Does watching someone talk about a topic over the top of 20 slides, each one automatically moving on after 15 seconds, sound like fun to you? No, me neither… but then I went to Bettakultcha (@bettakultcha)Bradford, Bettakultcha’s first ‘on the road’ gig.
I’m not sure why I signed up for Bettakultcha but, I think, it had something to do with this blog and my newfound desire to seek out and experience life. Or I might’ve been drunk. Either way, I found myself at The Midland Hotel with no idea about what was going on, what the format or topics were, or what I was about to experience.
I got myself a beer and sat down before looking around at my fellow kultcha vultchas: a varied bunch of singletons, couples and groups, as disparate as the snatches of conversations I overheard, sharing handshakes and laughter. Without any company and not knowing a soul, I settled into tweeting my initial thoughts on #BettaKultcha: namely, What on earth is this about?
Before anyone could answer, Ivor Tymchak (@ivortymchak) began the night’s festivities with a ‘magic trick’ which, as I found out, was a perfect metaphor for Bettakultcha: he took a mug with a piece of string tied to it, and a washer on the other end; he took out a wooden spoon and held the washer; the spoon was pushed against the string about 10cms from the cup creating an angle of about 45˚. Then, he let go! The mug plummeted towards the floor but, whipping itself around and around the spoon, the washer created a knot which stopped the mug’s descent. But how is this a metaphor for Bettakultcha? Bettakultcha shouldn’t work: it’s a rubbish idea, listening to a random stranger giving a PowerPoint presentation for five minutes on their personal passion. Bettakultcha shouldn’t work: the mug should smash on the floor. Bettakultcha shouldn’t work… but it does!
Then the presentations started and I realised just why Bettakultcha has been so successful over in Leeds and why it’s sure to triumph here in Bradford: the washer. The washer has such a force, such a pull, such energy and passion, that it makes sure the mug’s safe and stops it shattering on the floor.
First up was Tom Atcheson (@Barc_alpha) who tricked and teased and hinted about who was his idol, before revealing his love of all things Shakespeare, taking us through how his life was entwined with that of the Bard. Tom’s presentation (available here) was a fantastic introduction to what Bettakultcha’s all about – sharing your passion.
But Bettakultcha’s not just about firing the canon or musing on the works of muses, but is about absolutely anything. We were treated to rants on the use, misuse and abuse of email (@markdolby) and logos (@thebulletman), and Mark Harrop told us, well, I’m not really sure what his overall theme was, but it was interesting, inspiring and question forming, and had something to do with 90% of England being undeveloped, snails eating dog poo and how uninviting nature really is.
I met Mark at the interval as we enjoyed a cheeky cig outside, and he, as a Bettakultcha regular, personified what the nights are about: passion, excitement and a need to share. Still buzzing from his talk, we chatted and chatted and I realised that all of the presenters are here to switch you on to their loves and, whether you agree or not with them at the end of their allotted time, you could never say that they didn’t care deeply about their topics.
Possibly the most interesting topic of the night was presented by Gideon Seymour (@gideonseymour) who avidly argued in favour of riots and spoke compellingly of their necessity and the great good they can bring. Superb! It made me want to hug an anarcho and fight ‘The Man’!
So, why did I enjoy it so much, and has it made me any more kulchad? I loved Bettakultcha! Had I known the topics before, would I have wanted to hear the presentations? Positive rioting – yes; the misfortunes of the played-about-with logo – no. But I listened to each and every one enthralled, taken along by the presenters’ passion for their subjects, entwined in their tales and captured by their enthusiasm. As for improving myself culturally, well, yes. YES! Culture is the manifestations of human intellectual achievement and the ideas of society, and I was treated to a wealth of all, my cultural cup running over. I learned more with each five minute presentation than I normally do in a day, and the fervour with which each was delivered ensured I became excited and interested in that idea, that little bit of culture, for those few minutes, and shared a passion.
After such a brilliant evening, I immediately began looking forward to the next Bettakultcha Bradford, and I don’t have long to wait: I really hope to see you back at The Midland on Thursday 2nd June… and I hope I can enthrall you every bit as much as I was on my first Bettakultcha night!
I went and presented at Bettakultcha Bradford II – here are my thoughts on going from audience member to presenter.
Can you help me in my search for culture in Bradford? Let me know where you think I should visit.