Petcha Kutcha in Newcastle / by Eryn Withawhy

The premise is simple enough; speakers present 20 slides on a given topic. For each image, they have 20 seconds worth of captive audience. At Pecha Kucha Night Newcastle’s second instalment that audience filled the ample warehouse space of The Edwards’ east wing and settled in for an evening destined to be a veritable tasting plate of ideas. The theme for the event was ‘Food and Music’, and who better to talk about food and music than a panel of lawyers, architects and therapists? That’s the exciting thing about Pecha Kucha, and about Newcastle - everyone is a closet creative.Roderick Smith is a legal practitioner, musician and visual artist as well as co-founder of “Firekites”. His latest solo project “North Arm” was the focus of his presentation, work driven by nostalgia for his childhood home. His very specific memories and journey hinted at the universal connection between longing for what was, what could be and the experience of music. It was natural to think of feelings of nostalgia evoked not only by music, but also by food as he talked romantically about BBQs with family. Smith left us with a sample of ‘Quietly Lightly’ from his EP ‘Thought Lines’ before he was silenced by the unforgiving 20 second mark - a taste that had me wanting more and rushing to iTunes. His ethereal, heartbreaking vocals sink and swim beneath a flowing, living body of intermingling melodies. With the introduction of what I can only guess is a tambourine, the track conjures images of running through sun-drenched scrub, laughing and playing by fast moving water. There’s an edge to the arrangement though; an imprint of something lost, something tainted. Smith’s presentation gave insight into his EP, forming a framework for response to his music that encourages feelings of bittersweet nostalgia. Consider me a fan. Revered well beyond Newcastle, Smith was among many extremely talented musicians on the bill for PK Newcastle including ukelele-wielding Lymerick Kaye, Holly Clayton (of Holly Who fame), Mark Newlands and the beautiful Catherine Britt. Britt, a self-confessed tomboy and reviler of makeup, provided the first of many live musical performances for the night. A vision of understated country charm, Britt in her patchwork dress delighted with a rendition of ‘Charlestown Road’. ‘Do we ever stop missing our childhood home?’ she sang, echoing sentiments expressed by Smith and cementing ‘nostalgia’ firmly in my mind as a secondary theme of the event. Outlining an upbringing enriched with musical experience, Jason Elsley explained his unique approach to design. His dynamic mural developed for the University of Newcastle grew from a complex algorithm shifting a musical sequence into the visual spectrum, resulting in abstract shapes and colours recollecting the original light shafts of the basement room. Mark Tisdell, landscape architect at Urban Exotic, and Lachlan Storrie spoke about building communities through building gardens. As a driving force behind the new Darby Street Community Garden, Tisdell is fast leaving his creative mark on the popular cafe and retail strip. His previous lane way project bordering Goldberg’s is just one of the developments in his broader vision for the street. Already, the day of activity lead by Jo Dyer painting a mural for the garden has forged strong community connections and made lasting memories for the young people involved. Storrie and Tisdell are hoping that the garden will be a place for locals and local businesses to grow produce to use in cooking healthful, honest food. Bec Death and Mark Hinchey had their own ideas to share about food, one a travelling foodie and whole food lover, the other a nutritionist interested in fostering a conscious relationship with the food we consume. An anecdotal account of Masaru Emoto’s study on the power of intent on water left the audience giggling and expressing love into their draining glasses. Wishing mine was full, I was captivated by Tina Irving’s passion as she described the hand-etched designs on each bottle of Solitaire, the deep red wine that she “is not meant to call champagne” but does. Something about the humility and soft-spoken confidence with which Phil Byrnes spoke was immediately engaging. Having spent 20 years living, working and raising a family in Tokyo, Byrnes’ return to Australia included a change in location, culture and career. With qualifications and experience in catering not recognised in his home country, Byrnes retrained as a remedial massage therapist. His passion however has never shifted, and he brings flavours and techniques learned overseas to catering private events when he is not working at Excel Massage. Last to speak was Mark Newlands, who delivered an address that had me reminiscing about all ages gigs from when the Cambridge Hotel still had comfy lounges in the glass house. His casual recount of exploits with Bloody Fist Records reminded me of hours spent spiking up my tri-coloured mohawk and heading along to dirty punk shows put on by the likes of UnemplOi!able and other punningly named bands. Though BFR was winding up just as my naive, angsty rebellion was burgeoning, Newland pioneered the Newcastle scene that would become my place of belonging as a young teen. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. As Newlands discussed the production of a noise track, sequenced from myriad samples of BHP sounds I recalled my own experiences creating ‘music’ and trying to eke out an artistic existence in a steel city. Kudos to Donna Burrell, Tanya Fogarty, Ana Saiao, Arna Sleishman and Jodie Duddington for organising a truly memorable night.