Early 2010 featured far too much death and distraction for me to commit to being anything more than a punter at the second Stoke-on-Trent Pecha Kucha event. Pecha Kucha: Japanese for chit-chat. Here, taking the form of a presentation, over 20 slides/images, each given 20 seconds - total presentation time: 6 minutes and 40 seconds.
The Fat Cat Cafe Bar, on the edge (the best bit) of Hanley, was a very good venue - its subterranea being sufficiently lounge-like and ill-lit, to foster a warm, relaxed atmosphere.
With Anna Francis' cool hosting, presentations began with local photographer, Mark Brereton, on responses to the Haitian earthquake. With this, there were related historical references to architecture and global network-based fund-raising efforts. A gentle opener.
Taking on the baton, was Nottingham-based Andy Clark, whose disarming moustache-fronted opening paved the way for a wry discussion around men's health. The timing, content and all-round intelligence of this presentation justified the rapturous response that the speaker received. Personal trials with prostate cancer were the background to what was effectively a health education message that the crowd actually wanted to listen to. Of course, self being self, I had to later daydream about the vast monies that are spent on getting such messages out, but with nothing like the appeal or flair that this self-effacing speaker achieved. Andy's happening to have the family in tow for the evening, was a warm detail that wasn't lost to me. I spotted his wife say, 'Proud of you', following his post-presentation kiss. Lip-reading, eh, whatever next.
From this, Gemma Thomas shifted us towards 'Collaboration'. Ultimately, a workish presentation, that was a little light on the trials of working in collaboration, or in partnership. Here, I have to acknowledge that whilst the desire and optimism attached to the 'Wouldn't things be better if we could all work together' sentiment, is attractive, I've known far too many collaborations and partnerships - in-depth - to know that the detail of such working arrangements, can create a lot of additional work in and of itself. A point that was oblique, here.
In discussing folk memories of the city (Stoke-on-Trent), Darren Washington (another local photographer), drew upon his own archive of images, along with spoken word recordings made around the Potteries. The pacing of this presentation, and its meandering content, was sufficient for many of the crowd to appreciate the humour in lo-fi everyday reflecting.
During a break in proceedings, throughout which local electronic musicians bITjAM provided the background music - agreeably non-disturbing, I talked with a fellow north-east exile about his recent move south, and about the university course that he's now leading.
Perhaps the most surprisingly entertaining talk came next. Anwyl Cooper-Willis, visiting from Bristol, provided a most elegant account of the grand architecture attached to the electricity sub-stations of Stoke-on-Trent. To many, this might herald a 'Y' wha'?!' response, but this was really about paying attention to and seeing the merits of those details of our everyday backdrops that we don't always see. I would fail to do justice to Anwyl and the sub-stations, were I to try to say more.
The one technical glitch of the evening occurred next. One speaker's presentation images were lost to the stomach of a laptop and so he had to stand down. I hope he returns, next time there's a Pecha Kucha event. Hearing reference to this SpeakerWhoWouldHaveBeen being from my part of the city, I was quietly excited - hoping that he was about to add a dimension to this most local of locales, that would have undermined some of my dearest prejudices. He looked like a decent sort.
From that hiccough, to Nantes, and Celine Siani-Djiakoua's reflection on the semiotics of her former home ('Where are you from?') city. In the imagery, advertising hoardings and text about the streets of Nantes, Celine discussed the traces of the city's historically pivotal role in sustaining the slave trade. Altogether, the narrative was fragmented, but such a patchwork quilt of talk was strong enough in its detail to hold interest.
And finally, they'd been spotted about the building earlier, Denim and Leather were to play 'Live!'. Stepping up to the microphone, the duo's manager, Hugo Nowhere, presented a 6-minute 40-second introduction. Recounting his boys' past tours, their achievements, and the underlying philosophy of these most fashionably unfashionable ne'er-do-wells, 'Rock is a three letter word', we all knew which S-word he was talking about. But lo, but behold. Due to their rockish excess, Denim and Leather failed to make it to the stage. Images suggested that their non-specified binges had led to unpleasantness in the toilets. The crowd were disappointed, if taken aback at such antics - on a Thursday. One suspects that they'll rock on, to make a difference at other performance events. Nowhere struck me as a man not to be trusted, though. Debauched.
By 11pm, I was back at the ranch, and settling self down for some really odd dreamsleep. I blame Hugo Nowhere.