Welcome to Stan's Cafe

TEDx Bonn talks are on-line

November 30th, 2018

A few weeks ago I took a train to Bonn at the invitation of Save The World to give a TEDx talk and now here it is in its ghostly on-line form. Mostly it’s about Of All The People In All The World. The best bit about my trip was meeting the other speakers and then hearing their talks.

Alanus Von Radecki kicks off his talk with a brilliant example of how cars have shaped the shape of cities, then weaves this with an explanation of why us all just buying electric cars is not enough to ‘save the world’ before giving examples of what a truly smart eco-city could be like. Tec and the city

Sander Chan from GDI sows hope where there could easily be despair explaining how even if national promises are broken smaller units of action can add up to big change. Spoiler alert: within this talk he gives away how Finding Nemo ends. How climate actions can realize a climate safe and fair future for all.

Connie Runner continues the theme of espousing activism by relating a series of politically provocative pranks designed to provoke change.
The power of naievetie to overcome fear

Elma Dervic introduces to her grandfather and how she has come to help him care for his bees through her tech skills, then she contests firm distinctions between ‘city’ and ‘nature’
The bee and me

It’s all good stuff.

The Nutcracker live from 19:00GMT

November 29th, 2018

commentators is on Mixlr

Tonight from 19:00GMT The Commentators bring you LIVE AND EXCLUSIVE coverage of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker, just click on the player above.

Craig and James will be positioned in the Royal Box to cover every twist and turn of events as they unfold. Pre-show build up will start from 19:00 prior to curtain up at 19:30. The team hope to be joined at half-time by David Bintley Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet for opinion and analysis – unless he is throwing tea cups and giving this team the hair-dryer treatment in the changing room.

This is a live only event, there will be no opportunity to ‘listen again’, so please tell all your friends and join us here at 19:00 for Ballet on the Radio.

Ballet on the Radio.

November 26th, 2018

It’s taken a few years to finally sort out but at last we are proud to announce that this Thursday, 29th November from 19:00GMT The Commentators will be bringing you live and exclusive radio commentary of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker. Coverage will be streamed life from this website and there will be no ‘listen again’ facility so make sure are near a computer/smart phone on Thursday to hear Ballet on the Radio.

We approached BRB director David Bintley with our proposal a number of years ago. There had been some schepticism about my chances of persuading the esteemed choreographer to let our washed up sports radio commentators loose on one of his cherished company’s productions, but as soon as I saw an Aston Villa mug on his desk I knew it would be a breeze and so it proved, no persuasion was necessary. David immediately understood the idea and seemed delighted by it, we agreed it had to happen.

The Nutcracker has been chosen as, being one of the world’s most famous ballets a proportion of the audience will be able to picture it in their minds-eye and compare that image with The Commentator’s description of it. Being such a canonical work The Nutcracker is a robust enough cultural object to survive further processing, even if this an audio only version.

Back in June we had a test commentary during a piano rehearsal of Romeo and Juliette. We set up in the Hippodrome’s Royal Box, using some perspex sound baffles to keep us from distracting audience members seated nearby. The Royal Box has an ante-room which, conveniently, is kitted out with a Ethernet socket. Streaming our commentary out over the internet wasn’t a problem, no one could hear us in the auditorium a few admin details had to be sorted out and we’re ready to go on Thursday. This is David Bintley’s last season at BRB so Thursday will probably be a one-off, we hope you can tune in.

Mr. Custard Factory

November 12th, 2018


THIS GREAT VIDEO IS RELATED TO THIS POST BUT ONLY IF YOU READ RIGHT TO THE END.

