Those Bettakultcha story tellers, they just make it up as they go along…

Christmas Bettakultcha 2011. Quality.

In the colorful history of Bettakultcha, two pivotal moments have occurred  which have polarised the audience. The first happened a few months ago when a controversial film was shown during the interval. In that instance, Bettakultcha emerged bigger and stronger. The second moment has yet to reach a defining conclusion.

Here is the story of the second incident.

At the Christmas Bettakultcha event in the Corn Exchange, Martin Carter, a drag artist,  did a presentation which involved miming to a musical track about vegemite. Martin displayed images and lyrics on his slides and performed in flamboyant burlesque style. The result was hilariously entertaining. I remember thinking, ‘I wouldn’t like to follow that presentation’.

As it happened, the acts that followed Martin were more than capable of holding their own and the evening finished on a massive high.

So what’s the problem? Well, it appears that afterwards in various hostelries around the Corn Exchange, the audience discussed this performance and divided themselves into two distinct camps. On the one side was the traditionalists who argued that miming was, cheating and shouldn’t be allowed at the event. The other side argued that the event was more of a cabaret and shouldn’t be restricted by simple rules about speaking. It was also related to me in despatches (I was not present in the pub but unglamorously de-rigging and tidying up in the Corn Exchange despite my boast to the audience earlier in the evening that after the show I was going to go to a sex and cocaine party thrown by the Krankies) that some people actually thought that the Random Slide Challenge should be dropped!

Here are my thoughts on the matter.

When I started Bettakultcha with Richard Michie I used to joke to the audience that we were making it up as we went along. Except I wasn’t joking. We really were making it up. If something worked we kept it for the next event, if it didn’t, it was dropped. The fact that the concept was based on talking presentations didn’t limit the potential creativity; talking presentations was just the start. In fact the template of twenty slides lasting fifteen seconds each is just a good way of creating a start point for people who might otherwise be overwhelmed when faced with the entire world to explore. The possibilities for innovation with this format are endless, five minute plays could be written, rap songs performed, comedy sketches… we just needed the adventurous people to explore them.

Most people stick to the tried and tested formula of talking over twenty slides. I have no problem with this. If their idea or passion is strong enough, then the template works every time. However, when someone attempts an innovative variation on the template, I rejoice; creativity, originality and innovation is what will set Bettakultcha apart from all the other speaking events that currently exist—it should be encouraged.

So I was amazed that some people actually wanted to halt the development of Bettakultcha at a particular stage in its evolution (sure, we’re running strongly now but imagine if we could fly too). How could anyone imagine that Martin was cheating? Let’s look at the Bettakultcha rules again;

Did he use twenty slides?

  • Yes.

Did they last fifteen seconds each?

  • Yes.

Did he do a sales pitch?

  • Erm, he did mention vegemite but in a negative way, so, no.

No cheating there then.

But I can see the objection raised by the people in the pub. If you allow miming, what’s to stop someone from just playing their favourite music track, whilst showing pictures of their favourite band and they played air guitar for five minutes.

Nothing*.

We would allow that because anyone who imagines that such an act would entertain the audience is either genuinely good or comedically deluded. Either way, it would be interesting to watch and bound to get a reaction from the Bettakultcha audience.

Oh, I forgot to mention one caveat (which fortunately we haven’t had to exercise yet), if Richard or myself don’t like the way something is being presented, then we pull the plug on them. We’ll use our common sense and intuition for the benefit of all. This approach has worked well so far and as Bettakultcha is a story in the making, we’ll continue to employ the same strategy.

*We wouldn’t be able to post the video of the performance on any internet sites though, because of copyright infringement of the music. Martin’s performance therefore, will have to remain a memory for those who were there on the night.

8 Comments

  1. To put it simply: just because one doesn’t like something, doesn’t mean it should be banned. Having some acts that don’t sit well with some (I loved it personally) is the price we pay for allowing creative freedom.

    Reply
  2. I agree. Bettakultcha allows the presenter to push the boundaries of the creative mind with minimum rules and macimum flexibility. How else did I sneak a tinned pie into my 5 mins..?

    Long may creativity remain..!

    Happy Christmas folks…

    Reply
  3. I am all for stretching the boundaries and exploring… And new ideas are rarely welcomed with open arms – computers, tv, talking films.. All were derided at first!

    My criteria – was I entertained? Yes. He also surprised me, amused me and enlightened me. He stretched my imagination. Bring it on!

