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Pecha Kucha: prepare to be inspired

Twenty presenters show 20 slides to offer ideas, inspiration

Neal and Melinda Michael are hoping to inspire Royal City residents through a 20-by-20 format that's sweeping the globe.

The downtown residents are spearheading New Westminster's first Pecha Kucha New West, an event founded in Tokyo in 2003 and now held in nearly 600 cities around the world.

"We have been attending the Vancouver Pecha Kucha group for a few years," Neal told The Record. "We always thought it would be good for New West."

Pecha Kucha events feature presenters who show 20 slides for 20 seconds each, giving them six minutes and 40 seconds to offer ideas and inspire others.

The first of four Pecha Kucha nights in New West will be held on Jan. 24.

"By bringing Pecha Kucha to New West we're celebrating that local culture and helping to create a new narrative about the city based on the people living and working in it today," Neal said. "We hope the audience will be inspired to indulge their own passions by the people they see and hear at the event."

The Michaels have teamed up with River Market and the Network Hub to bring the first event to New Westminster.

They believe Pecha Kucha is a perfect fit for New Westminster because of the city's strong sense of history and community spirit - as well as its burgeoning arts, business and culinary scene.

The first Pecha Kucha night sought to give young designers a chance to meet, network, and show their work in public.

"It really works because it's such an engaging format, and in an era that's dominated by online and digital communication, the emphasis on real time interaction is exciting," Melinda said. "We wanted to bring the same experience, the same sense of celebration, home to our own city."

The Pecha Kucha New West event is taking place in the food hall at River Market.

The event gets underway at 6:30 p.m. with local craft beer and "relaxed sounds," and presentations get underway at 7:30 p.m. The event is sold out, but the next event is set for April 25.

Following the presentations, people are invited to head over to Wild Rice restaurant and continue the conversation sparked by the presentations.

"It's very simple," Neal said of the concept. "Sometimes simple things are the best. We are definitely really excited to have it happen."

Organizers have selected 10 people with a connection to New Westminster to present at the inaugural event: Jen Arbo, partner in Hyack Interactive; Melissa Balfour, The Hungry Taurus; Blair Fryer, communications manager, City of New Westminster; Robert Fung, president of the Salient Group; Tej Kainth, executive director of Tourism New Westminster; Chad Leaman, development director at Neil Squire Society; Wes Koopmans, co-founder Of Desks Studio; Eric Pattison, owner of Pattison Architecture; Jen Pistone and Julia Dewhurst, owners of Brick & Mortar Living; and Ray Porcellato, owner of Cloud 9 specialty bakery.

Neal said he's excited about the presenters lined up for the first event, noting they represent a range of ages and interests, and a mix of men and women. While New Westminster is an old city, Neal said there are a lot of great new things happening around town.

The Pecha Kucha New West night taps into the sense that people don't always want to head to Vancouver for a night out and would like to attend events in locally, he added.

While guests may not be interested in everything every speaker has to say, the hope is that people may hear something that resonates with them and inspires them.

"Both Melinda and I have always found out about new events, new restaurants. We have found out about different happenings around town," Neal said about the Vancouver Pecha Kucha nights. "One of the common threads for both of us was hearing that passion that comes from the presenters. That pushes us to think about what we are passionate about - one of those things being cities and community building."

Neal, a nominee for New Westminster's Citizen of the Year in 2012, spearheaded an urban garden on an unused piece of land in his downtown neighbourhood.

Last year, the Michaels launched PopLuck New West, which featured a number of popup dinners in open-air spaces in New Westminster.

Followup Pecha Kucha Nights will be held in New Westminster in the spring, summer and fall.

Tickets for Pecha Kucha New West must be purchased in advance, as they won't be available at the door. Tickets are $5 (plus a service charge).

For more information or tickets, contact or look up Pecha Kucha New West on Facebook.

Know of a unique event happening in the Royal City? Tell us about it. Send details to reporter Theresa McManus at tmcmanus@royalcityr