The meaning of rice?

14 September 2008

This is an old post, so may include broken links and/or out-of-date information

I went along to the Stan’s Cafe show Of All The People In All The World (aka The Rice Show) today, not really knowing what to expect other than heaps of rice representing various people-related statistics.

I’d heard good things from people who’d seen the small version of the show but I still wondered, how interesting could different-sized piles of rice really be?


I was by turns moved, amused, amazed, shocked and disgusted by a surprisingly diverse collection of statistics. There are so many representations; from the population of India (which made me gasp out loud), to the number of people at the 2008 Moseley Folk Festival (I was there!); from babies growing up in UK jails, to the total number of space tourists there’s ever been ... and even Condoleeza Rice.

The juxtaposition of certain stats gave me pause for thought too. For example, how on earth did Liverpool’s population explode so dramatically between 1770 and 1773? The answer’s at the show – and is particularly sobering.

For me, a great deal of the show’s power came from the fact that I was wandering around it with a single grain of rice clutched between by thumb and index finger. Everyone picks up a grain – which represents themselves – when they enter the show and, to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what the point of this was at first. But when confronted with colossal mountains of rice, and knowing that each grain represents just one individual, that miniscule speck between your fingertips gives you an acute and actually quite overwhelming sense of perspective.

New stats are being added and existing ones updated all the time to keep the show current, so it’s different every time you go. And I’ll definitely be going back. The show’s at the AE Harris Factory near St Paul’s Square until 5th October – check the Stan’s Cafe website for details. Go – and be completely awestruck by 112 tonnes of rice.

(There are more Of All The People ... photos by me and others here on Flickr.)

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