Stan's Cafe: One looks, marvels and understands

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

Cultural Exchange

May 9th, 2014

‘Safety In Numbers’ (2014) from sam chester on Vimeo.

This week we have had visitors. Two artists were over from Sydney on Churchill Fellowships. As well as seeing some of the cultural delights of this grand city and being introduced to a good range of arty folk they sat in with us on a bit of devising.

Craig and I were doing a bit of work plotting the next Provocation for the Warwick Commission and glad of some extra input. The fact that both Sam Chester and Sarah Vyne Vassallo are choreographers was useful as we’re trying to cook up a short gestural performance. Though their suggestions will carry an influence on our final piece, perhaps of more enduring value will be their contribution of a new term to our devising vocabulary. Where previously every speculative suggestion in the devising room had to be couched in ridiculous circumlocutory phrases such as “It probably isn’t this but I’m going to say it anyway…” or “It isn’t this but maybe it’s something like…” now the Aussies have donated the far more direct and evocative “This is probably a bomb…” we love it!

Hurray for the cultural exchange.

New Dance Hero

May 7th, 2014

Today I was fortunate enough to be in on the premieres of Aakash Odedra‘s two new works Inked and Murmur. Aakash is my new dance hero. Both pieces are beautiful, he is an amazing dancer. I know so little about dance I will embarrass myself by trying to explain it any more, but if was beautiful, mysterious and hypnotic and I loved it. Inked choreographed by Damien Jalet was my favourite, for its purity and resonances as much as anything. Murmur was more ambitious, breathtaking in moments, less great in others. Throughout the only unquestionable truth is that he is an amazing dancer.

Well done International Dance Festival Birmingham for bringing these pieces to us and for enticing such an international crowd to the premiere.

BBC Archive #2

May 1st, 2014


Back in March Craig and I visited London to learn about the BBC Archives, today we started visiting the archive sites. We started in Perivale before moving down the road to Caversham. Continue reading “BBC Archive #2” »

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