Netta Egoz – the woman behind Christchurch’s PechaKucha Nights

The next PechaKucha night is on this Thursday 25 August,  part of the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival and the speakers include WORD guests. Some sessions are:

  • AJ Fitzwater // Science Fiction and Fantasy Author // Mary Sue vs Strong Female Character
  • Debbie Stoller // BUST Magazine founder & Stitch ‘n Bitch author // The Handmade’s Tale: Why Knitting is a Feminist Issue
  • Caitlin Doughty // Progressive Mortician // Our Corpses, Ourselves
  • Alok Jha // Science writer // on how the world could end.

I caught up with Netta Egoz, a PechaKucha Night (PKN) organizer, and no ordinary woman. On the contrary. She IS a supergirl. One can not believe all the things she fits in her day. Besides being a full-time lawyer,  she’s involved in many other projects, like Te Pūtahi – Christchurch Centre for Architecture and City-Making, Project Lyttelton and Social Enterprise Network Ōtautahi. Her legal background, coupled with her passion for creative industries, the Christchurch rebuild, social initiatives, and genuine wish for better and fairer world makes her a rare and precious find. Her skills are well sought after in the city like Christchurch.

We talked about PechaKucha, city-making, law, libraries and the essential components of a successful morning.

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Netta Egoz. Image supplied.

You are a solicitor in the day and you are involved in many community projects in your spare time. Your professional and private interests seem very diverse. How do they relate to each other?

They still belong to two separate worlds. A lot of people that I meet outside my work ask me if I am an artist. It is a well-kept secret that I am actually a commercial lawyer. For a long time I felt like I was leading a double life, but pretty quickly I realized I wanted to bring those two worlds together. So that’s why I moved to a private sector in my professional career.

I previously worked at community law, which I thought would be a good way of having a middle ground. But the reality is that community law doesn’t interact with creative sector, it interacts with people with very high unmet legal needs and often the creativity or arts are luxury for these people. But by being a commercial lawyer I am able to do a lot more work with creative industries. From a business perspective, it is quite smart. There are not many lawyers, who work in this area, so I have a great client base. My work is more interesting because I am helping people, who are doing creative things.

My special area is social enterprise so I work a lot with charities, non-profit organizations and creative industries. I am helping them find the ways to become self-sufficient and be commercial entities as well as creating a common social good. On the other end I do a lot of board governance work, which allows me to be a lawyer for creatives.

I imagine your skills, knowledge and interests are highly valuable, there are not many people like you in Christchurch.

I am not aware of many lawyers who are involved in creative industries. There are a few, who will work pro bono for various creative entities and there are a few who will sit on boards, but I am not aware of any, who runs creative projects like I do, or yet still keep a full-time commercial legal job.

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“The reality is, Christchurch has so much to offer to young creatives. Because we can be so much more important in the city like Christchurch.” Netta Egoz. Image supplied.

These are two very different worlds. Creative people often do not have time, energy or knowledge to dive into legal issues.

Yes, even more so with commercial law. It’s often seen as very dry. I have resisted commercial law for a long time because it didn’t seem like the type of law a creative person would do. But increasingly I realized that’s where my strength is and that’s actually where a lot of creative entities need help. Right through the university I never thought I would be a lawyer, let alone a commercial lawyer. I was always interested in grassroots community, creative movements. I have been running creative events for 10 years now and practicing as a lawyer for 3 years, so my initial engagement was in arts. It’s something that has carried through with me and I’ve managed to still retain it.

Let’s talk about one of your creative projects now, PechaKucha. When did you first come across it and how come you decided to organize it here in Christchurch?

PKN has been running in Christchurch for almost nine years and I have been organizing it for three, maybe three and a half years. So PKN transcends me. I first heard about it just before the earthquake – it has an unusual name that sticks in your mind. The first one I went to was the one directly after the quakes and it was one of the few creative events of this type. There was definitely a hole in our city as far as events go. We have lost a lot of them after the quakes. PKN has grown a lot in Christchurch since then as there was a real need for it and it became a real cornerstone of what the Christchurch creative community does.

The first time I got involved was in 2011, when I presented at PKN, volume 12. It was about a project I was doing with my employer at the time, the White Elephant Trust. I was working with Architecture for Humanity on a city youth venue and I was asked to present. I loved it so much, that I decided to volunteer and I stayed with them right through the university. After living overseas, I came back to Christchurch for the job interview and the day I arrived back someone offered me to be PKN city organizer. I thought wow, you just don’t get handed a torch like that! Everything fell into place that day, I was given a key to my passion and also to my home in Lyttelton. For so long I was feeling very lost and I felt I needed to move on from Christchurch. But the reality is Christchurch has so much to offer to young creatives. Because we can be so much more important in the city like Christchurch.

pkn16pkn2pkn3pkn4png6PKN banner 2

It seems to me that PKN in Christchurch is in some way at the core of the rebuild activity. It follows what is happening and reopening in the central city.

I am definitely biased here, but I think we are very important for the social rebuild. Firstly, there’s continuity – we existed before the quakes, right through the earthquakes and onwards. There’s reliability – it happens four times a year, and the format is the same: 20 seconds for 20 slides. So you know what you’re getting. It’s eclectic, the speakers are always different, they provide surprises and new information, the venues and themes are always different. We mix people, we had people from Earthquake Recovery talking what they are doing, ordinary residents of Christchurch talking about a small idea they had, artists announcing big projects … It’s a great mix, everyone is on the same stage at the same level, what they have to share is just as important whether it is coming from the government, established creative institutions or just residents of Christchurch who have an idea or a story. It’s a mix of introducing new projects, providing information, telling a fictional story, performances …

So it’s got quite an egalitarian nature.