Back at the beginning of time, when Graeme and I were deciding where Stan’s Cafe should be based, we were shown around a big, empty old space in the Digbeth area of Birmingham by a young architect called Glynn Howells. This space was to become The Custard Factory, a building in which a community of artists and creative industry professionals would come together in a symbiotic way to support, cross-pollinate and cross-subsidise each other for the benefit of one and all. Continue reading “Mr. Custard Factory” »

Congratulations Stan and Michelle

November 6th, 2018

Today we were delighted to read in The River Reporter, Narrowsburg, NY that over in Honesdale, Stan and Michelle Rembish are celebrating the third anniversary of their cafe.

The research we’ve done suggests we would be regulars in Stan’s Cafe if we lived nearby as it looks like our kind of place. Further research tells us that Stan and Michelle were able to launch their business in part thanks to a $2,000 raffle win. We wish them well and hope their luck holds.

Eye of the beholder

October 27th, 2018

We racked up two performances of The Capital yesterday and I had two contrasting conversations stood on the same spot as audiences lingered post-show.

After the matinee I was approached someone who quizzed me on the title. I explained that it is intended to refer both to a big city and Karl Marx’s famous book. To this he protested that the show did not take on capitalism, that it merely depicted scenes from city life and could equally have been describing a communist city in the 1980s. I wasn’t at my most resilient so didn’t put up much of a defence, rather than pointing out all the ways I thought he was wrong I muttering about how we’d have chosen different scenes of city life if the show hadn’t been concentrating on financial inequalities.

Later.

After the 7.45 performance I was approached by someone who explained to me that he was an “extreme left wing socialist” and that our show was brilliant and had “absolutely skewered capitalism”.

Truly beauty and searing critiques of capitalism are in the eye of the beholder.

(Photo Credit: Graeme Braidwood)

The Capital – Post Show Talk

October 12th, 2018

How do we best share this city?

Those of you who have been paying attention will know that we are premiering our new show The Capital at the end of this month. Staged on twin moving walkways, it is a fast paced journey through the big city, following the lives of 5 people from different backgrounds and how their differing circumstances affect their interactions with the city and with each other. The production was originally inspired by discussions about economic inequality with economists at the University of Warwick.

On Friday 26 October we are going to explore the themes of the production even further with a post-show talk : How do we best share this city? Experts from a range of fields will come together to discuss their views on this question, and how it relates to the city of Birmingham today.

We would love you to join us in this conversation, which is free along with the purchase of a ticket to see the evening’s performance of The Capital at Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

You can book online: HERE, or by calling the ticket office on 0121 236 4455.

Our panellists are:

Professor Kiran Trehan

Kiran Trehan is Professor of Leadership and Enterprise Development, and Director of the Centre for Women’s Enterprise, Leadership, Economy & Diversity at Birmingham University. Kiran is a key contributor to debates on leadership, Enterprise development and diversity. Kiran has led a number of leadership, enterprise and business support initiatives and extensively published a number of journal articles, policy reports, books and book chapters in the field. Professor Trehan has also taken up national advisory roles that shape debates and policy in leadership Diversity.

Marc Reeves

Marc Reeves is West Midlands editor-in-chief for Reach plc, and editor of the Birmingham Mail and its website, BirminghamLive.In a 30-year career in regional media, he has held senior positions across the country, but in 2006 returned to his home town as editor of the Birmingham Post. Since then, he has led the company’s transformation into a digital-first business, and BirminghamLive, with 38 million monthly page views, is now one of the largest regional news sites in the UK. BirminghamLive was launched from the foundations of the Mail’s previous site, and its digital-only approach is built on a raft of innovations from podcasting to video journalism.The site has also continued the Mail’s campaigning heritage, with an appeal for the city’s foodbanks on target to collect 100 tonnes of food.

Professor Kathyrn Moore

Kathryn Moore, Immediate Past President of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) and Professor of Landscape Architecture at Birmingham City University, Kathryn has taken a lead role in redefining the relationship between landscape, culture and governance, finance, health and community engagement within the context of a radical proposal for a West Midlands National Park, launched in a major conference held in BCU in June 2018. She is a member of the Independent National Design Review Panel for HS2 as well as the recently formed Enfield Borough Council Place and Design Quality Panel.

