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Two More Years @ A E Harris.

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

upgrade aeh 1

Exciting news! Today we got the official Arts Council letter to say that our Grants for the Arts application to subsidise @ A E Harris has been successful. This is an enormous relief. After two years, paying for the venue from profits other bits of the Stan’s Cafe operation were making, was starting to take its toll and we were bracing ourselves to walk away from it all. Now we can forge ahead. You can read the official press release here.

This Grant doesn’t pay for everything, the venue still has to earn money, but it does allow us to continue to offer a range of organisations and individuals the opportunity to use the space at a range of pricing levels. It allows us to pay some other people to lock and unlock for us and maybe do some cleaning. It also allows us to make a few strategic investments in improving the space.
I spent a good portion of Monday wobbling at the top of the ladder replacing 8ft long fluorescent tubes and starters. There are now no dingy patches in the venue.

A couple of days before our amplifier, which went up in a plume of smoke during the BE Festival, returned after a £300 re-fit. Credit to the good people at the Peavey Repair Centre, they provide a brilliant service.

amp repair

Today Charlotte, Eve (on half term work experience) and I swept out the new extension – Australia, ready for it to come under the serious attentions of our newly acquired high-pressure water cleaning machine. Watch out dirt!


Tuesday, October 5th, 2010



Some idiot has nicked a nut off the front axle of my new bike. I thought it happened outside our office in the Big Peg, but then I found the washer outside my house. Hopefully the thief will make a considerable fortune from selling it in a nearby pub.

Then I discover ‘Chubbz’ has helpfully written his/her name a sofa @ A E Harris in case we should ever forget they once graced us with their presence.

In the evening there is an extraordinary board meeting to mull over the relative merits of a 10% funding cut against at 25% funding cut.

The only up-side is that we’d nominated John Sloyan of A.E.Harris (Birmingham) Ltd. for recognition as an Arts Champion. The awards ceremony clashed with our board meeting and Ed Vazey the Minister for Culture was giving out the certificates so John was able to tell The Minister in person that we couldn’t attend because of his proposed cuts. To which he said “what a shame, all the more canapés for us!” (except of course he didn’t).

More Space

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010


Unbelievably some people have been suggesting they’d like to do their thing @ A E Harris if only there were more space! Well, always keen to oblige, we’ve had a word with our friendly landlords and come up with… MORE SPACE. Today we got stuck into clearing it out ready for the forklift to go to work.

Eve accompanied me up to Willenhall in The Black Maze. Taking photographs on the way. It’s having it’s last tweak before Graeme drives it down to Montpellier.

Invisible City

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Here’s a chance to vote for @ A E Harris as a Birmingham cultural phenomena of note.

BE Gone

Monday, July 5th, 2010

4am Northwood St

The party went on until dawn and beyond four but eventually the party had to stop. The first BE Festival came to an end on Sunday morning. The BE team, Blanch and Shock, Mick the tec, Charlotte & Craig, loads of people worked enormously hard making it happen and they were well rewarded. Loads of artists were there, they were met by big audiences and they all had a tremendous four days together.

Fingers crossed for…. next year?

BE more in

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

It’s probably getting tedious to read about but the BE Festival is shaping up to be really exciting here. The first two companies have just finished their tech set up, one delayed a bit getting out of Catalonia by industrial action. There’s by far the biggest lighting rig we’ve had in the venue set up. The bar is more glamorous and elaborately stocked than we had ever envisaged. Blanch and Shock are back and have had ten new sockets installed in order to power the amount of kitchen kit they’ve hired for all the festival participants (the food is going to be cheap and it’s going to be lovely and it’s served in the interval between shows). There are more sofas than ever. There are decks and vinyl.

It is shaping up to be the kind of festival we have always been in love with whilst performing abroad and always moaned on about not finding over here. BE here, honestly do come and tell everyone else to come as well. There are so many acts there’s bound to be something that grabs you, even if there isn’t the atmosphere will be so brilliant that won’t matter anyway. BE here.

I can rant on banging the drum like this because it’s not our thing.

BE Festival In

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Be In

Things are cranking up @ A E Harris as the BE Festival are setting up. The performance area has been painted black, a dance floor is waiting to be laid, a seating bank is being constructed, things are being cleaned, more power is to be installed for cookers and fridges.

Come Wednesday when festivities open veterans of the venue will be impressed at the transformation, those who’ve never been here before will simply be impressed.

