In May 2022, Burning Man artist, David Best, in conjunction with Artichoke UK created Sanctuary – a public artwork and COVID-19 memorial for the nation, to pay tribute to those lost during the pandemic. It was also a moment to mark rebirth, recovery, and regeneration.
Built by Best and his crew, together with the local community, in the Miners’ Welfare Park in Bedworth, North Warwickshire, individuals from the local community took part in the project, employed to assist with the build and volunteering as Sanctuary guardians and guides once it was open to the public. Unusual Rigging was contracted to provide production management and rigging services, to survey the site, provide condition reports, plan the build layout and production compound as well as manage the structural build and post event clean up.
Kate Harvey, Director of Projects at Artichoke UK, commented: “We began work with the Unusual team on Sanctuary in 2020 at the very start of the project, enlisting their expertise to provide logistics and oversight of the entire project including advice on site condition, engineering of the timber sculpture, directing structural build and contribution to production reports including SAG reports. They were involved in everything from the initial assessment of the site right through to the burn and clear up as well as plans for re-landscaping, post event.”
As COVID-19 continued to tighten its grip, the project was delayed a number of times with ongoing restrictions pushing the project back until a date of May 2022 was set. “The Unusual team, along with Artichoke producers met with the US based artist team and were responsible for ensuring that the structure was built as the artist had designed, including scoping the UK based contractors for supply of wood and CNC cutting, and that the framework was engineered to meet UK standards. Unusual provided the vital link between the artist and the UK contractors delivering the elements required. Unusual also detailed liaison between the artist and the RSC who joined the project as partners to build the supporting frame structure,” Harvey said.
The result was a magnificent ornate ‘temple’ standing over 65ft tall. During the course of the week, the sculpture was visited by over 16,500 people with 10,000 tickets reserved for the night of the burn. “The neutral sacred space created by David Best and his team unearthed a deep sense of loss and grief in the many people who visited the sculpture. The walls and niches were filled with tributes to people and experiences lost through COVID-19; to lives cut short through tragedy or illness and messages of hope and courage,” Harvey noted.
Sanctuary was embraced by all faiths with visits from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dean of Coventry Cathedral as well as the BVS Sikh temple feeding the crew and leading prayers for the community.
On 28 May 2022, Sanctuary was set alight and razed to the ground to ‘help people heal’ from the COVID-19 pandemic, with Best explaining that when people ask why burn something so beautiful, his response is that ‘it takes something beautiful to hold all that emotion’.
“Artichoke has worked with Unusual on almost every project since The Sultan’s Elephant – our first in 2006. As always Unusual’s work is exemplary,” Harvey concluded. “The individual team members are all experts in their field, pay great attention to detail and meet every challenge with energy and professionalism.”