Kindness to Ulfah

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.

The week’s second DIY manual is DIY, edited by Robert Jude Daniels of Chichester University and Bootworks. It is a diverting compendium of ‘how to make theatre’ essays from a host of UK companies, including lots of refreshingly fresh faces. Predictably Stan’s Cafe grasped the stick at totally the wrong end and contributed an essay about audiences doing it themselves. It’s an unashamedly niche read, but often very nicely designed and a good introduction to lots of companies whose work you’d have to go well out of your way to encounter live and in the flesh.

Moving more mainstream, friend of Stan Luke Brown has just had is first novel published. My Biggest Lie was launched at Ikon last month. The book is currently resident on the other bedside table, I look forward to reading it when it crosses over – the promise is that it’s both clever and funny.

On my side One Hell of A Gamble is currently being cross referenced with One Minute To Midnight for Any Fool Can Start A War but frankly after to day’s excellent showing at Billesley Primary School I don’t know why I’m bothering, they’re perfectly capable of generating a show’s worth of excellent material on their own. Their brainstormed contributions to Operation Mongoose scheming to assasinate Fidel Castro are hilarious and spot on.

Given the urgency of my Cuban missile swotting I shouldn’t be reading Russell Hoban’s The Bat Tattoo, but it had been on my shelf unread way too long and there was that moment when I was waiting for the others to be ready to leave the house and I was only going to read the first couple of pages… I love Russell Hoban. Reviews of his novels seem to always classify his work as strange but I don’t think of it that way at all. I just find them massively comforting. The Bat Tattoo is no exception.

More challening is Karima Bennoune’s Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here. It’s a stark reminder that whilst here we may whinge about a lack of money or difficulties finding venues or audience there are artists elsewhere in the world risking their lives in order present their art to a public. A humbling read.

And lest we grow complacent let’s not ignore the plight of Birmingham’s own Ulfah Arts whose HQ was destroyed by arsonists last week. Sometimes it takes guts to make art way beyond the petty aesthetic anxieties Stan’s Cafe suffer – respect is due.

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