Tru Powell

Truchio aka Tru was born in Birmingham and grew up in a single parent household with his six siblings.He learnt at a very early age he had a passion for enterprise, the arts and events, something that would later in life give him a career. Tru is the Founder & Managing Director for The Alternative Events & Wedding Company, a company that specialises in coordinating high quality corporate, youth events and weddings. In addition, Tru is the Creative & Events Director for Aston Performing Arts Academy, a community interest organisation that exists to empower young people through performing and creative arts and a visiting lecturer for University College Birmingham. Tru is also a Trustee for Creative Academies, and a NED for TAG Network and more recently has assumed a Non Executive Director post for the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) as the Marketing and Events Champion. Over the years Tru has been awarded with numerous accolades for enterprise and his contribution to the arts. In 2014 he was recognised as one of Birmingham’s most inspirational young leaders and in 2018 was crowned Birmingham’s Young Professional of the Year – Marketing and Communications. In addition Tru is a finalist in the both the Phoenix and Natwest Entrepreneur Awards as ‘Entrepreneur of the Year 2018′.

How to watch theatre.

October 11th, 2018

The Capital – Trailer from Stans Cafe on Vimeo.

Watching theatre is no great challenge, the seats are helpfully bolted to the floor facing the correct direction so why do I occasionally feel compelled to write a program note giving tips on ‘How to watch theatre’?

There is a famous psychology experiment in which subjects are asked to watch two teams throwing two basket balls between them, they are challenged to count the number of passes made between the teammates in white t-shirts and those in black. So intent are the subjects on this counting that they fail to spot someone dressed as a gorilla walking into frame, waving at the camera and walking out of frame.

Experience from the early days of Stan’s Cafe taught me that if someone comes to one of our shows looking too hard for a story with a beginning, middle and end, or a single simple ‘message’, they tend to miss the show waving at them from centre stage.

The Capital is designed to be easy to watch and impossible to exhaust. It should teach its audience how to watch as it unfolds. It should feel like gliding through the city looking from the window of a bus but also traveling through houses and flats and colleges and shops and nightclubs.

As we slide through life we witness fleeting episodes from thousands of stories, which swirl around us every day. Each day we play endless roles: I’m father, husband, brother, friend, boss, colleague, customer, student, neighbour, jogger, cyclist, pedestrian.

Capital built this city. The Capital is built by us. The city never stops. We slip through time even as we stand still. This is The Capital and its seats aren’t bolted down.

To discover what’s written in the programme notes come to The REP 24 – 27 October (the tickets cost but the programme is free).

Tickets can be bought here from The REP or there is a RIDICULOUSLY GOOD OFFER if you’d like to be part of Culture Feast. Culture Fest is a kind of tasting menu for contemporary art in Birmingham, for just £20 you can see the Friday performance of The Capital, a dance piece at DanceXchange, a concert by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and Javaad Alipoor’s The Believers Are But Brothers at The Hippodrome/Patrick Centre. Do the maths, that’s £5 per show. It’s like being back in the early ’90s!

Publications

September 7th, 2018

Yesterday two very different publications emerged featuring Stan’s Cafe content which, taken together, show the diversity of how writing about theatre is currently distributed.

Marissia Fragkou has authored a book Ecologies of Precarity in Twenty First Century Theatre. It’s always exciting to find a book whose title causes you to reach for a dictionary, especially when that dictionary doesn’t help at all. It seems the term precarity (which presumably prevents you having to get ugly with precariousness), wasn’t massively in use 39 years ago when I started secondary school and my parents gave me the edition of The Little Oxford Dictionary which still sits beside me ameliorating my poor spelling. Marissia’s book is published by Bloomsbury Methuen and currently marketed at University Libraries (RRP £75 but at the time of writing available from the publishers for £52.50) hopefully the paperback will be out ready for people’s Christmas stockings next year. Marissia is a good incisive writer so this volume is certainly worth checking out by those interested in the contemporary theatre scene.

