offbeat: A poster advertising a Pecha Kucha event in Europe.

What do you get when you blend architects, graphic designers, plan drawers, photographers, writers, musicians and artists? A Pecha Kucha night.

Pecha Kucha is a forum event which started in Japan and draws together creative spirits of all ages, hues and cultures for dynamic dialogue about creativity in the city.

The event, which creates a space where creative work can be informally shown in a neutral environment, has spread to 250 cities from Barcelona, Lisbon and Paris to Beijing, Tokyo, Auckland and New York.

Architect Georgie Chennells brought the event to Durban after she discovered Pecha Kucha, which is Japanese for “chit chat”, during her studies online and pursued the event as a research project for her honours degree in brand management.

The big question was whether Durban’s creative scene had space for an event that would cut across disciplines and age barriers.

“I was very frustrated with the lack of conversation among architecture students. I thought I would research whether it would be a suitable for Durban’s creative community and I got a lot of support from lecturers and the class and found that it was definitely something that Durban could use,” Chenells said.

What exactly does a Pecha Kucha night entail? The idea is to generate conversation about anything creative in the city or that would be an interesting topic for presentation.

“It’s a simple event; there’s no excess decor or flashing lights and it’s always improving. The essence is that it’s about the presentation and the conversation,” Chennells said.

“We have had a great turnout and the municipality has embraced it. We ran an event for Cop17 with the Durban city architects,” Chennells added.

Four hundred people attended Durban’s seventh Pecha Kucha night in March at Colombo Tea and Coffee in Umbilo.

Topics have ranged from monastery tours, bunny chows and the underground hip hop scene to local fashion, help for street children, art deco, life in KwaMashu and how leopard skins are designed for the Shembe religion. Presentations from Swedish and Russian Pecha Kucha nights were also broadcast, creating an international flavour.

To ensure the presenters – usually about 10 – don’t linger in the limelight, each must present no more than 20 slides, which may be shown for 20 seconds each, limiting each speaker to six minutes. And there are no degrees and titles required to be a presenter; just a good idea and creativity will suffice.

“We want speakers who could be anyone who has anything to share, because everyone has got something to share,” Chenells said.

According to an agreement Chennells had to sign with the Pecha Kucha founders in Japan, the event must be run by volunteers and is not for profit, so although there is an entry fee of R20 to cover costs, commercial punts are not permitted during presentations. The downfall of this was that because there were no resources flowing into the event, it could not be held too regularly.

But when Andrew Rall of Agile Advertising Agency attended a Pecha Kucha night, he was impressed and stepped in as a sponsor.

One thing led to another and Agile soon took over running the event, which has been held at different venues. “We try to keep it in places that are accessible to students and pensioners,” Rall said.

The next Pecha Kucha event will be held on August 22 at Live – The Venue in Mathews Meyiwa (Stamford Hill) Road.

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