BE Festival

Sunday, June 27th, 2010


OK, it feels like crunch time now. Is this City going to allow itself to develop a proper theatre scene or should we just all move to the seaside?

The BE Festival kicks off on 30th June (VERY SOON). It’s @ AE Harris until 3rd July. Each night the Bar opens at 6pm and at 7pm you a series of 30 minute theatre shows starts. There are 15 companies in attendance from across Europe, each with their own show, a cluster of each showing each night. They’re not being paid, they’re there for the love, the glory, a cash prize and a possible commissioning opportunity.

Despite bits of funding from the City Council and the Arts Council this is a seriously Grassroots, Hand-to-Mouth operation. The organizers have 100 tickets to sell each night for £10 each and THEY NEED TO SHIFT THEM.

I genuinely think this is the most exciting theatre event to have happen in Birmingham for as long as I can remember. When do you ever get to see theatre from abroad in this city? How rare is it to see young companies from abroad in the UK outside Edinburgh at festival time? Very Rare. Never. Until now. No one need panic, much of the work is from abroad but you don’t need to be polyglot to enjoy the festival. It’s all visual / non-verbal stuff and they can’t get any local media coverage, which is unfortunately pretty standard. So it’s down to us and word of mouth. LET”S GIVE THESE COMPANIES A PROPER WELCOME. LET”S TURN UP!


Out of Chaos

Sunday, May 16th, 2010


As a fundraiser for the Birmingham European Theatre Festival Temple Theatre are going to be performing their production Out Of Chaos @ A E Harris on 21st May. Doors open 19.30 show at 20.00. Tickets £10. To reserve tickets email info@befestival.org with your name and the number of tickets you require.

Some of the Stan team saw the show in Edinburgh last Summer and enjoyed it very much. Here is a message from the BE Festival team:

Please support our first festival year and join us for live music, a plentiful bar, tasty home-made cakes, and the double award-winning international show: Out of Chaos by temple theatre.

1st Prize, Bilbao Act Festival 2008
Audience Prize, Berlin 100º Festival 2008
‘Pick of the Fringe’, Edinburgh 2009

‘Every once in a while there comes a show that owes its origins to the unique chemistry of the group of people who came together to make it… it works as a magic formula… you are bound to come out satisfied’ – The Stage

‘Entertaining and engaging: no-frills theatre showcasing the art of storytelling’ – British Theatre Guide

‘This audacious approach to such a serious subject matter was executed with panache and playfulness, meaning the audience was constantly laughing. Go see.’ – Three Weeks Magazine

Six people from around the world come together with lots to get off their chests – from the creation of the world to last week’s terrible tube journey.

Randy Greek Gods, feuding families and strangers on public transport go head-to-head in a fast, funny and delightfully furious hour. An anarchic blend of clowning, cross-dressing, physical theatre and music, Out of Chaos is storytelling at its very best.

[It would be great if we could get 100 folk in to raise a decent wedge of cash to make the exciting Birmingham European Theatre Festival Happening. Please spread the word] – Stan.

Heavy Metal and Classical

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010


There was a disaster in the final Home of the Wriggler gig in Plymouth, the hand-wheel broke 20 minutes in and couldn’t be repaired, as a result all the subtle lighting in the show was knocked out. Somehow they muddled through using the lights run off the two bikes but it was a bad business.

Fortunately Mark had prepared us for this eventuality by packing us off with a spare motor and today Craig was able to perform the transplant and revive the hand-wheel. At the same time his on-going efforts to mitigate the attritional effects of touring and keep the racing bike operational had hit a major problem. An indentation needed to be drilled in a tough bit of metal and our cordless drill was making little impact. After a period of frustration boarding on despair it occurred to me that our landlords are metal fabricators. A quick chat with the boss and a visit to one of the workshops and our recess was precision drilled and the bike was back together more robust than it has been for months and ready for a tour of duty in Dartington tomorrow and Frome on Thursday.

From bike repair we zoomed directly over to the CBSO Centre to interview players from Birmingham Contemporary Music Group for our forthcoming collaboration I See WIth My Eyes Closed. We are gathering thoughts about what it is to be a professional musician and these interviews were set up to help us. It was a fascinating afternoon. The players were all very generous with their time and open in their approach to our questions, I would happily have stayed on all afternoon pumping them for information and stories. We learned a tremendous amount, not least that we are going to have to rethink how we approach Section 3 of our piece. Damn. Two steps forwards and one back.

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