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Could Pecha Kucha's corporate sponsor please stand up?

Corporate sponsor.  The words hovered on the otherwise empty screen above Steven Cox on the stage of the Vogue Theatre. Volume 20 of Pecha Kucha Night, sold out as usual, and Cox aimed his message deftly at the audience of 1,200: Pecha Kucha, a huge success by any standards, lacked the support sponsorship would afford.  

Corporate sponsor.  That's where he would put your company name, Cox joked in all seriousness.  This is the moment he'd take to tell about all the great things your company does for the city.  And he'd thank you for your support.  He'd issued the invitation.  And it wasn't the first time.

But no corporate sponsor had yet come forward to share in the success of  of Vancouver's most intellectually stimulating repeat cultural event, an event that both celebrates and communicates the people that make Vancouver particular, extraordinary and compelling.

Six minutes, slides.  Speakers.  Simple.  But simplicity is of course hard to achieve.  Pecha Kucha's simplicity is animated by the cast of characters assembled for each of its volumes.  Last night was the all-star cast, selected in an online vote, cast by more than a thousand people.

David Eby, executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, launched the night off to a start I wouldn't have wanted to miss.  Eby told a  deeply disturbing story of Vancouver's criminal justice system and police. His slides: the faces of the women Willie Pickton slaughtered. He  spoke about corruption, cover-ups, injustices to the victims' loved ones.  I've heard it all before in Stevie Cameron's epic book on the Pickton story, but not through the window of Eby's passion for fairness, accountability and justice.

Eby's words echoed into architect Bruce Haden's narrative about the death of his brother, a scientist who cooked "pure ecstasy" in his Kitsilano apartment, because it appalled him that so much bad ecstasy wound up on the streets.  Kids were going to use "E" either way. He didn't want them dying from it.  Haden was to meet  his brother for dinner when he was reported missing.  He went to his apartment and tried to open the door. It was blocked by something heavy, his brother's body.

Slides of drug addicted women from the Downtown Eastside flashed on the screen as he spoke, social commentary, and though the images were unrelated on the surface, the theme was that demonizing drugs, making them illegal, and treating addicts as criminals rather than as people needing treatment, leads to "putting guns in the hands of assholes" and gang warfare and kids dying of poisoned ecstasy. 

But what came through Haden's talk most strongly, was the love he felt for his brother and the conflict over loving someone who was breaking the law.  Colour photographs of Haden's family, the brothers as boys, appeared mixed in with the black and white photos of drug addicts on the DTES.  The hardest thing, he said, was telling his mother his brother had died, the third of six of her children to pass away.  His mother said she was too old to ever get over her son's death, but she was a person who was always "going toward the light."  And she was determined to have a good life, despite her great losses.  

The combined depth of Eby and Haden's presentations was enormous.  Their talks profound.  It would have been enough.  But Pecha Kucha had just gotten started.  Pecha Kucha, last night, was a cultural and intellectual feast.

Ken Lum showed slides of work he's created for an upcoming show in Paris. Chef Todd's sharp wit, love of cooking, and wild creativity---he cooks for dinner parties in his home and is booked straight through August---was hilarious, charming, and, well, I can't wait to take my friends and, in Chef Todd's words, "a bag of booze" to Todd's place where "there's great art" and even greater food, but he's not going to share his weed or sit down to dinner because "six course meals don't cook themselves."

And there was much more. I was dying to hear Dave Olson's talk. I'd heard him at an earlier Pecha Kucha and never forgotten his passion for the creative process, how he inspired people to think out of the box and give themselves over to art, literature, life.  I was also very curious about Danielle LaPorte.   But I had to go home to make good on a promise to put my son to bed.

I left the Vogue and walked up Granville Street, still savouring the evening's fare, and thought of the slide with those words situated at the top:  Corporate Sponsor.  

And all that empty space.  Waiting to be filled.  You'd think there'd be a stampede of banks, corporations fighting to associate their brand with Pecha Kucha Night. True,  Pecha Kucha night's founders, Steven and Jane Cox, are so capable that they make it look as if they don't need any help.  But in an understated way, that hints at the artist's discomfort with having to step out of the creative process to market his work, Cox, is asking, will Pecha Kucha's corporate sponsor please stand up?

Sponsorship would would allow Pecha Kucha to create assets for the show, perhaps a brochure or magazine.  It might allow additional programming. Maybe they could pay the bands that kick the evenings off.  Gifts for the speakers.  Ideally, it might allow them to move to a larger venue from time to time.  Clearly, they have the audience for it.

All interesting ideas, but currently, at $15 a ticket, they have just enough to organize the event, look after the website, and interact with speakers. It's such a rare event and it packs in audiences of smart, engaged Vancouverites who come back over and over because of a longing to experience unusual, original truths about the city. The dirt and the beauty and the cracks in the surface where the light gets in.  A rapt audience, returning week after week. Think of the goodwill, the access. The Vancouver Observer has the immense honour of being Pecha Kucha's current media sponsor.  To see our logo displayed at the beginning of each of these events to 1,200 people, to hear Cox's creative ways of describing what VO does and what it means to the community, in terms of what it brings to our branding and reputation in the city, it's truly priceless.

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