Community Papers

PechaKucha to tell stories of new New West

Neal and Melinda Michael are hoping to start the narrative of New Westminster
Neal and Melinda Michael are hoping to start the narrative of New Westminster's next 150 years by organizing the city's first PechaKucha night at the River Market on Jan. 24.

New Westminster has been telling its story as the Royal City, British Columbia’s first capital, built by the Royal Engineers, etc., for more than 150 years.

Neal and Melinda Michael are helping spark the narrative for the city’s next 150 years.

They’re doing that by hosting New Westminster’s first PechaKucha night on Jan. 24 at the River Market.

PechaKucha is Japanese for chit chat. In 2003 a Tokyo architectural firm seeking to build buzz for an experimental event space they’d built invited young designers and architects to make short audio-visual presentations consisting of up to 20 images that are each shown for 20 seconds.

By 2004 the concept had spread to Europe then worldwide. There are now PechaKucha nights in more than 600 cities from Aalborg, Denmark to Zurich, Switzerland. The format of 20 slides for 20 seconds format is tightly controlled and all events must be vetted by the PechaKucha organization that is still run by the founding architects.

The Michaels have been attending PechaKucha nights at The Vogue theatre in Vancouver for years. Spurred by the success of the pop luck surprise picnic events they organized in New West last summer, and the city’s emerging dynamic of young professionals moving into new condo developments and looking for interesting, creative things to do, they decided the time was right to launch the format in their hometown.

“It’s a way of the city telling its own story,” says Neal. “It highlights a lot of people who are doing interesting things, who are passionate about what they’re doing.”

They created a list of possible presenters from fields as diverse as communications, baking, business, high tech, even an architect.

Eric Pattison, whose restorative touch has revived a number of New West’s heritage buildings including the BC Electric on Columbia Street, had never heard of PechaKucha before he was approached by the Michaels. He was quick to sign up.

“As an architect, our day-to-day work involves presenting ideas,” says Pattison, who will talk about the changing nature of some of the city’s fading derelict spaces. “It’s a good way to get the juices flowing.”

That’s been the Michaels’ experience. Attending PechaKucha nights in Vancouver “kickstarted our own creative endeavours,” says Melinda.

“It has become inspiring,” says Neal, who hopes to hold four events a year. “It creates a sense of community. It gives people a great reason to get active in their city.”

New Westminster’s first PechaKucha night begins at 6:30 p.m., Jan. 24 at the River Market food hall. Tickets are $5 and must be purchased in advance. To get them as well as the list of speakers go to


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