From June 2005 to July 2007 the rice tour was my life. I kept in touch with home through a series of emails, with my thoughts about the show and the places I travelled to.
Now I have been in London for nearly 7 months and waiting for the arrival of my first baby (who is late) and I am grateful for the months of adventure that preceded this new life I am embarking on. Grateful to have met so many amazing people in so many great places (and danced to Rock Lobster into the early hours of the morning in Melbourne.)
17th June 2006
Victoria and David Beckham
Ant and Dec
women in the construction industry in Tyne and Wear
Alnwick tree house ( full)
Grace Darling and her Father
Blind piano tuners in the U.K.
Confirmed dead 9/11
The Population of the Scilly Isles
The largest ever clown convention, Bognor Regis
To name but a few.
I am at the World Summit for Arts and Culture in Newcastle Gateshead, with the rice.
We have a wide audience with delegates from all over the world in attendance and once more it is a triumph. We have 20 tonnes of rice representing all the 15 -24 year olds in the world (the world pop is 104 tonnes) People are continually surprised and amused. Kids perception of themselves in the world is challenged. One girl sat for quite a while looking at the mountain of hungry children in the world, another looked at me excitedly and said " it's like the moon" another wanted to jump into the population of Iraq, someone's mum had been to Hong Kong and got food poisoning. Another said there can't only be 3 people per KM squared in Australia cos his aunty lives in Adelaide and there are five people in their house alone! Who is Martin Luther King? Who is Ellen Macarthur, did your mum sign Jamie Oliver's petition?
Newcastle is a great city, welcoming and full of life. World cup fever is very much alive here, red and white everywhere you go on match days. I haven't slept through the night once since I got here, our flats are in town and more often than not it's a football chant that wakes me up in the small hours of the morning. I am currently sat in The Sage a huge new music venue on the bank of the river Tyne, a stunning building reachable by the millennium bridge (more beautiful than London's)
Sunday I go to Cork and we begin again, were will we start? With something Irish of course.
I hope you are all well, I'll send an update from Cork if I have time.
Sarah, at your request I added employees of Shell (112 000) employees of Shell Wind Power (50) and a few others...
Gareth, I'm still looking for all the people named John Smith.
Anyone else, suggestions welcome, numbers of people only!
8th September 2006
Short stack with bacon, eggs over easy and maple syrup, and refill coffee. America is a good land!
We arrived on Monday I think, I have totally lost track of the days.
The flight was ok although the 4-hour domestic flight from Chicago to Portland was pretty hard on Robin, the two-year-old child of Craig and Charlotte, (he seems to have recovered and has recently enjoyed a reading at the library entitled "where's bear?" please use American accent to get the full impact)
We are staying at the Mark Spencer Hotel, easy to remember and the rooms are fabulous, BIG bed and walk in wardrobe, it appears to be an old hotel and has a huge General Electric American fridge and a hob with all manner of buttons, and a waste disposal.... so much fun!
We came to the venue on the first morning, got our bearings and met our volunteers, Ryan and Fawn. They are very nice people and I'm sure I'll have more to tell you as the week goes on...We opened last night as part of 1st Thursday. On the 1st Thursday of the month there is a gallery open evening, there are a lot of galleries in the Pearl district where we are and we had over 300 people through. Lots of interesting people, although I felt a little sorry for a couple of kids who's dad turned the whole thing into a maths lesson, about the volumes of the piles of rice and estimating size and number of grains...not quite the point of the show, I wish they had read some of the labels instead.
So far some of what we have out...
The TV audience for the last episode of cheers
volunteers at Oregon Zoo
people who made snakes on a plane
American citizens without health insurance....
There is also a web cam...http://pnca.edu/cam/
Portland itself is a very mad place, full of all kinds of people, with what seems to be a high level of tolerance for everyone. We've met some friendly waiters and some crazies out on the street, one guy saw Amanda and shouted " DUDE! You look like my teacher!" we also met an English man from Walthamstow singing songs with a guitar and homeless guy who told me I was the super glue that held my crying friends together.
