To see a world in a grain of rice...

William Blake said "To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour".  His quote could equally be said, albeit using a grain of rice, of theatre company Stan's Cafe's 10th anniversary homecoming performance of Of All The People In All The World.  After an hour, and you can easily spend that long at the performance, you too could consider eternity and your own place in the world and universe.

The free performance is part of the opening for Two Snow Hill, the largest office block to open this year outside of London, and was commissioned by the developers Hines and Ballymore to mark the official opening of the office block.  Sitting on the sixth floor, the performance allows both a look at the world through grains of rice but a chance to view Birmingham differently through the views across the city from it's Snow Hill location.  

Using 23 tonnes of rice the performance is sometimes shocking and sometimes humorous but all of the time fascinating in a representation of the world's people, politics, history and current affairs.

The amount of rice used varies according to which version is performed, Of All The People In All The World: UK is a standard small version using 1,000Kg of rice to represent 60,000,000 people. Of All The People In All The World: Europe at 12,000Kg is an example of a medium size version. So far there has been a single presentation of Of All The People In All The Worldin which the whole world's population was represented by 104 tons of rice in Stuttgart.

Each performance responds to it's location, with many of the piles showing fascinating statistics about Birmingham and the West Midlands, and performers choose what statistics to place where in discussion with colleagues and input from visitors to the show.  Statistics themselves are drawn from sources Stan's Cafe have confidence in but include newspapers, radio, internet and academic books.

The use of Two Snow Hill offers a reflection, quite literally in the glass covering the building, of the nearby Colmore Business District with a pile of rice showing the numbers of workers in the district and a view outwards to the city and world with a view looking out to St Chads Cathedral near to piles of rice showing the attendees of Pope Benedict XVI visit to Cofton Park in 2010.

The performance is a tenth anniversary for Stans Cafe, returning to Birmingham, after touring 50 cities across the world having been seen by 250,000 people.  Stan's Cafe was founded in 1991 and it was 2003 it first conceived the show.

Conceived by James Yarker, Stan’s Cafe’s founder and artistic director was inspired to create a meaningful way to bring incomprehensible statistics to life after observing how we often struggle to truly grasp huge numbers.

Some of the amazing statistics displayed include a huge pile of rice showing people living in a country in which they were not born and a pile of rice showing McDonald's global daily customers which sitting next to a pile showing the UK population makes stark viewing.

Having seen the performance previously at Stan's Cafe's AE Harris home in the Jewellery Quarter, where the performance used the industrial setting as part of it's displays, the office block setting contrasts the shiny new office development with the piles of rice representing statistics both fascinating and stark.  The pile of rice representing those killed in the Holocaust with the small pile showing the Jews Oscar Schindler saved is a powerful reminder of the scale of that horror but also the tale of hope for those Schindler saved. 

Considering it’s essentially piles of inanimate material, seeing the work can be a surprisingly moving and emotional experience. Recalling a visual representation of Martin Luther King Jr’s historic 1963 civil rights march on Washington, James says: “One woman said she’d seen herself in the show, and was much more insistent than other people. The shape of the rice pile was of a crowd of people standing around the long reflective pools. She pointed to a grain of rice on the edge, and said ‘That’s me there – I fell into the pool, I was five!’”

Of All The People In All The World runs until Sunday April 21 at Two Snowhill, Snow Hill Queensway, Birmingham. Open Mon-Fri 11am-7pm, Sat/Sun 11am-6pm. Admission free.

The following pictures show some of the performance and the new Snow Hill office block.

People who live in Birmingham born elsewhere.

Two Snow Hill office block and surrounds.


Popular Posts