Extraordinary Covid memorial that will be set alight in Bedworth is having a huge impact

There’s something extraordinary going on in Bedworth – but don’t hang around if you want to see it.

Sanctuary has been built since April 27 in Bedworth's Miners' Welfare Park. It opened to the public on Saturday and will be set alight this Saturday, May 28.
Sanctuary has been built since April 27 in Bedworth's Miners' Welfare Park. It opened to the public on Saturday and will be set alight this Saturday, May 28.

Sanctuary, billed as a Covid memorial for the nation, opened to the public on Saturday and is already proving to be a chance for people to remember not just those lost in the past couple of years.

This remarkable piece of art has been created in Miners’ Welfare Park – Bedworth having been chosen because of its unrivalled Remembrance tradition.

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But Sanctuary is open to the public for just this week – and it will be set alight on Saturday evening, May 28.

With a constant stream of people crossing the park to see the wooden structure, to reflect and to share memories, the burning has been repeatedly questioned – but the vision has always been that it would be a powerful moment of letting go, of moving on.

It has been created by artist David Best, famous for his Burning Man temples in the States.

A crew has been working on the build since last month, with a number of people from the area involved through paid placements. A team of volunteers has also been recruited to welcome people to the site and explain more – look out for the people in the orange t-shirts.

It is a project from Artichoke which specialises in large-scale live events, having already worked with David in Northern Ireland for a piece about reconciliation – Sanctuary is his first work in England. It has been done in association with the Coventry-based company Imagineer, with further support from Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, Warwickshire County Council, DCMS Culture Recovery Fund and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Looking to the roof from inside Sanctuary

Artichoke artistic director Helen Marriage told Warwickshire World yesterday, Sunday: “People seem to love it now it’s here. It’s just really moving to see how people have taken it to their hearts.

"Though we launched it on a post-Covid platform I suppose it’s about loss and grief more widely than that. You’re finding people who are memorialising people who died more than 30 years ago.

"It’s really a piece articulating what we all feel but it’s quite hard to say out loud.

"It sounds mawkish to say it’s about death, it isn’t about death, it’s about loss. It’s about how we move on, how we survive those extraordinary things that happen in everyone’s life.

All kinds of messages have been added to Sanctuary, some on pieces of paper, on offcuts - or event written directly onto the structure

“Grief is very personal and you lock it away but when you come here and you say something or write something you realise that though that doesn’t diminish your own loss, everybody is carrying something. Everyone’s got something to deal with."

To those who don’t want to see something so beautiful set alight, she added: "If the building itself is to hold all of those memories and all of that stuff, you also symbolically have to let go of the piece as well. Everything that has been invested in it, everything that’s been held, David’s guarantee to people is that there will be a release, that people will let go of those feelings and to do it together in celebration, that’s a really important thing.”

The burning of Sanctuary will take place at sunset on Saturday, likely to be at about 9pm. It is a free but ticketed event and to find out more, click here.

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