Sanctuary Forest 24-Hour Art Event Getting Set to Reach for the Stars

Dumfries and Galloways unique off-grid forest art event is this weekend as visitors from across the country are set to reach for the stars at this weekend’s Sanctuary art event in the heart of Galloway’s Dark Sky Park.

There will be interactive and experimental exhibits by more than two dozen artists including a virtual reality journey into space created by Sian Yeshe from Langholm.

There will be stargazing with Dark Sky Ranger Elizabeth Tindal, Rachel Rosen will invite people on a “sky walk” tracing the form of the constellation Cepheus and Natalie Marr will invite people into a special shelter linked to sensitive microphones to do some deep listening to the sounds of the forest at night.

The event which is free and family-friendly, takes place around Murray’s Monument on the A712, near Newton Stewart, for 24 hours from 12pm on Saturday, 23 September to noon the following day.

Sian, an emerging young artist who works with sound and video, has collaborated with physics computer simulation specialist Osemudiame Dawodu to create an installation called EPSY which allows people to step inside a dome to experience the journey of a lifetime.

She said:Sanctuary is such a great place to experiment. We’ve created a dome which people can go inside and put on special headgear to experience a virtual reality journey into space.
“Their voyage will start with the blast off from Earth and they will head out towards a supernova before being sucked into a black hole.”

There will be projections of the constellations onto the outside of the dome as well as scenes of the VR footage.

The event will see artists from far and wide coming together with others based in the region. Artworks by Dumfries and Galloway artists include:

  • Enclosure by Robbie Coleman. The event’s signature artwork, a 100ft blue neon circle that brings a sublime and magical glow to the area. The work is lit for a limited time to preserve the dark skies quality of the site.
  • Wave Decay by Katie Anderson and Justin K Prim: An experimental sound and sculptural installation, exploring ideas of time and decay. Its eight-way sound system, with large sculptural speaker horns, play sounds which appear to change as listeners moves around the installation.
  • Will o’ The Wisp by Martin O’Neill: Martin is a writer and artist fascinated by language. Will o’ The Wisp consists of a poetic verse that reveals itself unexpectedly in the woodland leading to Sanctuary.
  • Sea Hames by Oceanallover: The latest site-specific performance from leading physical theatre and street performance company Oceanallover. A combination of performance, music and fabulous costume.
  • WhiteMill by Mark Zygadlo: A crafted 5m tall mobile wooden Mediterranean style windmill with water purification unit. It’s a beautiful work of art that uses millwright’s craft and the latest in filtration technology to answer one of mankind’s most ancient challenges, a clean water supply.
  • SOLA / SIMUL by Rachel Shnapp, a performance with movement and heand help projectors

Dave Borthwick, a poet who also leads the Environment, Culture and Communication programme at the University of Glasgow’s rural campus in Dumfries, will also be tramping the site with filmmaker Kirsten McMahon gathering visitors’ tales and anecdotes about the dark in exchange for a secret token.

One of the highlights will be Dancing the Troposphere by Scottish artist Silas Parry, which will see visitors being invited to join costumed dancers as a large helium filled data gathering helikite is launched into the skies above the site.

Jo Hodges, co-curator, said: “Sanctuary is a very special event – it’s off-grid in the heart of a remote and beautiful Scottish countryside, beyond the reach of everyday distractions like mobile phones.
“You can join an international community and enjoy interactive artworks, video, performance, talks and workshops. It’s welcoming and family friendly, and the emphasis is on participation, so there’s lots to do and see.
“Sanctuary exists for 24 hours and then vanishes without trace”

Sanctuary began in 2013 and is now established as one of Scotland’s most friendly, unusual and enjoyable events.

There will also be Dark Outside FM, a site-specific radio station playing previously unheard music contributed from all round the world. It’s a complete one-off as listeners can only tune in onsite and the sound files are destroyed when the event ends.

Sanctuary is suitable for all ages. Workshops for families include a “torch hunt and build”, experiments with infrared cameras and a rocket building workshop.


  • Where: Sanctuary is at Murray’s Monument, A712, near Newton Stewart, Galloway Forest Dark Skies Park, DG8 7BL.
  • When: Noon Saturday 23 September to noon Sunday 24 September
  • Find out more at sanctuarylab.org or [email protected]. Follow on @sanctuarylab
  • For more about Reach visit reach.sanctuarylab.org

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