Edmonton’s thirteenth and first outdoor Pecha Kucha Night was held last night at the Heritage Amphitheatre in Hawrelak Park. With more than 800 tickets sold in advance, there was a big crowd in attendance (both people and fearless squirrels), though the venue could have held even more people. As a result, tickets were available at the door for the first time in a long time! One of my favorite things about Pecha Kucha is that the venue changes each time. Organizers have flirted with the idea of being outside before, and after last night I think it’s safe to say that it can work. Fortunately the weather held out – aside from a little wind, it was a lovely evening!
In order of appearance, these were the presenters at PKN13:
- Sarah Jackson, Coffee Boss, Entrepreneur
- Michael Cenkner, Inventor, Educator, Artist
- Vanessa Higgins, Watershed Specialist
- David Faber & Lewis Cardinal, Community Leaders
- Adam Henley, Student
- Ken Bautista, Entrepreneur
- Pieter de Vos, Community Development Practitioner
- Nadine Riopel, The Savvy Do Gooder
- Amy Beaith & Mike Johnson, Fruit Rescuers
- Omar Mouallem, Associate Editor, Avenue Edmonton
I thought everyone did a great job delivering their talks last night. There were more notes-in-hand than at previous PKNs, but no one stumbled as a result. I wonder if the larger outdoor vendor was more intimidating than the smaller enclosed spaces or less? As always, our hosts asked for a show of hands to see how many people had never been to PKN before. I think the majority of the audience were first-timers!
Sarah kicked things off with a talk that I would best describe as a lecture on the perils of engaging online at the expense of face-to-face communication. She encouraged people to lay down their devices and meet people for coffee. It’s a good message, but I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. I would say I’m fairly active online, but I also meet people for coffee all the time. Seriously, ask the folks at Credo, they’ll tell you! Michael’s talk explored monoculture and permaculture, among other things. I thought his idea that monoculture is often characterized by straight lines was really interesting. I thought Vanessa was one of the best speakers of the evening, even if I didn’t really connect with the content of her talk. Her delivery was spot-on, and even with the technical difficulties of the screen behind her, she powered forward without hesitation. As Brittney said, Vanessa deserves huge props for getting up in front a crowd to talk about her depression.
After a quick break, David and Lewis told us about the Spirit of Edmonton, an initiative to reclaim and connect our city’s spirit, art, culture, and history. I had not heard about this before, so it was great to learn a little about what is being planned. Lewis told us that Edmonton’s “pehonan” is the Rossdale Flats, where our city was born eight to ten thousand years ago. Adam’s talk on our healthcare system was one of the most intriguing of the night. He talked about the changes being precipitated by technology, and touched on some of the things that could be possible if only we could move past paper and steel vaults (think big data analysis). After another quick break, Ken shared with us some thoughts on TEDx and what the program has achieved and is capable of. It’s amazing how many events have been organized all around the world! Oh and Ken, I love that you included the falcon picture. Pieter was up next and he talked about some of the work he has done in places like Vancouver and Haiti with photography. In addition to telling stories about his travels, Pieter has taught others in the places he has visited how to use photography to tell their own stories.
Nadine was up next to talk about the charitable sector. As promised, it was very different than her last PKN talk. In fact, I think it was my favorite presentation of the whole evening, because Nadine put forward an idea that inspired conversation. She challenged us to think differently about the charitable sector – why do we always ask charities about their costs and whether they are keeping them low but never if they are achieving their outcomes? Why is it okay to get rich mining for diamonds or drilling for oil, but not saving lives? Nadine said that we treat the charitable sector as if we want it to cut costs. Instead, we should treat it as if we want it to do good!
Amy and Mike told us about Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton (OFRE) and the work they are doing to rescue fruit and build community. It’s pretty amazing what the group has been able to achieve in just a few short years, and I’m sure the best is yet to come. You can learn more about what they do and where the fruit goes here. The final presentation of the evening was Omar’s hilarious talk on cats. He was the perfect choice for a closer, because he made everyone laugh but also expertly snuck in some serious points about cats as well! He started with LOLCats and the idea that cats are more popular now than ever before. Unfortunately, because most people don’t pay anything for their cats, they are also among the most abused and least looked after pets. There was one moment in particular when everyone in the crowd looked at each other in disbelief – Omar told us about the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Cat Association. Yes, search and rescue cats save lives. I can’t remember ever experiencing such a full-on “are you serious?!” moment at Pecha Kucha, so nice job Omar!
I have to say that while I enjoyed myself and loved the venue, I didn’t exactly walk away from PKN13 feeling inspired nor particularly challenged. I guess that’s okay – people can share whatever they like – but I prefer the presentations that really do lead to interesting conversations and discussions.
Before the show got started, Mayor Mandel joined a few NextGeners on stage to proclaim June as Next Gen Month in our city. He remarked to me afterward that he is really impressed by how much the community has accomplished! There’s a lot of great stuff happening throughout the month, so check out Edmonton Next Gen for updates.
Our hosts for the evening were Thomas Scott and John Loveseth, and I thought they both did an excellent job. The giant LED screen on stage was provided by Allstar Show Industries, and despite a few technical difficulties at the beginning, it worked really well. DJ Justin Foosh from All Out DJs provided the musical ambiance, while Molly’s Eats and The Act served hungry attendees all evening long. It was great to have the food trucks on site! Sharon and I took the free PKN Shuttle Bus from the University to Hawrelak Park – thanks NextGen for arranging that! One other sponsor note – everyone in attendance received a gift card from Famoso Neapolitan Pizza for a free pizza before June 30!