Imagine if all political decisions were made in an inclusive manner where all those who had something to say could do so, provided they signed up enough in advance. Now imagine if this was done with the help of images, twenty of them, each projected on a screen for twenty seconds while the speakers had their say.
Welcome to the world of Pecha Kucha, an event that started in Japan and is now held in over 300 cities around the world, Montreal being a place where it really has caught on. Each time, there’s a different theme and last Friday at the SAT the event was called Saint-Laurendez-vous and the theme was the lower Main (between Sherbrooke and Rene Levesque).
Eleven different speakers offered their vision of what should be done with the stretch of St-Laurent boulevard between Sherbrooke and Rene-Levesque, some with charts and graphs, some with photoshopped images of the area’s potential future and others offering a glimpse into the Main’s past as Montreal’s historic Red Light District and even earlier.
Cultural worker and theatre artist Donovan King of the Optative Theatrical Laboratories, accompanied on stage by Dead Doll Velma Candyass, offered a jovial and crowd-rousing proposal that the area be turned into a living, breathing center for burlesque entertainment. At the same time he argued that it become a tribute to the Red Light burlesque of the past emphasizing the protection of the area as a national heritage site (which it, in fact is) complete with a statue of Lily St-Cyr.
Meanwhile, Club Sin promoter Eric Paradis favored the audience numbering in the hundreds with a song and a presentation of images of some of the culture currently happening at Café Cleopatre. Associate professor Viviane Namaste also mentioned the Cleo in her talk about the transgendered history of the area.
Not everyone addressed the Cleo specifically. Dave Bouthillier spoke of turning Peace Park into a legally recognized area for skateboarders, which seemed very popular with the crowd. Urbanist Bruno Collin spoke of the area’s birth, decline and potential rebirth, offering a plan which includes more residential space (and not just condos). Others dealt specifically with architecture, while 3am Creations’ Julie Bisson spoke about the Big In Japan restarurant as a treasure trove of stuff from the Main’s past and Valentin Guirao went a bit out of the way and spoke of the Habitations Jeanne-Mance.
None of the presentations, with the exception of the one by Susan Bronson, president of Les Amis du boulevard Saint-Laurent and Mireille Frenette of La Table de concertation du faubourg Saint-Laurent accepted Christian Yaccarini‘s Quadrilaterre project as part of their plans. Maybe it’s a belief that the project is already a fait accompli or maybe it’s an actual like of the plan.
If it’s the latter, then Bronson and Frenette are clearly in the minority. If the crowd was asked to vote, whatever proposal was accepted would surely be progressive and respect the area’s past and wouldn’t include an out-of-place office tower, much like the OCPM ruled.
While the Mayor wasn’t in attendance, some of his borough representatives were. Hopefully they’ll report back and the Mayor will change gears and listen to what the people want for a change. The likelihood of that happening, however, isn’t great.
You see, instead of our city government being run in a manner as inclusive as the Pecha Kucha, we’ve got politicians giving no-bid contracts to their friends who want to wipe away history and living culture in order to construct buildings no one wants. The Pecha Kucha was one of the most democratic evenings I’ve been to in a while and it’s now up to the City of Montreal to catch up.