Dilston Grove

London, 2003

Former Clare College Mission Church, Bermondsey, London
Commissioned by LIFT and presented in association with Café Gallery Projects and Artsadmin. Created with financial support from Arts Council England, London.
Sound composition Graeme Miller.

Working with sound artist and composer Graeme Miller, Ackroyd & Harvey temporarily transformed the unique site of Dilston Grove, a de-consecrated and now derelict church in Bermondsey, into a verdant green chamber of living grass.

Dilston Grove (formerly known as Clare College Mission Church) is located on the edge of Southwark Park and was the first concrete church to be built in this country. Designed in an early Italian style, the austere exterior gave way to a dramatic and compelling interior which over a three week period, had life literally drawn back into its very fabric through the interplay of light, sound and growth.

Through the application of clay, germinating grass seed, water and natural light the boundary between growth and decay, reverie and renewal was exposed within this repository of spiritual memory. The artists regarded the architectural structure as in some sense being inert, brooding and boarded up, no longer functioning in the community. Bringing memory to the surface, the living skin of grass literally drew life back within the fabric of the church. A momentary resurrection.

“We have been hoping to bring this proposed work to fruition since we first collaborated together on The Other Side in 1990. It was during the making of this work that we first discussed the derelict church as a potent site for a monumental artwork. After years of searching for a church in London we were specifically drawn to the deconsecrated religious site of the former Clare College Mission at Dilston Grove. We were curious about how the architectural space, the atmosphere, and the perceptions of people entering into it, would be affected by the application of our materials. Having worked with sound artist and composer Graeme Miller on a number of previous site-specific projects, we were also keen for him to develop a sound element integral to the resonance of the space and the artwork.”
(Ackroyd & Harvey, October 2003)