While a chit-chat may sound like a small affair, Penticton is proving there is a thirst for delving into local stories and topics.
Pecha Kucha, Japanese for chit-chat, combines 20 photos and a roughly six-minute speech (20 seconds per photo) from local artists, business owners, community workers, enthusiasts and more.
Vaelei Walkden-Brown, now the executive director of the Penticton and District Community Arts Council, started the first Penticton Pecha Kucha at the 557 Artist Block, her downtown gallery and concert space which closed its doors in the fall.
She had attended similar events in Perth, Australia during her university studies.
“When I came here, in opening the 557 Artist Block, I started to see there were lots of gaps in what was on offer culturally here. I thought it would be a really great way to engage the city to get more cultural dialogue happening,” Walkden-Brown said.
The first event was on the opening night of the 557 Artist Block, and it was received well, selling out.
“And I didn’t know anybody in town,” Walkden-Brown laughed. “I think it’s appealing because of the format. It’s really palatable, it’s easily digestible because it’s short, it’s quick and it’s often fun because of that.”
The format brings a theme, with tomorrow’s (Dec. 8) event taking on Sunshine in my Mind: Surviving Winter and Other Calamaties.
“It enables people who are maybe not used to public speaking to have an opportunity to speak in a way that is really fun and relaxing and not too intimidating. To me, what Pecha Kucha is really about is creativity and fun and engagement,” Walkden-Brown said.
Skyler Punnett is a fellow organizer who jumped on board with the idea for the last Pecha Kucha at the Cannery, which saw around 120 people coming out to hear the speakers.
“I did one in Victoria and was going to some other ones in Vancouver. I just saw it as a great way to basically provide some context to the community,” Punnett said. “I’ve really found coming back to Penticton after 10 years away there are a lot of people who thought there was nothing going on here and there was no one doing anything.”
After the closure of the 557 Artist Block, Pecha Kucha was looking for a home. With a bit more room at Cannery Brewing Co. the last Pecha Kucha had a packed audience.
“The Cannery was super supportive in letting us use their space and I think there was just a general hunger around town for local content,” Punnett said. “The events centre brings in stuff from out of town, and I think there is definitely an appetite for that, but there’s also a smaller, more home-grown community looking to go to events that are based here and talk about what’s going on here.”
The feedback has been positive, Punnett said, opening up dialogues and bringing more eyes to local efforts.
The format allows for discussion of both large scale ideas, like Ian McDonald’s chat about Liquidity Winery and the artists and art he brings through, down to more personal stories like Rylee Mckinlay’s talk about overcoming anorexia
“People’s reaction to the diversity and sort of boldness of folks sharing that stuff is feeling some pride in their community and what’s going on around them which was really the point of the whole thing,” Punnett said.
The speakers on Dec. 8 include: Chelsea Terry, photographer; Danno Vivarelli, sustainable commerce; Heather Allen, writer, editor and soprano; Isaac Gilbert, park ranger and aspiring co-op starter; Joey O’Brien from Baldy Ski Resort; Ophira Horwitz from Peach City Radio. Petra Holler, visual artist, poet and craftsperson; Tarynn Liv Parker, the Field Guide; Wendy Goudie from Get Bent Bellydancing and Dr. Wendy Ross, lead physician at the Penticton Cancer Clinic and founder of the preventative health practice, Complete Health Management.
Tickets are available at the Leir House, Cowork Penticton and online at peatix.com.