Igniting Philly’s curious culture

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ABI REIMOLD TTN Pam Selle speaks at Ignite Philly at Johnny Brenda’s. The event was its ninth installation.

Ignite Philly utilizes a quick-paced format to present fresh ideas involving Philadelphia.

On Thursday Feb. 16, Ignite Philly returned to the city for the ninth time at Johnny Brenda’s.

Ignite, piloted in Seattle in 2006 by Brady Forrest of O’Reilly Radar and Bre Pettis of Make, promotes the idea of five-minute, 20-slide presentations across the world.

“It’s an immersing of knowledge that is very appealing to, I guess, nerds like myself that are generally curious about what’s going on and interested in how things are progressing,” said Lauren Raske, a design and merchandising alumna from Drexel.

Similar to TEDxPhilly, which came to the Temple Performing Arts Center in November 2011, Ignite is a fast-paced, concise way to educate others about local ideas geared at improving the city.

Raske, 26, who attended TEDxPhilly and Ignite Philly, said, “It’s structures like [these] that help you be able to make a large impact to a wide audience, with just a short and sweet presentation.”

“This is about a celebration of Philadelphia,” Geoff DiMasi, co-founder of the Philadelphia Ignite branch, said.

Described as one of the most diverse shows Philly has yet to see, Ignite had 14, five-minute presenters with varied interests, including farming, technology, gardening, philosophy and architecture.

“I think because of Ignite’s [growing] popularity in the city that it’s easier for us to get a more diverse kind of speakers that maybe we wouldn’t have had access to before,” event co-ogranizer Dana Vachon said.

“I’m always surprised at the speakers that we have,” David Clayton, another co-organizer of the event, said.

The format of the presentations for Ignite shows are described as “lightening fast.” But, all the speakers of Ignite 9 were able to successfully – and in an entertaining manner – make their messages heard by all 300 of the event’s 21-and-over attendees.

“We try to get speakers from all different backgrounds,” Clayton said. “It brings together many different kinds of people.”

Some of the speakers included Jessica Moore, the owner and founder of Philadelphia Cow Share, Doogie Horner, who was a semi-finalist on “America’s Got Talent” and won the Philadelphia’s Phunniest contest in 2010, Diana Lind, who advocates for urban highway removal and Pam Selle, who spoke out against people working overtime.

Johnny Brenda’s dark, bar-scene setting and disco lights made Ignite a more informal, laid-back atmosphere for attendees of the sold-out event.

Ignite events used to be free in Philadelphia, Vachon said, but to regulate attendance, Ignite Philly organizers started selling $5 tickets in advance.

The money gets distributed to one stand-out speaker of a past Ignite show. During intermission, Kim Jordan of the Philadelphia Orchard Project and Ignite Philly 6 speaker was awarded $1,000, which she promised to use toward “planting more trees to make the city more beautiful.”

“We try to give money to people where each dollar will go the farthest,” Vachon said. “Like, $1,000 to the Philly Orchard Project is a lot of trees, and their overhead is so low that [it] makes a really big difference.”

Claire Rigollet, originally from Paris but now residing in Northern Liberties, called the event inspirational.

“You want to do tons of things when you get out of this event,” Rigollet said. “It’s good brainstorming.”

Rigollet added that people in Paris are “not as active and motivated as [in Philadelphia].”

Rigollet thinks that these short ways of presenting information is a result of the way communication and information distribution is developing around the world.

“We live in a very fast society now with Internet,” Rigollet said. “You want to go straight to the point, you don’t want to spend hours listening to one thing.”

Ignite organizers said that they plan to have another event this spring or early summer and will announce the information on their social networking pages when it becomes available.

Lauren Hertzler can be reached at lauren.hertzler@temple.edu.

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