Sushi is easy to eat. It comes in bite-sized pieces. And in a range of tastes, so there’s something for everyone. If you try a bit and it’s not to your liking you haven’t committed much and it’s easy to move on to the next flavour.

Sushi is a credible metaphor for another Japanese import: pecha kucha.

PK Presenters from Aug 15: 1. Gerard Barron 2. Dr Suzette Major 3. Richard Wood 4. Paul (Dutch) Sandkuijl 5. Ngahiwi Tomoana 6. Lee Pritchard 7. Jo Pearson 8. Hal Josephson 9. Mary Kippenberger

Also served up in small portions, as diverse in flavour as any sushi train, pecha kucha is food for the mind, japanese style.

My arguably over-egged metaphor is a crutch. Used here mainly because pecha kucha is so tricky to describe. Some have likened it to an open mic night, but PK presenters are prearranged so there is no ‘open mic’. Others call it stand-up comedy’s nerdy brother, but then as many tears as guffaws have been shared at PK nights.

Up until this year PK was something Bayers experienced in the bustling metropoli of Sydney and Melbourne, Auckland, Wellington and … ummm … Gisborne. But late last year Creative Hawke’s Bay – at the time transmogrifying into “an agile enabler of The Creative Conversation” – tapped into the PK phenomenon. It felt the perfect channel to facilitate creative chatter in the Bay in a relaxed, open and accessible way.

The formula is simple: Anyone on any subject; twenty images, twenty seconds each; six minutes forty seconds to hold the audience; a bar; an MC. As with all successful gigs – he tangata, he tangata, he tangata – it’s the people that make it fly: those in the audience and those at the lectern.

Everyone has their own favourite PK presentation. Andy Heyward on Mona Lisa, Rich Brimer on Bad Design, Perry Davies on fire escapes, Maree Taylor on rare Hawke’s Bay plants, Dick Frizzell on Antarctica. It’s an ephemeral experience, even when taped and YouTubed nothing beats being among like-minded souls who have the patience and energy to hear a good story. Even the ‘boring bits’ have a certain charm, like Grandpa’s slide shows back in 1978.

And although people ask consistently from about two weeks out who is speaking and on what, it’s often the ‘unknowns’ who have the best stories. We have to be mindful to move away from celebrity towards the truths, peculiarities and triumphs of the Everyman, which is quite reassuring as it opens the floor up to all of us.

August marks the third of four PK in the Bay this year. We’ve scheduled them every two months through the winter from April to October. Our last PK2012 will be on October 10th. It’s a Wednesday. More details here:

www.facebook.com/pechakuchahb

And even on a Wednesday PK certainly pulls a crowd. There were 140 at the first one held in the Clive Hall, and 200 at the second, also in Clive.

Around the world there’s pecha kucha happening every day in over 530 cities. Hawke’s Bay is a special case, we’re one of only a very few districts awarded a licence by PKHQ in Tokyo – still run by originators Klein Dytham, who first thought it up and rolled it out ten years ago, around the same time Creative Hawke’s Bay was born.

[As a side point, we had to jump through a few hoops to show that Hastings and Napier could work together to make PK happen. When PK International granted the licence they said how obvious it was to them that the two cities were so close they could credibly be counted as a single authority – just saying.]

There’s something heartening about being part of a world-wide happening, especially when it’s in the comfort of your own quirky venues, listening to your own compatriots – some jet-setters, some home-bodies – it’s truly local and truly global in equal measure.

At Creative Hawke’s Bay, a body established to support the development of professional artists, we have been asked whether we can credibly include ‘non-artists’ in our PK nights. But we believe wholeheartedly that life is art and story-telling is the central creative impulse and output of all human beings. It’s satisfying and rewarding to help create a space in which that can manifest itself so simply.

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