Fresh from scooping the top accolade at the Creative City Awards, Stan’s Cafe artistic director James Yarker talks to Anna Blackaby about the success of the past year.
Even though the rest of the economy may be facing a downturn, 2008 has probably been a good year for rice merchants in the Birmingham area thanks largely to Stan’s Cafe.
The theatre company behind the Of All The People In All The World show at the AE Harris factory in the Jewellery Quarter earlier this year has not had a bad year either – and taking the Creative Industries Award at this year’s Creative City Awards is a fitting way to round it off.
Stan’s Cafe’s Of All The People In All The World show, which uses grains of rice to illustrate the individual people behind otherwise abstract and dry statistics, attracted 4,500 people when it was open in Birmingham.
The theatre company also marked the end of 2008 by making its cohabitation arrangement with historic Jewellery Quarter-based engineering firm AE Harris more permanent with the agreement of a two-year lease which will see Stan’s Cafe use the space for performances and rehearsals.
Although a traditional metal-bashing firm and a group of artists which make up Stan’s Cafe may seem like strange bedfellows, it’s a combination that seems to fit perfectly.
Stan’s Cafe artistic director James Yarker said: “It was a venue that we discovered to stage Of All The People In All The World earlier in the year and we have a very good relationship with the owners of the factory who work on the rest of the site.
“We had brilliant feedback about what a great space it was and for years we have been looking to find a physical base for the company that’s more than just an office.
“It’s somewhere we can rehearse and put on our own shows independently of any theatres in town and this was the ideal place.
“Also, for two years we’re going to have the space to promote not just our own work but also collaborate with other organisations locally and nationally.”
“AE Harris staff have been very helpful too – they have helped us out with their forklift trucks to move stuff around and they have enjoyed what we have been able to bring along.”
Last week the show went to Barcelona where it pulled in 5,500 visitors in less than a week and even made it on to Spanish national TV.
Despite the warm reception the show gained in Birmingham, visitor numbers in Barcelona towered over the numbers the show attracted through its doors in its native city.
“It was only in Barcelona for four days and we were in Birmingham for a few weeks. It’s a measure of maybe the status of culture in the two cities.
“We were able to get on national TV there when we weren’t even able to get onto local TV here,” said Mr Yarker.
But winning the Creative City award could be a step towards building the company’s profile in Birmingham.
“I think because we are a touring company it’s easy to go a little bit undetected in your home city.
“So for us the award should very much get our faces about in Birmingham and remind people that we are here and we want to be part of the cultural scene in our own city,” said Mr Yarker.
Next stop for Of All The People In All The World is Connecticut in February and then Toronto in May.
Other shows coming up include Home of the Wriggler, inspired by the closing of the Rover works at Longbridge and the Birmingham leg of the UK tour will take place in the AE Harris factory in April.
“It’s quite apt because it’s a show about a factory being performed in a factory,” said Mr Yarker.