No photos yet, I need to upload, hopefully soon.
Thanks for listening, hope you are all well
13th September 2006
I've put some picture on www.dropshots.com/heavyb just a few, more to come...
It's continued to be a great experience here in Portland. We went to Bartini last night... a menu full of martinis for $7, lovely.
Yesterday's show highlights....
Having a long conversation with a lady who suggested many things, one of which was the number of executions in the state of Texas while George Bush was governor...turns out it was 155 in 6 years. This turned up many Internet sights about campaigns for the innocent.
The 4 Fire-fighters who went to ground Zero from Portland and the 1000 people who flew as part of Flight for Freedom to New York in October 2001 to support the people and the economy.
On the other hand one of my favourite little groupings is the Population of Sugar land, employees of Coca Cola and members of the American Dental association.
I have become a little addicted to the E! Channel, much in depth entertainment news...I sold a couple of rice bags with Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and Suri, they're getting married you know!
I have avoided more pancakes due the stomach ache I had following the last breakfast, eggs over easy and maple syrup however...
I must go to work now, but take a look at www.stanscafe.co.uk, there is a new stat centre where you can make suggestions....
lots of love
27th September 2006
Los Angeles, City of the freeway, city of Cars, city of people from all over the world, city of stars, city of surfers, city of rollerbladers, city of the rich and famous, city of..... I could go on, this place is a city of everything, everything but walkers. We arrived, our hotel a 17-floor rotunda with coloured lights. The rooms comfortable with beds you have to literally climb into, balconies, which you can't really use because the roar of the traffic keeps you from relaxing. There is a nice pool though, (with music playing to keep out the traffic noise) it's not as bad as you might think, the sea and desert air keep the place feeling fresh with hot and sunny days and cooler evenings. It was my birthday on Saturday, if you've seen the pictures they tell the story of our day of Hollywood adventures, I put my hands in Judy Garland's and they fit just like the ruby slippers fit Dorothy. Thanks for all the birthday wishes, greatly appreciated.
I feel paralysed by this city, its vastness make me want to find a little corner that I like and nestle in. There is too much of it. Coming to a place on tour means you didn't actively chose to come here, it means anything you get to see is a bonus and as much as you're in LA and have the opportunity to go a bit mad, you have to go to work too, the rice is why we are here.
Today we opened the show. We did a two day get in, in a space with a wall down the middle and lots of different spaces, like rooms, it felt like we had to get something out in all of those spaces which meant a lot of pretty fast work, but with one show under our belt it was slightly easier to get to grips with the Americaness of the show.
This morning 60 nine and ten year olds turned up for a rice workshop. Me and Craig started with the Salad Bowl Game, equipped with our U.K. standards...everyone with Blue eyes in the middle, everyone with blonde hair/brown hair and so on. All these kids had dark hair and dark eyes, were of again, Mexican, Hispanic, Indonesian, Indian decent. So instead, come into the middle if your parents were born outside America, all but 4 kids grouped up in the middle. LA is a mixing pot for people from all over the world and it's a young city too. Nearly all these kids were driven to school had a cell phone and laptop and were first generation Americans.
The show here is as much about talking as it is about putting out new stats. Americans like to chat. It's great that they see the number of people who passed through Ellis Island and come up and tell us about their families who arrived that way. Today was both ends of the scale, the kids in the morning and the elderly in the afternoon, I was nearly knocked out but the perfume of a group of about 20 elderly ladies, they were well dressed, made up and pushing Zimmer frames (one of them directly into the population of Los Angeles!)
Still, it was a great opening day and with a big article in the LA times this morning means we will hopefully get some punters through doors.
Maybe there'll be more to say about the city at the end of the stay, the people here are very friendly with more truth about them than in Portland, I thought that would be the other way round. Maybe we'll do a studio tour and swim in the sea before we leave, maybe we'll spot a star, maybe someone will spot me? Who knows, in LA anything can happen, dreams come true and stars are born. Dream on.
Good night all, hope you are all very very well, I miss the narrow streets of London town and a nice cup of tea.
