Claremont secondary teacher Colin Plant is launching RON Talks (Royal Oak neighbourhood) starting Feb. 4 at Crumsby’s Cafe in the old Royal Oak schoolhouse. Plant is aiming to build community and neighbourliness through monthly events similar to the popular TED talks.

Watch out TED, here comes RON

Saanich's Claremont secondary launches new monthly speaker series on Feb. 4

TED, an ubiquitous global enterprise that defines itself as “ideas worth spreading,” offers talks by leading academics and technical innovators.

Now a smaller, slightly less high-minded but no less ambitious offspring of TED has entered the scene, called RON. Where TED, at least in its origins, focused on technology, entertainment and design, RON is about building community, specifically in the Royal Oak Neighbourhood.

Colin Plant, drama teacher at Claremont secondary, is organizing the first monthly RON talk for next Tuesday evening at Crumsby’s cafe, in the old Royal Oak schoolhouse. Three Victoria residents will each talk for about 15 minutes on whatever topic they want, followed by questions from the audience.

“We might not hear cutting-edge research, but the idea is to bring people out and for people to talk afterwards,” Plant said. “I want to get the people of Saanich to come out, especially in Royal Oak. But anyone can check it out. I hope someone from Esquimalt comes out, and from Sidney.”

The idea emerged from Plant’s Saturday morning coffee gang at Crumsby’s and from watching TED talks for teaching ideas. Plant said the Royal Oak area doesn’t have a community space for meetings and events, and the old schoolhouse-turned-cafe is as good as it gets.

“I like bringing people together, and I think Royal Oak is a part of Saanich that’s growing,” he said. “(The cafe) a good community gathering place. There’s a lot of businesses around here, but not a lot of meeting places.”

Plant’s first RON lineup is Joel Bernbaum, playwright in residence at the Belfry Theatre and creator of Home Is A Beautiful Word; Robert Hilliston, a teacher at the Victoria Conservatory of Music and described by Plant as a “walking music encyclopedia”; and Mark Neufeld, a social studies teacher at Claremont and creator of the Institute for Global Solutions. The specific speaking topic for each is being kept under wraps.

Plant said finding and lining up the first round of speakers was daunting, but he had an in with two: Hilliston is a roommate of Plant’s from 20 years ago, and Neufeld is a teaching colleague. Bernbaum agreed to talk after a cold call.

Plant is vice-president of the Royal Oak Community Association, but RON is distinct from any particular group.

“I want people to talk about their passion. For 15 minutes, share what you are interested in,” he said. “People are attracted to passion. People get swept up, learn new things and have a conversation afterwards. I have no idea how many people will come. If it’s five people, that’s five people more connected.”

The inaugural RON talk is on Feb. 4, at 7 p.m., at Crumsby’s Cupcake Cafe, 4525 West Saanich Rd. Free entry. RON talks are planned for every first Tuesday of the month.

Plant is also organizing RON plays, a board game night at Crumsby’s every third Tuesday of the month.

For more on RON Talks, see Twitter @ron_talks or email rontalks@shaw.ca.

editor@saanichnews.com

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