2016: The Year of the PechaKucha
From Why We Walk to #LovetheLand, looking back on a year of PechaKucha Nights.
2016 has been quite the year: Donald Trump, Syria, Brexit, David Bowie, climate change, Standing Rock, Leonard Cohen. For the NWTRPA, 2016 has also been the year of the PechaKucha. (A PechaKucha Night, for those of you who have managed to avoid the NWTRPA promotions this year, is a gathering where people present on a common topic using a digital slideshow presentation. Twenty slides are displayed for 20 seconds each, resulting in a concise, fast-paced presentation.)
We co-hosted four PechaKucha Nights in Yellowknife this year. They began in January with an evening all about walking. In May, we gathered to talk about maps and mapping. In late October, the topic was local food. The fourth and final PechaKucha Night, which took place last week, explored our diverse relationships with the land.
PechaKucha Nights were created in Tokyo in 2003 as a way for young architects, designers, and planners to meet, network, and share their work. Today, PechaKucha Nights are held in more than 900 cities around the world. PechaKucha contracts city organizers to host events in their home communities; city organizers must agree to hold a minimum of four non-profit events per year, which is no small feat in a place the size of Yellowknife. They must also adhere to a number of other stipulations related to communications, video production, and contribution to the global fund. (Be in touch if you’re interested in taking over as the City Organizer for Yellowknife).
In the fall of 2015 NWTRPA staff were planning for Walk to Tuk, a free team-based winter walking challenge that encourages people to stay active during the coldest, darkest months of the year. As important as creating opportunities for people to pursue an active and healthy lifestyle is celebrating the joys and benefits of recreation. A PechaKucha Night, with its bite-sized presentations, seemed like the perfect format for exploring walking from a variety of different perspectives from the physical (Leanne Robinson and Dwayne Wohlgemuth on walking the Arctic Coast and the Canol Trail) to the metaphorical (Gerri Sharpe on the Walking with Our Sisters Exhibit) to the fictional (Jamie Bastedo’s tale of a collared bear named Triple Seven). We took a similar approach at the other three events.
Assembling a list of presenters was no small feat. First off, we wanted to ensure that the presentations while thematically linked were topically different. For the YK Food Matters event, for example, we wanted to avoid having eight presentations from gardeners. In that case, the organizing committee, which also included Tracey Williams and France Benoit, used the idea of a food system to organize the presentations and ensure topical diversity. In an effort to have different voices heard, we committed to not having repeat presenters, so there are now 29 new PechaKucha veterans in Yellowknife. We also worked hard to have presenters of different ages, genders, and cultural backgrounds. Not everyone felt comfortable with the format, which was another challenge. In some cases, people were willing to give it a try. In other cases, they politely declined.
Curating each of the evenings was a lot of work, but so is preparing a presentation. Identifying a topic, gathering twenty images, and finding the right angle for the story were only the beginning. Presenters also had to work at whittling down their story into twenty-second increments and perfecting their pacing. Slides were assembled, scripts prepared, and presentations practiced again, and again, and again.
At each event, 6-9 people took to the stage. They told stories about the Dene mapping project, meditative walking, food waste and compost, and dog sledding. They shared images of the NWT from the air, competitive walkers in the nineteenth century, the Northern Farm Training Institute campus, and Arctic sports and Dene games. Some of the presentations were funny, others were informative, still others were contemplative. Together, they provided a rich and complex take on the topic at hand: walking, mapping, food, the land.
The Yellowknife PechaKucha Nights were a partnership with the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. Mike Mitchell did just about everything from helping to craft the presenter lists to MCing Maps and Mapping to giving a presentation about birch syrup at #LovetheLand. Rajiv Rawat, meanwhile, provided the technical expertise that allowed the presentations to be amplified, recorded, and turned into videos for sharing far and wide. We also worked with the Yellowknife Farmers Market on YK Food Matters and the NWT Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) on #LovetheLand.
It’s a little hard to believe that the year of PechaKucha has come to an end and a little sad as well. In addition to being fun and informative, these events confirmed that Yellowknife is a community of storytellers, whose lives are rich with experience and insight. Thank you to all of the partners, presenters, MCs, and patrons who made these events possible.