Soft Sanctuary Season

Soft Sanctuary is a project which artist Bella Milroy first developed for Human Libraries back in 2019 as a series of events at Bootle Library. The project centres disabled experiences through a universal concept of finding care and wellbeing, and celebrates the sanctuary nature of the library as a place to relax, feel safe and looked after. It has since developed into a programme of live events, written essays, recipes, film and podcasts. Exclusively featuring disabled artists, Soft Sanctuary explores the ceremonies of everyday life, and the disabled practices which offer us joy, ease and rest. 

Methods of Care: Ramen Edition

Our Human Library Chopping Club producers Gregory Herbert and Niamh Riordan have collaborated with artist Kyla Harris and Bella to produce a film of Kyla’s ‘Comfort Ramen’ recipe, which weaves in footage of Kyla directing Niamh in the preparation of her recipe, with conversations between Kyla and Bella around sick day foods, care, and personal assistants.

Soft Sanctuary Introduction, by Bella Milroy

Soft Sanctuary began with a simple premise offered to me by Maria Brewster of Human Libraries/Rule of Threes back in 2019, when I was asked to create a day in the library based on the idea of “people having a nice time”. What a concept! As an artist, this felt like such a rare opportunity to get to explore ideas of pleasure, leisure, rest and care in ways that feel wondrously expansive and yet beautifully simple. The idea of holding this event at Bootle Library added a whole new dimension of excitement to the project. The nature of these  essential, social and democratic spaces instantly offers a more accessible format of engagement for the people that use it every day, and there is something really fascinating about the sense of safety that the library offers. A core part of my own creative practice as a disabled artist is continually inspired by concepts of public and private spaces, and where the sick and/or disabled body exists within them. What motivated me to consider what to include as part of this “nice day” for library goers and creatives alike, was to take advantage of the safety found within the public nature of the library. I wanted to explore some of the practices used to create a similar sense of safety and security within personal and domestic spaces; methods which are often used as a way to combat the stresses, strains, hardships and pains of everyday life. My ambition was to take these small and often private moments of magic, and hold them tenderly within the safe, publicness of the library. I wanted to give it a table, a collection of hands to chop and mouths to feed, where people gather and think on the space between them and the bodies that exist there. I wanted to make room for these practices to be celebrated. 

Sick Day Banquet

Sick Day Banquet is a collection of recipes designed by disabled artists: Leah Clements, Kyla Harris, Raisa Kabir, Romily Alice Walden and Bella Milroy, celebrating their ideal sick day foods.

Access as Meditation

A love letter to image descriptions and closed captions, by Bella Milroy.

When I Feel Bad

A colouring book by Invalid Art.

Podcast: disabled joy and empathy, ableism and attraction with bella milroy, steph niciu and laura yates

Artist Bella Milroy and writer Steph Niciu caught up with Laura Yates, one of our participation producers. They touch on the social model of disability, its power in giving disabled people agency and identity, taking charge of your own mental health, and holistic approaches to programming.  

Podcast: in conversation about human libraries — bella milroy, maria brewster & laura yates

Artist Bella & our lead curator, Maria Brewster, caught up to chat about Bella’s on-going programme for Soft Sanctuary and Maria’s drive to create, curate and deliver participatory art in library contexts.

Interview with Bella Milroy

We’ve been working with Bella Milroy since 2019 first through a short February plant workshop with Sean Roy Parker in Pool Our Resources and second through a larger project called Soft Sanctuary.

Past Events

Apr 2021

To conclude Soft Sanctuary Season, join us on Friday 9th April at 11 am for a special event with artist Bella Milroy.

Bella will lead a short creative writing exercise based on her zine: ‘Access as Meditation: a love letter to image descriptions and closed captioning‘, which you can read here. We’ll think about how we can use words to describe images and sounds, and how this can offer new calming methods of being mindful and present at the moment, whilst positively contributing to the accessibility of online spaces.

After a short break, Bella will then join us for a relaxed and informal chat about her work, and about Soft Sanctuary Season, her long-running project with Human Libraries which centres disabled experiences through a universal concept of finding care and wellbeing, and celebrates the sanctuary nature of the library as a place to relax, feel safe and looked after. 

Everyone who books for this event will receive a free care package (if you haven’t already) of printed materials which accompany the Soft Sanctuary programme. These are: Access as Meditation, a zine by Bella Milroy, Sick Day Banquet, a recipe booklet celebrating ideal sick day foods, and When I Feel Bad, a colouring book by Invalid Art. 

This event will take place on Zoom. It is free but booking is essential. To book a spot, please email humanlibraries@gmail.com, or call/text us on 07751240427.  Please include your postal address in your booking email.  If you need any assistance with setting up Zoom, do let us know and we will support you to get it up and running.