Welcome to Stan's Cafe


January 22nd, 2021

When did you last see a film in which you genuinely didn’t know what was going to happen next nor at the end? When did you last see a film that resisted an obvious short-hand description ‘it’s this crossed with that’? When have you ever seen a film with no male characters or where the vast majority of the cast are under 12? Welcome to Innocence.

Hoovering up interesting items in a highbrow Edinburgh charity shop I pulled this DVD from the shelf. The Artificial Eye brand reliably promised something beyond the mainstream, something ‘art house’. The cover images are beautiful and arresting (you could say the same thing of any randomly selected frame from the film). The description, of a mysterious girls’ boarding school behind a high wall in a dense forest, was compelling. I bought it and unusually then watched it.

I loved it, I love it, I love it more the more I reflect on it and I can’t stop reflecting on it.

An Independent on Sunday critic devised this great short-hand “Buñuel meets Angela Carter meets Enid Blyton” – this is no help before you watch it but in retrospect is perfect!

Below is a link to a wonderful video essay that distills Innocence for you, but think carefully before watching it. I enjoyed knowing very little before starting; events and revelations unfold at a beautifully judged pace and as there is no real story this pacing feels especially important. I’m desperate to share more but I won’t, I’ll preserve your Innocence.

Film On The Radio – Die Hard (7.30pm)

December 22nd, 2020

Yippee ki yay and a ho ho ho to you all!

The Commentators are donning the sheepskins, opening up a tin of Roses and pressing play on a festive favourite. The only trouble is they can’t hear any of the dialogue…

Join them at 7.30 pm as they bring you all the action from this heart warming tale of family, office parties and snow white vests.

Listen along as you watch the film or, as it’s Christmas, just sit back with a babycham and let them do the hard work of watching it for you.

The Commentators from Stan’s Cafe is on Mixlr

If you can’t listen live the commentary will be as available as a podcast from tomorrow. Search for Stan’s Internet Cafe with your favoured podcast provider or listen at our channel at anchor fm

Die Hard – On the Radio

December 22nd, 2020

Return here at 19:30GMT this evening to hear The Commontator’s final Film On The Radio commentary. They don’t know it yet but their Christams Special is Die Hard.

What counts as a Christmas Film? It’s fashionable to debate this question at the moment. Put simply, Die Hard is set at Christmas so it counts. In selecting this film we had to apply what we’ve learnt about The Commentators’ ability to commentate on films without the sound. Compicated or ambiguous plots seem to work well as The Commentators get lost easily. Horror feels better than Comedy because Horror not translating may be comic but Comedy not translating can be horrific. It’s tough for The Commentators to cope with films that are heavy or reliant on dialogue and real world settings seem to work better than fantasy settings. So we judged all nominated films against all these factors and came out with Bruce Willis in a vest.

We hope you enjoy this last – Film On The Radio.

The Commentators from Stan’s Cafe is on Mixlr

Film On The Radio: The Shining

October 23rd, 2020

On the occasion of Halloween, The Commentators bring you ‘exclusive’ radio commentary on Stanley Kubrik’s chilling horror classic, The Shining. As usual our sheepskin clad heros will struggle to decypher the film’s plot without access to its audio, while endeavouring to bring listeners all the crucial action.

Remarkably, on this occasion a DIY ‘Red Button’ function is available, for those who like to watch ‘the match’ on TV with the radio commentary. The BBC iPlayer has The Shining available on 31st October, so when The Commentators start at 19:30 it is possible to synchronise their stream with the iPlayer on mute and watch the film in an entirely new way.

We’ve enjoyed previous Film On The Radio episodes both as pure audio and when synched with the film, it’s fun either way. Also, you can join in the conversation about both the film and its commentary on Twitter #FilmOnTheRadio by following @stanscafe.

For Film On The Radio: The Shining we are delighted to be teaming up with MAC. The arts centre, which has helped Stan’s Cafe so much over the years, has been forced by Corona Virus to close until Spring 2021. This performance is small contribution from Stan’s Cafe to help MAC serve its audience whilst closed and working with a minimal – one might even dare say – on this night at least – a skeleton staff.

Opportunity: Composer PhD Studentship

October 21st, 2020

You can decide for yourselves if four years ’embedded’ in Stan’s Cafe is something you’d wish on your best friend or gravest enemy, either way, if that person is a composer craving a PhD you’d do well to introduce them to this very unusual opportunity…

The Royal Birmingham Conservertoire and Stan’s Cafe are looking for an inquisitive and talented composer with exciting ideas and a passion for collaboration, to spend four years exploring the question:

“How can a composer-in-residence add value to Stan’s Cafe?” Read the rest of this entry »

Wanted: Four Associate Artists

October 5th, 2020

Here’s one lot of good news that leads to another lot of good news.

First Good News: The Paul Hamlyn Foundation have just promised us money from their Teacher Development Fund to work with 10 primary schools across South and East Birmingham. Our plan is to help teachers develop their drama skills in order to teach English to their students more effectively.

Subsequent Good News: As a result of this triumph we need to recruit four Associate Artists to help us deliver this programme over the next two years. We’re looking for people with skills in acting, devising and/or directing. Each contract is worth £11,400 and details of how to apply can be found here.

We were really chuffed to have be awarded this grant. It feels like a vindication of our work in schools thus far, particularly over the last eight years, when we have worked in long term collaboration with a small number of Partner Schools. This tightly focused approach has involved asking senior leaders what areas of school life or the curriculum they need help with and creating bespoke projects with teachers to address these challenges. We have had plenty of success working in this way, it’s fun to do and always presents a novel challenge. Ultimately, we’ve never been more proud than when a school’s success is, in part, attributed to our input. Read the rest of this entry »

Always on board, never bored

September 22nd, 2020

Have you ever considered joining a company’s board of directors? Obviously I’ve always fancied one of those gigs cabinet members appear to get offered when leaving office: a hundred grand for twelve days work on the board of a FTSE 100 firm. However, there are other options nearly as attractive.

