We discover how storytelling carries legacy

Sarah Smythe

Watching the live coverage of the Greenpeace activists hanging upside down from Oregon’s St. Johns Bridge back in 2015, seeing the Shell boat, on route to begin drilling oil in the arctic, actually turn around to regroup, was to witness the power of storytelling as it was happening, right then, right there.

Traditionally story has required the historical process to be sure its knowledge was more than the fashion or cause of the moment. Not in this case. The courage of the Greenpeace activists became a living legend as they hung from the bridge while the livestream carried the legacy assuring it would reverberate for centuries to come.

Greenpeace knows how to use spectacle, but it was the on-demand visual format that allowed the story to hit the zeitgeist, which they did when Twitter went off and globally distributed a too often overlooked environmental truth. Shells subsequent withdrawal from the arctic evidence of the capacity of a story told and distributed well to wake our citizenship up.

The strength of story is to transcend the dominant power and deliver a universal truth. Moreover they are timeless and cross cultural. The cave paintings discovered in the Lascaux Caves in the Pyrenees Mountains in southern France are the earliest on record, dating back to 15,000 and 13,000 B.C., depicting daily rituals, including the hunt. But it is the quest to survive and thrive and the gratitude for the sacrificed animal the Lascaux Cave diagrams express, that gives the story archetypal resonance.

The modern storyteller harnesses the archetype to bypass our ego and be heard. Point the finger and we will defend ourselves with a counter opinion. Tell a story that is actually true to all of us given a particular set of circumstances and we will nod in recognition, listen and take the instruction.

This is what the great mythologist Joseph Campbell called “creative mythology”. The tried and tested quality of an ancient myth has it received as an instruction while creative mythology is a contemporary story of enough consequence to have the force of living myth.

At TEDx these living myths are told through the great idea, some of the most legendary ever recorded. Major partner Viostream have been distributing TEDxSydney events since 2009, when it began, carrying the legacy of these extraordinary Australians stories to a wider cross section of people. Some additional 116,000 viewers, and another 23,000 attendees tuning in at satellite events around the world, to be precise.

“With so much ‘noise’ now in our highly-digitised daily lives, it’s getting harder and harder for any one voice to make itself heard. This makes it our duty to ensure that the stories and ideas, the ones creating positive change and directing our greater society to a brighter future, have a chance to be heard clearly above the collective cacophony,” explains Sarah Cunningham – Director, Sales & Customer Success.

More than just gathering around a technologically advanced campfire the TEDxSydney Viostream collaboration democratises the idea itself. Widespread visual immediacy allowing us to interact through discussion, globalised through social media to improve and extend the themes, similar to the way the handing down of stories over centuries changed the narrative. It certainly brings home the importance of telling and distributing our stories, lest the legacy be lost.


TEDxSydney 2019 will be a day like no other. You will be taken on a journey and taught new things. 

Click HERE to view the list of speakers & performers

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