Year of Shakespeare: Of All the People in All the WorldArtFestivalsYear of Shakespeare

  • BethanyChilvers

This post is part of Year of Shakespeare, a project documenting the World Shakespeare Festival, the greatest celebration of Shakespeare the world has ever seen.


Of All the People in All the World, Stan’s Cafe, 21 June 2012 at the PACCAR Room, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

By Bethany Chilvers, University of Birmingham

Of All the People in all the World is an installation by Birmingham theatre group Stan’s Cafe, and is being displayed at the Royal Shakespeare Company during the World Shakespeare Festival, an event that celebrates Shakespeare as the world’s poet.   Displaying this exhibition throughout the World Shakespeare Festival seems completely fitting as Stan’s Cafe uses grains of rice to bring human statistics to life, ultimately aiming to understand the people we share the planet with.  The exhibition has seen 1000kg of rice brought to Stratford-upon-Avon, with the total grains of rice equating to the population of the United Kingdom.  The statistics are constantly being changed as they respond to current events, as well as the area, and even the building where the installation is based.  The statistics are then juxtaposed in certain ways in order to suggest particular themes and ideas to the audience.
On first entering the room displaying the exhibition I was somewhat underwhelmed, the room was seemingly bland and had little to offer.  However, whilst reading the label next to each pile of rice I began to understand that there did not need to be anything additional in the room as the statistics spoke for themselves.  Some of the statistics were light hearted, such as one pile of rice that displayed the ‘people who watched the penalty shoot out between Chelsea and Bayern Munich live on ITV’, which was interestingly one of the biggest piles of rice in the room.  However, in contrast to this, other statistics were much more hard hitting.  Another two of the bigger piles of rice indicated the number of ‘prisoners in the world’ and the ‘people who died from AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa in 2010′, and both of these statistics have stuck in my mind.  For me, the visual aspect of the project achieved a sense of grasping the scale of particular issues that facts and figures do not do.  The project allowed for certain events to be put into perspective but really highlighted some of the problems facing different areas in the world.  In addition to this, I felt that the project demonstrated the way in which the world is constantly evolving.  One section of the room saw two piles of rice placed next to each other, one showed the ‘people who die in the world each day’, whilst the other specified the ‘people born in the world each day’, with the pile displaying the amount of people born into the world each day being sizeably bigger.  The juxtaposition of these two statistics was very powerful, and gave a clear message about how quickly the world is expanding.

Despite this, Stan’s Cafe have been criticised for unethical usage of rice, with some arguing that the rice could be used to feed others.  However, Stan’s Cafe state that the rice which is used for larger scale events is usually sent back to the supplier for washing and resale, whereas for smaller events the rice is given away to charity or used for animal feed, and therefore, for me, this doesn’t seem to be a prominent issue.

James Yarker is the artistic director of the project and has seen his work travel around the world, and I would recommend that people visit Of All the People in All the World if it were to be displayed near them.  Overall, the installation is very thought provoking, and by bringing together statistics from all around the world it strengthens our understanding of the people we share the planet with.

To view photographs of some of the statistics in the exhibit visit Stan’s Cafe’s Flickr page here

What do you think of this exhibition and idea? Add your thoughts to the discussion below!


To read more reviews of the performances and events that are a part of the World Shakespeare Festival, visit Year of Shakespeare.