Lots of mushy American love
3rd October 2006
So, it turns out, this place can grow on you.
After my birthday last Saturday we were heads down into the show, workshops in the morning rice 12 - 5. People here like to talk, to begin with this was really hard as their attitude seemed pretty aggressive, no-one would take the time to think about what they were looking at, they came straight to the desk "So what is this?" " Did they count all the rice?" " What are you supposed to be doing?" " Where is the performance?" "Why don't you use wild rice for the Africans?" " You should use fried rice for the people who have executed"
I'm not kidding.
I put out the 7 Million World of Warcraft online gamers to an audience of about 15, each individually asking what the pile was before I had a chance to label it. There is no waiting in the USA, TELL ME NOW!!!!
In the end it was great. 3000 people through the doors in 6 days.
Probably at least 3000 questions between the 7 of us performers, so much enthusiasm for the work, they loved it! They questioned and praised in equal measure, they challenged us to explain our motives and sources. People laughed and cried, showed us their concentration camp numbers, told us their stories of survival and immigration, enjoyed our English accents and adored little Robin.
Enough Rice, how about LA? It's Ok here. Saturday night me, Karen and Amanda decided to check out Sunset strip...We began with the height of sophistication. The skybar. A hotel bar by the pool with views out over the city, candle lit and swanky. We had a cocktail and didn't dare order another till we got the check, just in case we were looking at swanky prices too. It wasn't too bad, so we had another. Venue number two a step down from number one...the Saddle Ranch. Hen night venue of LA. Ribs and a Bucking bronco. Even though there was persuasion to give it a go, I didn't have a veil and I didn't want to injure myself, obscene amount of food and a beer later we take a stroll down sunset strip. What will it be? Whiskey a Go Go where The Doors had played back in the day or the Viper Room where River Phoenix ended his days? The Viper Room won the toss $25 to get in... It's very small and we stand around waiting for the rock band.
On the way to the Viper Room Karen somehow had got herself covered in white gloss paint from and had a Chinese man wipe her down with turps to get rid of it from her top her bag and her hair. She stank, I couldn't be anywhere near her, she made me feel queasy, I don't what the other people thought the bad smell was. I'm not sure why they let us in she was a fire hazard! Anyway, we watched the Pink Spiders rock themselves through some non - descript numbers, they were entertaining to watch, very young with classic rock guitar poses and a drummer who was a cross between Andrew Lloyd Webber and Rick Moranis. Then they played Teenage Kicks and Amanda went a bit crazy, jumping up and down, (she's mates with The Undertones apparently) we sang along, no-one else did! We made it out of the Viper room and back home in one piece.
Today was another LA adventure. We went downtown, where all the lights are bright and buildings are tall and the Mexicans and Chinese hang out. It was hot today, we quit downtown took a cab down Broadway and back to Venice beach Santa Monica. Amanda wanted to hire a surfboard and off we went into the ocean, I hired a boogie board. WOW!
It was so much fun, the waves were big and powerful, not like Jersey where you stand around getting cold waiting for just one more wave, they kept coming one after the other. I caught a few crazy waves that came in fast onto the beach, I was flying! Amanda managed to get up to her knees, pretty impressive work.
Now I am back in the hotel thinking about packing and getting nervous about the next stop Australia. (25 days till you get there too Dan, can't wait)
Hope you are all well back home, thanks for your emails; there should be some more photos soon. Thanks for listening..
Lots of love
15th October 2006
It's been a while I know. I've been here 10 days and not sent an email. Shocking behaviour. Thing is, Melbourne is a seductive city.
The flight was long but I managed to sleep a lot so when I arrived I felt ok. The Jet lag crept in and the next few days I didn't know where my head was. The third and final stop on the tour, I am here for more than a month, no need to hurry. We did the 'bump in' and had a load of help. 3 local performers and a bunch of techies to help us. We didn't need to rush there was plenty of time.
