Blog written by Ryan, a participant in the Y Heritage, Kick the Dust funding programme, Sanctuaries. 


As a resident of The Y Leicester, unable to work, I decided to get involved with The Y Heritage Project. Through this, I chose to do a work placement with ArtReach and work on something called The Sanctuaries Project. Being a young person who also lives at the Y and is making progress, I am seen by younger residents as a kind of role model and so I became the ideal person to get other young people at The Y involved and engaged in the project.


As a way of doing this, I was given the task of putting together a trip to London for the young people that involved immersive experiences. I decided to look for places to visit that would be accessible to a wide audience and would give people something to relate to the Sanctuaries project.


It was important to me that the experience would inspire the younger residents to think more about what kind of environments make them feel like they’re safe and have freedom.


The first place we visited was a place in Hackney called OtherWorld. It involved being inside of an enclosed pod with a virtual reality headset and people are then transported to a Virtual Hub called OtherWorld where participants can move around and speak to each other via headphones. You moved controllers in your hands in a walking motion and you would move in the virtual space around you.


Whilst adventuring in the OtherWorld, you could feel the heat of a burning fire as you moved closer to it and the wind on your face as you slipped down a slope. An arctic area with penguins left you feeling icy and cold. If you were a rebel, you’d pick a penguin up and throw it at your mate.


When the young people left the OtherWorld, the change in mood was plain to see. They’d left with a sense of freedom to move around and felt safe in the space together, even if in reality, they were isolated in a pod.


Next, we went to the Barbican museum to visit the ‘A.I: More Than Human’ exhibit where there was an art installation that involved moving images and Chinese symbols projected onto all four walls in a room and when someone’s shadow touched a symbol it would respond and change and move.


An A.I. (Artifical Intelligence) exhibit may seem at first glance like a very vague relation to The Sanctuaries Project but really A.I is all about exploring your place in the world, extending the mind and liberation, not to mention privacy and freedom.


When we think about safe spaces and what a space is to you, whether it is a real physical space or an imagined or visualised space in the mind, these are places that make us feel a sense of liberty and it usually relates to how we see ourselves and how we’d like to see the people and the world around us.


We often go to these safe spaces because of a feeling of fear of what we can’t control in our environment.


How do we relate to each other and how do we perceive ourselves? These questions are often reflected in what we would call a safe space.


Ultimately, I hope that by exploring these ideas, we can become more open to thinking about safe spaces and what we might call Sanctuary. What is a sanctuary to you?


Think about this question further at the ‘Sanctuaries: Looking for Safe Spaces’ event on Friday 21 June and Saturday 22 June, 12 to 7pm at All Saints Church, Leicester. Find out more here.