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Christchurch's thriving PechaKucha scene one of the world's best

31 October 2017

Informal and fun gatherings aimed at uncovering unexpected talent and unexpected ideas are thriving in Christchurch as PechaKucha nears its 10th birthday in the city.

PechaKucha Nights are multi-speaker events held all around the world where people get together to share ideas, thoughts and creativity. The name derives from a Japanese term for the sound of conversation or ‘chit-chat’.

Speakers must adhere to a unique format, where they talk along to 20 images which automatically advance every 20 seconds.

The world's first PechaKucha Night was held in Tokyo in 2003 and similar events are now held in more than 1000 cities across the globe. The concept came to Christchurch in 2008.

PechaKucha Nights were devised by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture, as a way of encouraging architects to get to the point. Because speakers must keep up with changing images, presentations are concise and fast-paced.

Erica Austin-Knopp has been organising PechaKucha Night Christchurch since 2015, supported by a big team of volunteers.

Austin-Knopp says the events have proven to be a great platform for involving a broad range of people in discussions around Christchurch’s future – not just those formally involved in the rebuild.

After the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, “we basically used a different venue each time to celebrate the new spaces that were popping up”, she says.

These included transitional venues, such as the Gap Filler Pallet Pavilion, and newly-restored buildings such as the Gym and the Great Hall at the Arts Centre.

“[PechaKucha] is contributing to the social rebuild of Christchurch as well showcasing the connection with the physical rebuild. We’re always looking for new venues around the city."

All city organisers have regular day jobs and run PechaKucha Nights for the love of it – and Austin-Knopp is no different.

Trained in architecture, she boasts the job title of 'Experience Awesomist' at the city’s Ministry of Awesome, which works to connect and activate entrepreneurs and social innovators.

Austin-Knopp says Christchurch is very well-known in the PechaKucha scene worldwide for its consistently high-quality speakers.

“They just love our speakers [and] the way that we brief the speakers and curate the line-up.”

PechaKucha Night Christchurch content is globally accessible because of the way it is presented online, with high-quality recordings and images.

Austin-Knopp says an event held as part of the Social Enterprise World Forum in Christchurch in September 2017 was a raging success, with more than 600 tickets sold and about 1000 people tuning in via PechaKucha Night Christchurch’s first livestream to watch it on the night.

“We always sell out – every single event, so [livestreaming] is an opportunity for us to be like, ‘Hey, people can still access the content’. We had people tune in from different regions of the world. It was quite exciting.”

Tickets are always kept below $15 to make the event accessible for youth, creatives, families and people who are not working. A dollar from each ticket goes to a global PechaKucha fund and the rest goes towards organising future events.

There have been more than 30 events held in Christchurch since 2009 – all organised by volunteers. The only paid roles are the graphic designers who create the posters and the event photographers. “We want to support emerging and young creatives in the city,” Austin-Knopp says.

The next PechaKucha Night Christchurch will be youth-focused, showcasing young peoples’ creative projects and passions. It will be held Papa Hou at the YMCA Christchurch on December 6. Find out more here.

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