Night & Refuge

Public Collaborative Writing Event

Event duration: 3 hours |  Lead artist, host-poet: Caroline Bergvall: |  Guest Poets: Leo Boix, Vahni Capildeo, Will Harris, Nisha Ramayya| Digital writing desk: Mays Albeik |

Filming & editing: Andrew Delaney | Sound Design: Jamie Hamilton | Overall Production: Caroline Bergvall

Artist Statement

My motivation as a poet and interdisciplinary artist is to create live works that energize a personal engagement with one’s surroundings, with one’s time, and with others: spaces of respite and of shared critical spirit. My material is often rooted in languages, spoken, written, remembered, reclaimed.

With Night & Refuge, my focus was to initiate a live writing event between a few UK based poets, open to the public. Due to Covid-19 it took place online.

Two Videos

The Night & Refuge film. Recomposed into an 19 minutes experience, it features a visually startling rendition of the event. It closes with the collective poem, read in 5 voices, a poetic audiowork against a changing filmed evening sky.

The full unedited event. The 3 hour long zoom video traces the entirety of this public composition and all of its actants.


On 20 May 2020, under the constraints of the global Covid-19 lockdown, I hosted a 3 hour long collaborative public writing event with four great UK-based poets: Vahni Capildeo , Will Harris, Leo Boix and Nisha Ramayya.

Stanzas of the poem replicated the stages of the night: Civil, Nautical, Astronomical Twilights, Night. The alternating tercets and couplets followed the ancient Japanese collaborative form of the Renga. Its insistence on seasonal thematics, which matches my Sonic Atlas projects.

Our Season: late Spring of Covid-19  Confinement – Northern Hemisphere – early Evening from 6pm-9pm BST.

Digital Writing Desk: A flexible platform developed with visual artist Mays Albeik  allowed the poets and our audience to witness the poem as it was being written.

Open discussions accompanied the making of the poem: what is refuge, what of the night, its changing productivity, which constellations, how to write at this time of collective isolation, each with our complex sense of identity, of transhistorical hold and geo-mobilities.

Writers and readers got involved over Twitter providing comments, handwritten notes and poetic lines at #nightandrefuge. They became part of the fabric of the nocturnal event.


Photo credit: Screenshots, Andrew Delaney


Photo credit: Screenshots, Andrew Delaney

Audience Feedback

“It was the totality of the various threads of writing, talk about writing, the stories, locations, medium and context that fascinated and moved me. I did take pleasure in watching the poets edit their text, rooting for my preference and learning from their choices—O, those lines breaks”.

“A good example of ‘slow art’: nothing was in your face, and it could have been boring very easily but it wasn’t for one minute”.

“Amazing how intimate it felt, and it was wonderful to connect with like-minded poets and thinkers from across the globe.

“Collaborative work is a political act”.


Night & Refuge (film)
The full unedited event captured live online Duration: 3 hours 20 may 2020 6pm-9pm BST

Twitter Writings

To be at this point where the poem ends is quite surreal! it’s approaching 4 am in Singapore now.
Cat Chong

Going back to the eco-discourse earlier: climate change is changing our relationship to sleep and night. Higher temperatures are affecting sleep patterns
Orchid Tierney

The darkness of the dark amplifies
the soundness of rooms – the loss of home
is the loss of the familiar darkness of sounds
Saradha Soobrayen

As the night draws in and the heat somewhat recedes
Theo Chiotis

The light shifting in Caroline Bergvall’s room is like a sixth poet asserting herself
Allison Adair


Night & Refuge opens the final stages of my ongoing cycle of performative works Sonic Atlas. These exist as part of my interest in setting up creative and exploratory dialogues and taking these into performance.

My focus this past few years with Sonic Atlas projects has been towards encounters with poets and language-activists who work with different minorised languages in the UK and EU, as well as with thinkers and practitioners from various fields.

Each work is framed by complicity, critical spirit, friendships across borders and artforms. To create performances that can exist as holistic sound landscapes: through which to experience, to breathe and to think together.

Sonic Atlas started with the sunrise performance  Ragadawn. Into the afternoon and evening with Conference of the Birds. Led by Night & Refuge, the remaining projects will  take place under the sign of  twilight and of the night. The sign of gestation, insights, intimacy, and the re-emergence of collective archetypes.  To be diving into the unknown of the night at this time of collective upheavals feels like a timely flow and a powerful ride.

Poem in 5 voices

Final Stanza: Astronomical Twilight





I was born at night

in the Southern Hemisphere.

My heart, upside down.


now in-between

knows k/nots


And downstairs [we] go

and the tap glows with liquid

sounds and [you] and [I]


Cry out like sailors: night’s empty

All the constellations are here


poetry as a skin between us, our oceanic bodies

passing like junk in the moonlight, like ghosts

at the fugitive houseparty, let’s not really leave



© Caroline Bergvall, SONIC ATLAS, and the poets