The show opened on Thursday night as the official opening of the Melbourne International Festival. We were welcomed by Aunty Joy, whose ancestral land we are on. She performed a smoking ceremony which cleansed the air and she gave us all a leaf. There were speeches by the Deputy Mayor, and the Artistic Director of the festival Kristy Edmunds. It felt great to officially open the festival, Kristy genuinely loves the show, she said she felt that it would become the signature piece of the festival.
Now we have been open for 3 days and nearly a thousand people have been through the doors. Old and Young. They don't ask as many questions as the Americans but they are equally amazed and intrigued. 20 Million people live in Australia, nearly 1.4 billion in China. To be able to see these countries together is pretty powerful.
The show is in full swing and so is the festival. There is so much to see and at the moment I am in the artist bar ' The Shed' It's a great place for everyone to relax, drink, eat, pass the time before we can get into The Famous Speigeltent. The tent is usually at the Edinburgh festival and is a travelling circus/dance hall built in Belgium in the 1920's. It is a beautiful tent of mirrors and guarantees an excellent night of dancing and general silliness. It's been open for 3 nights and various members of Stan have been there every night so far. You've never seen such dance moves, such fancy footwork, such tango silliness and attempts at the Charleston. With a day off tomorrow I expect more shapes will be thrown before the night is out.
With a lot of work and jet lag I haven't seen much of the city yet. Our first day off I went with Craig and Charlotte and Robin to the Puffing Billy railway. It chuffed out into the countryside and was a very lovely way to spend the day while feeling sluggish and a little homesick. I have also been down to St Kilda and had a freezing dip in the sea and watched the sun go down over a different ocean.
The people here are like people at home, it's so like home it's unnerving, but the way of life is easy, nothing is really a challenge, the trams take you where you need to go and nothing is too far away. A relief after LA.
So, all is well and now there are only 2 weeks to go before Dan arrives and we can start our holiday in Melbourne. It will be gone in a blink of an eye.
I hope you are all very well and not too cold back in blighty, Much love to you all from the other side of the world where it feels like home.
26th October 2006
Two days of the show left and Dan arrives in the morning!
In the last week thoughts of home have drifted into conversations, anxiety that this bubble will burst and excitement that we get to see loved ones once more.
Melbourne has become to feel like home. We've made some friends and got to know the city (enough to give others advice on tram routes anyway!) we settled into the routine of going to work at the meat market in North Melbourne and got used to meeting in The Shed after work. Time just keeps moving forward and the last day (and Karen's birthday) is in sight.
I think I am too tired to be eloquent or give you any insights into Australia, Its all been great really.
I hope you are all well back home, Me and Dan are off down the Great Ocean Road on Tuesday, after going to meet his Great Aunty Rose and Great Uncle Bill in Barwon Heads, we get back to London on November 12th, Can't wait to catch up.
14th February 2007
I'm sitting in the Cup and Saucer coffee shop in North Adams. It's snowing. It's been snowing for a while. There's about 8 inches of the stuff and it's still coming down. The gallery has closed, they call it a Snow Day, I'm reminded of those few days back in the early 80's when School was closed and we went sledging with the Clunes family in Rowlands Castle, it was a winter wonderland and I fell through a hedge thinking it was just snow, my wellies were full of snow by the time we got home. Here a lot of the cars have snowploughs on the front but the snow is coming down so fast they can't keep the roads clear. I'm wearing my thermals as outerwear; I've run out of clothes! I'm warm but not very stylish.
Before the snow this town was quiet and slow. Now it's bright white, quiet and slow. Before the snow a lot of the shops were closed down for good, now all the shops are closed (apart from this coffee shop). We are passing the time wondering how to spend the day, Keith has invited us to his house, we are hoping he has a games room or maybe a sledge?
The show has been going well, I have met people who travelled 90 miles to see us, having heard a piece about us on the radio. It's a good job the show and the venue MASS MoCA has such a pull, as I said this is a small town. The rice looks good in the old Sprague factory complex, big factory windows let the light spill over the rice landscape and in the evenings it's shadowy and atmospheric.
We've been on the radio, in all the local papers and a piece will be in the New York Times on Saturday. Everyone knows who we are in this town, they hear the English accent and ask, "Are you the rice people?"