Being on the board of a ‘non-profit’ gives you a view into the inside workings of a worthwhile organisation, sharing with them their highs and lows. It is a chance to put your skills to use in a new context, to learn new things and get introduced to people you would never otherwise meet.

Arts companies, especially those of smaller organisations like Stan’s Cafe are usually very keen to bring on board people with experiences from from beyond the arts world and ironically there is probably no better time to join a board than right now.

It is often said that boards come into their own in a time of crisis. In normal times, when events follow a smooth predictable path, inertia can lead to a boards to just monitor and nudge, but when crisis hits advice and support are needed, difficult problems need debating and resolving, tough decisions may need to be made and calm heads must prevail.

Things haven’t been that dramatic at Stan’s Cafe, but we have increased the frequency of our board meetings in order to keep on top of events. Being a director on our board is a voluntary position that also carries legal responsibility, as well as time commitment, so we are very grateful to them all and appreciative of the work they do. But as Lara Ratnaraja, a former long time board member of ours, points out in an interview published on this website today, the transaction works both ways and a board member who thinks they are only bringing things to the party is not making the best of the party, there are non-financial rewards for the board member too. Being on a board rarely means being bored.


Lara Ratnaraja is an influential Creative Consultant based in the West Midlands, in this rare interview she explains how formative experiences in the Soviet Union during the last days of communism are proving valuable in her work today. She explains her pride in watching a new collaborative generation of leaders help diversify the arts scene. She unveils the mysteries of Arts Council’s ‘regional council’ and expands on the rewards of being on a board. I encourage you to read on…

Robert Ball

August 19th, 2020

I admire people who make things happen, who seize an idea and galvanise those around them to bring that idea to life. This is an act of optimism, a feat of will and a triumph of energy over the status quo. Robert Ball was one of these people and so to learn today of his recent death is especially sad.

In 2012 Robert founded FRED to create new theatre and stage classic theatre in fresh ways. Their first production was The Merchant Of Venice, which they staged across three spaces in our sprawling industrial venue @ A E Harris. The production zipped along with verve, humour and tight focus, it was well received and launched the company to produce a further 30 or so productions in a mere eight years – a prodigious output that included performances going into schools and care homes to reach as many people as possible.

Robert was a Shakespeare specialist but also a general theatre lover, excited to commission new writing, revive a long lost Restoration Comedy – The Dutch Lady and rock up at other people’s shows. Slipping in and out of Robert’s technical rehearsals and witnessing FRED before and after their productions, you couldn’t help but be uplifted by their shared sense of enterprise, mutual support, seriousness and good humour.

It was always a happy coincidence to bump into Robert, an intelligent, highly principled and scrupulously polite man. An enthusiast, a man who made things happen and someone who will be sadly missed.

Our sympathy goes out to all those close to him whose lives were lifted by his presence and will be deminished by his absence.

For Quality Purposes (11th August)

August 6th, 2020

We hope you’ve been enjoying our season of online work, Stan’s Internet Cafe. Coming up next is For Quality Purposes …

For Quality Purposes is set in a Dispersed Universal Call Centre where call handlers, working from home, field enquiries from customers with a vast range of queries in areas they are rarely trained for, or qualified to deal with. Our heroes are often left floundering but cheeriness is their default setting and they work hard to find solutions to the many problems they are asked to solve.

Funny, touching and thoughtful, For Quality Purposes was devised online and will be streamed on the Stan’s Cafe Theatre YouTube Channel on 11th August, at 19.30 BST (Running Time: 25 minutes)

The Anatomy Of Melancholy: Episode 35

August 4th, 2020

This version is captioned, a non-captioned version can be seen here.

The material for this conclusion to our series is taken from the end of Robert Burton’s introduction where be both justifies and apologises for his work.

In one of my favourite moments there is a suggestion that he find it a bit embarrassing and vulgar not to have done the whole thing in Latin. His publishers wouldn’t permit that approach and theirs was a wise choice. Elsewhere Burton has explained how he has kept the work practical by avoiding ‘fustian phrases’ and ‘hyperbolical exornations’. This book wasn’t an affectation to grace rich libraries, it was a book written to be read and to be useful. Although its dimensions meant it was expensive The Anatomy Of Melancholy sold well and was reprinted in a series of expanding editions through Burton’s life and remains in print today.

The book’s humour, generosity, peculiarity and practicality must all have contributed to its enduring appeal, as must the continuing prevalence of its subject matter. Through the series we have learnt many practical approaches to avoiding melancholy, which seem as sensible now as they did four hundred years ago and when forcing himself to boil his 1500 page effort to a single maxim our guide leaves us with a simple twined imperative, “be not solitary, be not idle”.

At the time of making this series many millions of people around the world were forced to separate themselves from others and cease their regular activities. It has been a time of melancholy, but just as in the Episode 1 Robert Burton told us he wrote this book about melancholy in order to avoid being melancholy, so making this series has kept its makers from the same ‘feral plague’.

We hope that you have found some consolation in these 35 extracts and direct you to their source, but if you choose to read either our stage adaptation or the primary text we urge you to do so only in moderation, a little each day, in a well lit room with good air.

Stan's Cafe Theatre: Company No. 3095751 | VAT No. 670 5071 49 | Reg Office: c/o Laytons, 22 St John St, Manchester M3 4EB
Cookie and Privacy Policies | Website design: www.f22design.com

Support Us