By contrast Tracey Crossley and Niki Woods have edited Making Post Dramatic Theatre: A Handbook of Devising Exercises a couple of which are ours. This publication is exclusively available on the subscription based online platform Digital Theatre. It is targeted at young theatre makers or teachers of theatre to give them ideas for their own practical work. Once again The Little Oxford Dictionary doesn’t help but it is excused as Hans-Thies Lehmann’s seminal Postdramatic Theatre (which cites Of All The People In All The World as piece of such theatre) was only published in 2006.

By way of further contrast Devising Theatre With Stan’s Cafe, written with our collaboration with Mark Crossley (no relation of Tracy as far as we know) remains a massive compromise. There’s no dictionary challenging title, it’s for theory AND practice people, it’s out in old school expensive hardback, new school cheaper paper back and future school e-book with a non-subscription website based supplement.

If you’ve not yet had enough contrasts there are the 21 new Stan’s Cafe titles we are looking to publish in the next 12 months, but they are the subject of a blog post that’s yet to be written.

When Kiln is not Kiln

September 4th, 2018


Photo Credit: Simon Davies

Some of you will know this story, you’re savvy enough to stop reading if you have.

In 2005 a group of students graduated from Birmingham University and decided to form a theatre company. After much fraught discussion they decided to call their company Kindle. I don’t know for a fact that the discussion was ‘much’ and ‘fraught’ but whoever named their enterprise with speedy decisive assurance? Anyway, the point is they called themselves Kindle, they worked hard, started making shows, and became successful.

In parallel with this story is one about a graduate of Princeton University who, in 1994, decided to form an online book retailer. After ‘much fraught discussion’ he decided to call his retailer Amazon. He worked hard, started selling books and became successful.

In 2005 Amazon started work building an electronic book called Fiona. After some time it became clear that the e-reader could be great but that its name was rubbish so after much engaging of branding consultants they decided to call it Kindle.

By the time millions of Kindles were being sold around the world Kindle started to get fed up of sharing their name with an e-reader and all the questions and misunderstandings that involved. They decided to change their name.

Despite very little engaging of branding consultants they still came up with the name Kiln, a neat choice I’m sure we will all agree.

In parallel with this story is one about a graduate of Hull University who in 2012 takes over Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, London. After working hard, making shows and being successful, the director leads Tricycle Theatre to a major refurbishment. After ‘much fraught discussion’, but possibly not very much ‘web-searching for to see if a theatre company already exists with the name you’d quite like to use for your theatre company’, she/they decide to call it… and here you’re all ahead of me – Kiln.

So poor old Kiln were called Kindle before Kindle and now they’re called Kiln before a much richer, more established and more prominent theatre based in London decide to be Kiln. Where from here?

Well Kindles are still called Kindles. Kiln complained to Kiln about the name Kiln, but Kiln really didn’t seem bothered about it at all – whereas Kiln, as you can imagine, are really quite bothered about it. So Kiln aren’t going to change their name, particularly after an expensive rebranding, despite sniffy columns and comments in The Guardian which also include numerous people saying what a rubbish name Kiln is! This just leaves Kiln who have decided to disband, not because of the whole Kiln thing, but because as a collective they felt they’d run their course and want to continue working in theatre as individuals.

So if Kiln are disbanding does any of this matter? Well, The Tricycle didn’t know Kiln were disbanding when they decided to cohabit their name – maybe Kiln didn’t know they were disbanding at that point, so there is a lack of respect in the decision, which is upsetting, original Kiln are sinking in the search engines swamped by new Kiln.

On 22nd September Kiln are holding a valedictory walk from Birmingham University to a pub somewhere across some hills, I hope to join them and celebrate their achievements and wish them luck with whatever they do next – whatever they may call themselves.


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