I’ve been a grime kid for as long as can remember. I knew all the words to So Solid Crew’s ’21 Seconds’ as a six year old boy and used to recite them regularly to impress the Jamaicans who ran my after-school club in Lewisham. From its pirate radio heyday to its modern day resurgence, I think it’s utterly compelling, both culturally and musically. I could talk about grime music for hours. Easily.
I’ve always wanted the opportunity to do just that and this past Christmas, I got it. The chance to speak on the art and history of grime music in front of a group of friends.
I’d never done anything of the sort before and while I was confident in my subject matter, I had doubts about my skills as a presenter. I’m a quiet cat and I definitely don’t talk as well as I write. But there’s a place called InfoEve where, if you’re up to the challenge, you can bring a subject you love to life.
Lightning in a bottle
Information Evening or InfoEve – a potent combination of people, PowerPoints, projectors and breadsticks – is like a DIY version of the world-famous TED Talks. Potential speakers volunteer topics in advance and the line-up is chosen out of hat. Typically, four people will speak on the night and field questions from the audience. It’s been a staple of our, admittedly, quite nerdy friendship group for over a year.
It was the brainchild of my dear friend Jonny Morris, an aspiring entrepreneur and engineering student at the University of Sheffield. Among his many talents is his uncanny ability to capture lightning in a bottle. This time, his inspiration came from having deep conversations with our old schoolfriends on a road trip in 2015.
“I realised how much fascinating knowledge we’d all picked up since going our separate directions after secondary school,” he told me. “Everyone has something that they’re passionate about or interested in, but it’s hard to work it into a conversation; what if you had a place to skip the small talk, just sit back and learn something new?”
The first evening was “doubly oversubscribed” with people volunteering to give talks, which led to a sequel and then a third evening. In that time, the event has had talks on everything from climate change and UK politics, to philosophy and ancient history. It’s also evolved to include floor debates, live-streaming, performance elements and social media integration (“Don’t forget to use #InfoEve!” Jonny would remind everyone before each presenter.)
The real beauty of InfoEve? You can’t really escape self-betterment. If you’re in the audience, you learn. If you’re presenting, you learn too. On the off chance, like me, you’re not a confident presenter, what better place to hone your skills than in front of your friends? In my experience, I not only learnt a plethora of new info, but I also learnt a ton about my own limitations and talents I didn’t even know I had. I even got a lot of well thought-out questions about Skepta and co. from my suburbanite friends too. Bonus.
Making sense of the modern world
But my friends’ voracity for new information is not something that’s exclusive to us. It’s something plenty of young people share in this day and age. Our generation – the so-called ‘millennials’ – has a unprecedented wealth of unique skills and experiences. We’re eager to learn and thanks to the way communications and technology have turned out, it’s easier than ever to share these amongst ourselves. And yet, no-one seems to be doing it.
As the divide widens and deepens between schools of thought, generations and political stances, it’s become painfully apparently that we simply aren’t talking to each other. In a world like the one we live in, the grassroots, informal and communal sharing of knowledge that makes up InfoEve could be the key to solving our problems.
“It’s hard to make sense of the modern world on your own; you can’t be an expert on everything,” Jonny says. “But the more we share what we know, the stronger we are equipped to make a difference.”
And it’s true. It’s tough out there and more is expected of us than ever before. To really round ourselves out as people, we have to be willing not only to learn, but to teach. InfoEve isn’t just our private in-joke any more. It’s a movement. My challenge to you, fair and noble Debutants, is to go out there and put on your own InfoEves. Teach your friends things they never knew, then encourage them to do the same. Share, learn, grow. Oh, and don’t forget to use the hashtag.