In autumn 2015, a remarkable structure arose from within the bombed-out remains of Temple Church in Bristol. For 24 days, 24 hours a day, the site was transformed into an intimate place of listening, in which to hear the city like never before. Between 6pm on 29th October until 6pm on 21st November, Theaster Gates’ Sanctum hosted a continuous programme of sound over 552 hours, sustained by performers, musicians and bands in a temporary structure within the shell of Temple Church, Bristol.

Sanctum was Theaster Gates’ first public project in the UK, produced by Situations, as part of Bristol 2015 European Green Capital. Whilst open and free to visit day and night, the schedule remained secret.

“Like being in a village community. I never thought you could create a village hall in a city!” – Visitor

“It kept drawing us back. There was the call to prayer one morning and the woman handed over to an acoustic act just as the sun started to come up. A seamless transition. Each time I haven’t failed to feel uplifted. I always come away feeling my spirits are lifted.” – Visitor

Having sought out discarded and dormant materials from former places of labour and religious devotion across Bristol, Gates built this extraordinary work, working alongside AN-Architecture.

Entitled Sanctum, the artist invited musicians and performers across Bristol to sustain a performance of sound and spoken word continuously for 24 days, 24 hours a day. Sanctum was open to visitors day and night, capacity remaining limited to ensure the intimacy of the space. Whether a headlining band, spoken word artist or gospel choir this secret schedule contributed to the sense of Sanctum as a gathering space for collaboration and new encounters.

Sanctum performers Photo: Paul Blakemore

About the performers
Over 800 performers took part in Sanctum. You can explore who played when on the Sanctum Tumblr page here. (Please note this is an archived tumblr page and some of the links to personal instagram posts may not be live.)

Portrait of Theaster Gates
Theaster Gates Photo: Max McClure Courtesy Situations

About the artist
Theaster Gates is an artist, musician and activist based in Chicago. Trained as both a sculptor and urban planner, his artworks are rooted in social responsibility as well as a deep belief system. Gates often works with architects, researchers and performers to create artworks.

His most acclaimed work, Dorchester Projects, began in 2009 with Gates transforming a cluster of buildings on Chicago’s South Side into alternative cultural spaces. The artist used repurposed materials from across the city to rehouse retired collections of objects such as 14,000 books from the former Prairie Avenue Bookstore, glass slides from the art history department at the University of Chicago and 8,000 vinyl records from the Dr. Wax record store.

Gates is winner of the 2015 Artes Mundi prize, the founder of the non-profit Rebuild Foundation and Professor in the Department of Visual Arts, University of Chicago.

Theaster Gates, Sanctum, Photo: Max McClure. Courtesy Situations

About the location
Bristol’s Temple Church on Temple Street, off Victoria Street, was the first English parish church to be taken into ownership by the then Ministry of Works, and is today in the care of English Heritage. It is a Grade II listed building and scheduled monument and is popularly known as Temple Church because the original circular church was built by the Knights Templar.

In the 18th century the interior was refitted. The shape of the original Templar church is now marked out on the ground. The famous tower leans 5 feet (1.6 metres) out of the vertical. The church was bombed during the Second World War and gutted by the resulting fire. Only the shell of the building, dating mainly from the 14th century, remained after the bombing on 24th November 1940, 75 years prior to the arrival of Sanctum. Temple Church is not usually open to the public so Sanctum offered rare chance to step inside the building.


The team behind the project

Sanctum was a Situations project for Bristol 2015 European Green Capital funded by Arts Council England Exceptional Fund and the Henry Moore Foundation in partnership with English Heritage. The project is produced in association with MAYK, Babbasa Youth Empowerment Projects, Bristol Plays Music, Drake Music, LARA (Lorraine Ayensu Refugee Arts), St. George’s Bristol and Ujima Radio and supported by Hilton Garden Inn. Sanctum will develop as an ENPAP nomadic project in partnership with Urbane Künste Ruhr in 2016.

Rachael Baskeyfield, Digital Reporter
Jo Baxendale, On-site Production Assistant
Georgina Bolton, Assistant Producer
Maria Carter, Company Manager
Rachel Cartwright, Administrative Assistant
Claire Doherty, Director
Eloise Dunwell, UWE MA Curating intern
Luke Emery, Producer
Sarah James, Deputy Director
Laura Jeffery, Communications Manager
Rowan Lear. Communications Manager
Michael Prior, Associate Producer (Engagement)
Dave Wilkie, Production Manager

Associate Programme Producers – MAYK
Matthew Austin & Kate Yedigaroff, Co-Directors
Bethany West, Arts Administration Assistant

Programme Advisor
Edson Burton

Andrew T. Cross, ANArchitecture

Build Team
Tom Dawson
Charlie Eccleston
Dan Halhead
Jeff Ive
Jackson James
Sean Kerr
Elliott Mills
Matt Pike
Brody Stevens

Situations Rising
Kamina Walton, Christina Ashmole, Emma Morsi, Laura Gabe

Digital Storytellers
Ailsa Fineron, Alex Part, Ella Marshall, Ella Trudgeon, Eva Ennals, Issy Snailham, Jasmine Thompson, Nawaaz Hussain, Nicola Pearce, Rogina James, Roisin Kelly, Shamil Ahmed, Sophie Malpas

PR and Press
Sam Talbot and Olivia Cerio, Sutton PR

Sam Irving and Tom Booth, LightTrap Films, Benjamin Croce

Inner Sanctum Online Partner
Canvas powered by Rightster

Design and web development
Extra Strong

Outdoor furniture design
Knowle West Factory

With thanks to: Andrew Kelly, Bristol Cultural Development Partnership; Jo Baxendale, Adam Gent, Phil Gibby, Peter Heslip and Simon Jutton, Arts Council England; Zoe Sear and the team at Bristol 2015; George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol; Helen Allen, Melanie Barge, Amy Hulyer, Jennifer McCracken, Niall Morrisey, Michael Murray-Fennell, Alex Page and Win Scutt, English Heritage; Claire Feeley; Alexandra Small and Theaster Gates studio, Chicago; La Keisha Leek and the University of Chicago; Will Davies, Nicola Jeffs and the team at White Cube; Rob Harding; Mary Jane Jacob and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Kevin Byrnes, Amy Newman and Mario Laaf, Hilton Garden Inn; Katja Assman, Urbane Künste Ruhr; Major Ian Mountford, Salvation Army; Victoria Holden, Melissa Inman, Aldo Rinaldi and Clare Teasdale, Bristol City Council; Michael Beek, Louise Orchard and Suzanne Rolt, St. George’s Bristol; Poku Osei, Amy Gallivant and Aisha Shakoor, Babbasa Youth Empowerment Projects; Luke Turner and Marcus Campbell, Drake Music; Phil Casting and Laurie Stewart, Bristol Plays Music; Qerim Nuredini and Danny Vincent, Bristol Refugee Rights; Roger Griffith, Ujima Radio; Kathryn Davis, Destination Bristol; Paul Isaacs, Generator South West; Rhiannon Jones, Trinity; Stephanie Kempson; Graham Hodge, Sarah Hamilton and Susannah Simons, Canvas; Melissa Mean,Knowle West Media Centre.

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