If you’ve never heard of Bettakultcha, and you’re even slightly interested in learning about new things, hearing a new take on old things, or widening your horizons, then you need to know about it!
It’s almost impossible to do it justice in a few words (which I’ve been trying to do all week when telling people where I was going), but last night the host of proceedings (compere?) referred to it as a cabaret of ideas, which I thought was perfect.
Twelve speakers each took the floor and spoke for 5 minutes, with 20 slides of 15 seconds each, about the topic of their choice. 5 minutes is a lovely length for a presentation. It’s short enough to keep the speakers concise, and leave the audience wanting more.
The venue was that gorgeous Leeds institution, the Corn Exchange. It was strange to see the Corn Exchange devoid of its usual hustle and bustle; there was something illicit about being there after hours. It was if I’d snuck into school when all the teachers had gone home and had to creep from corridor to corridor, avoiding the aged but terrifying caretaker – in this case the security guards, who patrolled the upper balconies like some creepy reverse of Bentham’s Panopticon. Except, they were quite nice really, happy to point out the toilets and the nearest cash machine and so on.
After getting a drink at Primo’s and resisting the incredible looking hot dogs on the grounds that we’d already eaten (but resolving to get one next time) we settled in to our cute little fold up chairs, charmingly arranged in little groups, and awaited the start of the show.
Of course I don’t have the space here to describe every talk in detail; I don’t even have the space to go over the many, many highlights. I have literally never learned so much in my life! I found out what hackdays are from Dominic Hodge’s presentation and am even more in awe than ever of people who can write code. (Apparently it’s not that hard to learn and doesn’t take as much time as you’d think, but I don’t know if I’m convinced!) Peg Alexander gave a fantastic presentation about what we eat, why we eat it and what’s wrong with that. I particularly loved the analogy of the ‘cake pusher’ – that person who will push and push until you eat what you resolved not to. Occasionally I am that person, but last night I resolved: no more! A representative from the Royal Armouries presented on the items at the museum, but with a twist – he was assessing their usefulness in the case of a zombie attack. To which I can only reply – genius!
There was so much more, including quantum mechanics, music and identity, and a really inspiring story about one man’s recovery from a near fatal lorry-motorbike collision which got a bit of a standing ovation. The incredible Phil Wall’s digital art was shown in the interval, which was a great talking point if you weren’t too busy checking out everyone’s tweets. Finally, at the end, three mind-bogglingly brave people volunteered – volunteered!! – to get up and present for two and a half minutes with a set of slides they’d never seen before. Impressed does not even cover it – they were all fantastic!
My Twitter timeline still echoes with belated and extremely well deserved compliments and congratulations to those who presented last night. Check the #bettakultcha hashtag for proof! Knowing how much it would take for me to get up and present, not just on any old topic, but on something that is important to me, something personal, I wholeheartedly add my acclaim and adulation.