Caroline Bergvall: Night & Refuge

We are delighted to share this film of Caroline Bergvall’s Night & Refuge, a public collaborative writing event between five UK-based poets, which took place over Zoom during the Covid-19 lockdown.

This unique event happened online on 20 May 2020 between 6-9pm BST, and spanned many time-zones. This short film, edited to be visually and sonically startling, shows the five poets exchanging thoughts and processes while developing the shared poem.

Curator and host-poet Caroline Bergvall had set a brief loosely inspired by the tradition of Renga – an ancient and strict rule-bound Japanese form of collective writing. The motifs to be explored followed the phases of the night and asked: what is the night, what is refuge, how does one seek refuge during this pandemic confinement?

Many other writers started joining in spontaneously with comments and lines on Twitter at #nightandrefuge. They slowly became part of the event. The writing in progress was made visible to the poets and audiences alike through a Digital Writing Desk developed with visual artist Mays Albeik.  

Filmed and edited by Andrew Delaney.

Sound design by Jamie Hamilton.

Produced by C. Bergvall.

A Sonic Atlas Project.


Vahni Capildeo is a Trinidadian Scottish writer working on their eighth full-length book (their fourth from Carcanet Press). Recent collaborations include Light Site Poetry with Andre Bagoo, linked to Capildeo’s Light Site (Periplum, forthcoming 2020). Capildeo is Writer in Residence at the University of York and a Seamus Heaney Centre fellow at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Will Harris is a poet and critic from London. He has had work published in The Guardian, The White Review, the TLS, and the LRB. He was the co-editor of the Spring 2020 issue of The Poetry Review. His debut collection RENDANG (Granta) is the Poetry Book Society Choice for Spring.

Leo Boix is a Latinx bilingual poet born in Argentina who lives and works in the UK. Boix has been included in many anthologies, such as Ten: Poets of the New Generation (Bloodaxe) and Un Nuevo Sol: British Latinx Writers (flipped eye). He is a fellow of The Complete Works Program and the recipient of the Keats-Shelley Prize 2019. Boix debut collection will be published by Chatto & Windus (Penguin/Random House) in 2021.

Nisha Ramayya grew up in Glasgow and is currently based in London. Her debut collection States of the Body Produced by Love (2019) is published by Ignota Books. Other publications include ‘Notes on a Means without End’ (2020) in Poetry Review; In Me the Juncture (2019) published by Sad Press; Threads (2018), a critical-creative pamphlet co-authored with Sandeep Parmar and Bhanu Kapil, published by clinic.

Mays Albaik is an artist whose interdisciplinary visual practice has literary writing at its heart and includes performance, video, and spatial installations. Holds an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design; a B.Arch from the American University of Sharjah. She has participated in exhibitions including Qala 0.8900 (Darat Al Funun, Jordan); Glass Triennial (Woods Gerry Gallery, USA); Sawt 2a (Grey Noise, Dubai); Mind the Gap (Tashkeel, Dubai), and Change Coordinates + Someone Else (1971 Design Space, Sharjah).

Caroline Bergvall – Initiator and Host-poet of the event. Writer, artist, and performer who works across art-forms, media and languages. The recipient of many international commissions, she is a noted exponent of writing and performance methods adapted to contemporary audiovisual and contextual situations, as well as multilingual identities and translocal exchange. Awarded the Heidsieck Art Literary Prize, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2017). Cholmondeley Award for Poetry for her book and project Drift (2017). Latest book Alisoun Sings (2019). Ongoing cycle of live works, Sonic Atlas (2016-).  

Night & Refuge is a project within Bergvall’s ongoing cycle of interdisciplinary performances Sonic Atlas, which explores languages in movement and in transformation through speech, sounds, songwork in a range of performative situations. It began with Ragadawn (2016), staged at daybreak in locations as diverse as Marseille and the Isle of Skye, and continued with Conference of the Birds (2018) a discussion soundwork first presented at the Whitstable Biennale.

You can find out more about the project, including the many twitter contributions, on Caroline Bergvall’s website.

Hosted by event partners Cement Fields and Counterpoints Arts. Co-hosted by Festival of Hope, Versopolis.

This event was made possible with funding from Arts Council England and support from Cement Fields and Counterpoints Arts.