It's sometimes very beautiful here, little white houses nestle into the mountains but this industrial town whose factory closed down in the 60's is a mix of 'beautiful old' and 'ugly decline'. It's a nice change to be taking things slowly on this Stan gig. Last year we were running around pretending to be on holiday in LA while working on the show. Here we can just have a rest, take things easy.
So, I'm off to take it easy, have a great day all.
23rd February 2007
The three-week that I thought would feel like a lifetime have of course flown by. I'm home on Tuesday.
The show has been great success, well over three thousand people through the doors already and still our last weekend to go. It's been a big show with the population of The Americas (16 tons) to work with, we have filled the Hunter Centre at MASS MoCA and have had to keep picking things up and changing them around to give ourselves more room to manoeuvre. We've covered a lot of topics from the Oscars to the civil war, visitors to Green Gables House on Prince Edward Island and children adopted in the USA. The Population of the USA and people living on a dollar a day in Latin America. Graduates of bar tending schools in the US, Ted Danson. The cast and Crew of "Hair" and Britney Spears, People who threw tea into the harbour in Boston and those who injured themselves with a teapot or cup of tea in the UK last year. US Soldiers in Iraq, UK soldiers in Iraq, Confirmed dead 9 /11 the US terror suspect list. The population of New Orleans, before and after Hurricane Katrina. People attending the largest Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas, People who claimed Jedi as their religion on the UK census. I could go on, it's a big show.
So that's the rice, now my day off. I learnt to ski! It's amazing how much you can achieve in a day. In the morning I could hardly manage to stand up in skis by the afternoon I had made it down the side of a mountain. Dan's cousin Joe and his girlfriend Anne very kindly drove three hours to North Adams. We spent an evening chatting and drinking wine. The next morning (rather early and with slightly fuzzy heads) we drove north for an hour into Vermont and Mount Snow, (strangely named after a man rather than the white stuff). We hired skis and took to the bunny slopes. Joe patiently taught me where to put my weight, how to turn etc. I picked it up quite quickly but was pretty nervous and worried about falling over. After lunch Joe and Anne thought I was ready to go to the top of the mountain. They refused to show me the map, a wise move...it took and hour to ski down and about half way I thought I wouldn't make it. Skiing is painful! But what an amazing buzz, there were times I felt like a pro, they were fleeting, mainly I kept going until my legs couldn't take it or I'd landed on my bum! When we reached the bottom I felt like a hero. Thank you Joe and Anne!
So another great experience with the rice, I hope you've enjoyed my emails. Basically North Adams has seduced me. A small town that seemed to not have much more going for it than MASS MoCA has slowly offered up its charms. The people have all been welcoming, friendly and good company. The Mohawk bar has become a cosy local in the space of three weeks and the snow and mountains have been breathtaking in their beauty. I went for a walk this morning, reaching the edge of town within half an hour, the snow swirled about me as the wind whipped it off the roofs.
With love to all,
13th March 2007
Adelaide, all done and dusted, we got there just a week ago and now Jake and me are back at Singapore airport with a few hours to kill before the final leg back to London. WOMADelaide - my first experience of a big music festival, going as an artist is the way to do it. With a back stage pass that allows you some moments of peace away from the crowds, a bar with no queue (same with the toilets) and an air-conditioned dressing room (not really a dressing room more a trailer, we shared it with a French visual arts company called Quidams, they seemed a little grumpy but their show was beautiful)
My first experience also of OATP in a tent, I started with my usual attention to detail, straight lines, carefully arranged rice, clean and neat. By the end of Sunday I had to let go to the WOMAD spirit, the tent was full of grass, ants, and people. We did our best to stop the ants making off with some individuals, (they were very persistent) I also had to ask a kid to pick up his football. Despite these extra anxieties and the incredible 100-degree heat the show was a great success with the tent constantly full of people. I spoke with a lot of people, including an aboriginal woman proud that her people were included in the Australian population stats.
From MASS MoCA to WOMADelaide a crazy few weeks of snow, sun and rice and I can't wait to be home.