I hope so. I know PKN as a global institution gets compared to TEDx, I think one of the big points of difference is that PKN is more from the bottom up. As organizers, we have some curation, but very limited. It’s about people approaching us to perform. No matter who you are, you are given the exact same time on stage, exact same introduction, and exact same treatment. I think it is quite egalitarian in that sense.

The audience of the last PKN in Christchurch, held at Christchurch Art Gallery. Image supplied.

So everyone gets the same format, but this format seems very hard. It sounds very simple: 20 seconds for each of the 20 images, but that demands almost special skills. Do you have any tips on how to perform as best as possible? Continue reading

Short, sweet: PechaKucha #15

PechakuchaPechaKucha #15 took place last night as part of The Press Christchurch Writers Festival, so this one had a literary bent. The crowd was young, international and hip. 11 speakers fronted up and had 20 seconds and 20 images to explore their theme. In the PechaKucha spirit, I will keep it brief – no more than 20 words to convey each speaker:

Chris Turney // scientist & writer // on scientific exploration
1912, 5 expeditions to Antarctic, all doing science. Penguins in corsets, penguins punched in face.

Rachael King // novelist // on creepy ’70s & ’80s children’s television
Rocks with eyes,  these shows were made for kids WTF? I hope Red Rocks scares the bejesus out of kids.

Doc Drumheller // poet // on haiku In transit
Beautiful sights, beautiful words. Beautiful sites. Beautiful words.

Anke Richter // journalist // on being Kraut, becoming Kiwi – why stereotypes work
Bavarians are the Aucklanders of Germany. Kraftwerk were good Germans. Battle of Britain party in NZ? RAF=Red Army Faction.

Michael Smythe // design historian // on Christchurch by design: top per-capital performer?
Robertson Stewart. 1974 Commonwealth Games design. Bill Hammond chunky toys. Bill Hamilton. Tait. Skellerup. John Britten. Edmonds “Sure to Rise” branding was 5 years before Coke.

Marianne Elliott // zen peacekeeper, change-maker & storyteller // on superheroes & the importance of your origin story
Captain America – polio. X-Men – born different. Superman – alien. Batman – loss … family tradition of missionary service – Papua New Guinea, Africa, South America.

Elizabeth Knox // writer // on Mt Cook, 1954
Dad a mountain guide at The Hermitage. Climbing. No fear of falling. Here he is standing on a peak:  “See the cigarette in his mouth, that’s what eventually got him”.

Mark Spurgeon // graphic designer / on hand painted signage
Ah the serifs. The earthquake revealed wonders, took them away. 17 of the signs on these photos have disappeared.

Veronika Meduna // science writer // on science in Antarctica
Researchers have drilled down to the Pleioscene. The ice is an archive of information. Underwater alive with colour.

Ross Gumbley // playwright and Court Theatre artistic director // on ‘If life were like the movies’
Alpha Centauri watches our movies and make deductions about life on earth. We have L shaped sheets to cover nipples of the lady, while the man is barechested.

Rebecca Priestley // science historian and writer // on New Zealand in the atomic age
NZ scientists on the Manhattan Project. 1955 – uranium discovered in Buller Gorge. Nuclear testing. Strontium and caesium in our bones. Protest. Norman Kirk. Nuclear free New Zealand. David Lange. Rainbow Warrior. A decade of research for Mad about Radium.
Slide from Mark Spurgeon's Pechakucha talk on signageSlide from Elizabeth Knox's Pechakucha talk on The Hermitage and her DadSlide from Mark Spurgeon's Pechakucha talk on signageSlide from Rachael King's Pechakucha talk on spooky 70s and 80s tv for kidsSlide from Chris Turney's Pechakucha talk

She wasn’t expecting THAT …

Press writers' festival logoAlong with my fellow bloggers, I am off to The Press Christchurch Writers Festival this week.  If you’ve been following recently, you will know that many of us have spent heaps of time already preparing for the festival, by reading books, stalking authors, looking at interviews, and doing lots and lots of background research, and then writing about what we are looking forward to.

I too have done some of this, but I’ve also made a deliberate decision this year to NOT do research on some sessions.  There’s nothing like that moment of almost-terror that comes when you walk into a session and realise that you really have no idea what is approaching.  It does have its drawbacks sometimes (I don’t get to nod knowingly and make irritating “I knew that” noises), but it also has its moments of great reward.

In this spirit, here’s a couple of sessions I’m looking forward to that I know almost nothing about, YET.

  • PechaKucha Night – Thursday night in the Geo Dome.  Tagline – 20 images in 20 seconds.  What does this mean?  I’m not sure.  I could Google it and find out, but that would spoil the fun, wouldn’t it?
  • The Great Art War – Sunday afternoon at the Court Theatre.  A musical about the collision of politics and art.  Who’s in it?  Don’t know.  What style of music? No idea.  Who’s starring?  Not sure.  Will it be good?  Almost certainly!

If you can’t cope with this level of uncertainty in your life, here are some links to prepare you in the last few days before the Festival starts on Thursday:

But if you want to bravely step into the unknown, just turn up, grab whatever tickets you can on the day (cash or Eft-Pos only, at the GeoDome), and prepare to be amazed …

(PS.  I lied, just a little, about the PechaKucha night – I had no idea about how to even pronounce it, and in my head all I could hear was Pikachu, so I DID find a little bit of help online,  just for that bit).