Stan's Cafe: One looks, marvels and understands

Billesley Radio

July 10th, 2014


We have cause some of our own agro this week at Billesley Primary School. We’re trying to rehearse a highly ambitious, original play about the Cuban Missile Crisis with 60 members of Year 6 and, because they’re Year 6 and it’s their penultimate week at primary school, there are lots of demands on their time. Lots of these demands are totally unavoidable but Billesley Radio was avoidable, in fact it was our idea. Continue reading “Billesley Radio” »


July 6th, 2014


The last three weeks have been intense, rehearsing Finger Trigger Bullet Gun and then performing it in London and Birmingham. We are still picking over the results. Continue reading “FTB-Gone” »

Station House Opera

June 21st, 2014

This post has been a little while coming and has just been spurred on by reading, with much amusement, about Andy Field’s provocative Steel This Workshop. Part of Live Art Development Agency’s DIY Series Andy is asking people to ‘rip off’ other people’s work in order to explore ideas of inspiration, appropriation and homage. I’ve been thinking in this area recently because Finger Trigger Bullet Gun, the show we are currently rehearsing for LIFT (who commissioned it) and later BE Festival involves dominoes. Continue reading “Station House Opera” »

Crowd Dispersed

June 11th, 2014

photo credit: Robert Day

The World Premiere of Crowd Out went very smoothly on Sunday. It was great to finally have the sixteen composite choirs all together and in place. David Lang the composer had flown in to experience his piece for the first time. He seemed well pleased and the singers seemed to enjoy themselves. The sound was amazing and I was privileged to hear it twice running at full throttle. I enjoyed seeing the visuals Craig and I had worked out together slotting into place, we felt it wasn’t too much and wasn’t too little. A major highlight of the whole process for me was studying the varied styles of the sixteen sub-conductors and the different relationships they had established with their contrasting choirs.

Congratulations are due to principle conductor Simon Halsey and the BCMG team for pulling together such an ambitious piece so smoothly. There are more photographs from Robert Day and links to reviews and previews on the BCMG website.

Provocation #2

June 4th, 2014


At The British Library, in February we presented Provocation #1, an installation designed to sit alongside the Warwick Commission Into Cultural Value’s first public provocation. We were happy with what we made, but felt it was a bit too easy to miss or ignore, too much decorative and not enough provocative. This called for a change of strategy and last night, at the Barbican, we unleashed Provocation #2. Continue reading “Provocation #2” »

Crowd Gathering

June 1st, 2014


On Friday the sixteen group leaders gathered at Millennium Point with the conductor to rehearse Crowd Out. Today the blue group and then the green group came to the CBSO Centre to rehearse. On Tuesday the third quarter gather, on Friday the fourth quarter and on Saturday EVERYONE rehearses ready for the World Premiere. Us? We’re just helping people wave their arms around. Continue reading “Crowd Gathering” »


May 24th, 2014


As he handed over the change he confided in me “this is the last Saturday we’ll be open”. Damn, damn, damn, damn, DAMN! I love this cafe, I love everything about it and it’s been squeezed out because of US! Continue reading “Gentrification” »

Kindness to Ulfah

May 23rd, 2014

366 Days Of Kindness from Bernadette Russell on Vimeo.

Stan’s Cafe associate artist Bernadette Russell has her children’s book out. Do Nice, Be Kind, Spread Happy is a spin off from her much discussed 366 Days of Kindness project. Primarily social activism, secondarily very entertaining theatre show, tertiarilly (is that a word) a DIY manual for children and their adults, this is the undertaking that keeps on giving – literally. It’s a lovely volume. Continue reading “Kindness to Ulfah” »


May 22nd, 2014

Layout 1

For fans of the muchos we have muchos, muchos on the horizon.

First up: muchos guitars (unless guitars of feminine in which case we have muchas guitars on our hands). On Sunday 7th Frontiers Festival and Capsule combine forces to bring Rhys Chatham‘s A Secret Rose for 100 Guitars to the Town Hall. It should be pretty special for those of us who are fans of minimalist music (I’ve got both hands up here). Now being the rhythm section for a band of 100 guitars must be pretty intimidating but a glance at the publicity reveals two of Stan’s favourites are in harness together: on drums Laurence Hunt (Modified Toy Orchestra AND Pram) and on bass Sebastiano Dessanay (last seen keeping muchos recorders in check in our mini-opera The Voyage) – smokin’.

Second up, on the following day: muchos voices. 1000 strong choir gather (twice) at Millennium point for the WORLD PREMIERE and SECOND EVER performance of David Lang’s Crowd Out.

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group have been talking about this piece for years and now it is finally commissioned, happening and, in a very small way, we have our hands on some of the leavers, having been asked to keep an eye on ‘choreography’.

On Monday the brave Notorious choir in Kings Heath agreed to be guinea pigs for our choreographic ideas. We’ve never done anything very much like this but there seem like some basic principles to be observed:

- remember it’s about the music not the visuals.
- keep it simple.
- don’t do much.
- 1000 people doing anything is going to be strong.
- 1000 people doing anything too regimented is going to look like a Nuremberg Rally, so avoid that.

With the choir’s indulgence we tried the ideas out, we tweaked some, we committed them to paper and handed them over to be distributed to the remaining 49 choirs in the performance.

Cultural Exchange #2

May 22nd, 2014


One of the alluring elements of the BE Festival is the links that it brokers between the visiting artists and their host city. The festival introduces seventy young theatre makers to Birmingham and it introduces a local audience to theatre from eleven countries across Europe. The audience and artists supper together, but perhaps the most powerful engagement comes through the hosting of artists by local volunteers.

BE is able to operate on a shoestring by making it easy for people to give each other gifts. The artists are not paid and have to finance their own travel but get free food and board, volunteers host the artists and in exchange meet fascinating new people and receive tickets to see all the shows on the day their guests perform. It is a positive change and your chance to help make a great thing happen. If you are interested in hosting an artist or two email Helena Scott-Hardy at

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