotary gets things done.”

More information about TEDx Penticton is available online at tedxpenticton.ca.

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