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  4. If people discussed it in the pub afterwards it obviously had a positive effect. I always look forward to being entertained and in a lot of cases educated at bettakultcha events.
    I would draw the line at mimes or clowns though.
    But seriously I look forward to seeing Ivor & Richard making bettakultcha fly

    Reply
  5. Bettakultcha is about eclecticity. Much rather see the envelope being stretched regularly, than for it to become moribund. Take what you need and leave the rest…

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  6. The Christmas BK event was super and had a real mix of creative themes and approaches – a TOP night. And HATS off to Nigel Vardy (AKA Mr Frostbite) who for me easily stole the show and kept us all intrigued and entertained with his new and highly memorable, whistle stopping, hat propping adventure around the world. (How to do it and do it well.) Now this is where the tale of this evening makes an unexpected twist. Martin (in drag) comes on (thinks hey this looks interesting), starts a thing about vegemite (good start) and then starts MIMING to a track. What? Huh! No. Surely this is not allowed I thought. (Looks around me and get a few strange looks and mutters, so it’s just not me then! Or was this CONFUSION? This debate then continued in the pub as we headed for home.) As a creative speaker (with green L plates on I may add) this miming was not for me. Or did I get my facts wrong and think BK was a SPEAKING event? Well, sort of. Perhaps it’s moved on to be more about ENTERTAINMENT? Yes that sounds feasible. Good!! Yet if you watch the X Factor and it becomes apparent one of the acts is not singing live and is miming don’t we all moan and groan with our disapproval? Well, I got that same ‘gutometer’ feeling with Martin and then lost interest and stopped listening – sorry. Don’t get me wrong, Martin was entertaining, clearly and judging by the comments some liked what he did and pushing the envelope and stirring a debate on creativity is good, so in the spirit of BK, it worked. I think. But what has been a surprise is the fact it has been approved here (rubber stamped as passed the rules) and could happen again!? People doing 5 mins of miming is not what I expect to see in future is my point here. Whatever next and what else could this lead to? We could have someone on stage reading out loud from their favourite book next – scan the pages in as the slides – now would that be allowed within the bending of the rules? (Does anyone check what someone is doing before they go on?) So, as I press the post comment here, I do so with this in mind. Firstly, this is nothing personal aimed at Martin, what he did was incredibly brave, tricky and entertaining, it’s just that as I commented at the event (on Twitter) I personally don’t agree with miming and it would have been INCREDIBLE had he sung the words, even if out of key or off tune. (The chap stood next to me who shall remain nameless here was also on the same page.) Somewhere, sometimes, someone has to stick their head above the parapet and risk it being shot at by posting a comment like this. Good job there is the Bulletproof vest! Also its OK to disagree and be true to yourself and go in the opposite direction. I also see the POSITIVE here where this creative debate is good for the future of Bettakultcha and the creative limits it will stretch to.

    Reply
  7. When myself and Ivor created Bettakultcha we created a few very simple rules:

    20 Slides
    15 Seconds each slide
    NO Pitches

    At no point have we ever said that you had to speak, you can mime, sing, dance, use morse code, screech like Yoko Ono do whatever you want as long as you fulfil the above rules. Whether myself or Ivor like it or not is not the point the audience will decide on its merits or not. The fact that this blog post has differing views on Martin’s 5 minutes shows that no everyone like the same thing.

    All the presenters slides come to me prior to the event. I have no idea what people will present on and that’s the way it will stay. The only thing I look for are obvious pitches and anything which may obviously offend.

    For anyone who thinks that Martin’s Bettakultcha was easy or a cheat/cop-out I’d challenge then to come up with an idea as challenging and daring (his shoes alone looked lethal to me). I believe, though I’m no expert, that miming is all part of the culture of drag artists, so had he actually sung himself, he wouldn’t have been true to his character as Maria Millionaire (feel free to correct me on this).

    We will continue to put on people who have same passion and drive as Martin demonstrated.

    Reply
  8. Paul, thank you for your comment and for being brave enough to plant your flag on where you stand. I respect your view and will defend your right to express it freely.

    I too have extrapolated from Martin’s performance and come to a similar conclusion to yourself except for one crucial insight; I work from the premise that people who present at BettaKultcha want to impress the audience and prefer to be liked by the them rather than despised (a pretty sensible approach).

    I know it never crossed Martin’s mind that what he intended to do that evening would be viewed as ‘cheating’ by some members of the audience. He wanted to entertain people (which he did for the majority of the crowd). I cannot see why anyone would want to deliberately put together a poor presentation and disappoint the audience with a boring five minutes—it may happen unintentionally, granted, but not intentionally—so your fears are unfounded.

    Give people credit for wanting to do their best and give people credit for wanting to be bold and adventurous. The vast majority of life is already too predictable, too staid, too corporate… BettaKultcha is an exception. Let’s keep it that way.

    Reply

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