Over the past three weeks, SANCTUM, the twelfth Dark Mountain book has been making its way into the world. To mark its launch, the Dark Mountain website has run a series of pieces about the rather extraordinary collaborations that went into the making of this book – and I wanted to share those with you.

  • To start with, you can read the full text of the editorial which Steve Wheeler and I wrote to introduce the book. What led us to make a Dark Mountain book about ‘the sacred’ – and how did we approach this territory?
  • The next post introduces the unique artistic collaboration which brought this book to life. Thomas Keyes started out as a graffiti artist in Belfast – and has since combined his mastery of street art with a fascination with the craft of the medieval illuminated manuscripts. For this book, he assembled a crew of fellow artists – somewhere between a graffiti team and a monastic scriptorium – who brought colour and flow to the words of the book’s contributors, working on parchment which Thomas made from the skins of roadkill deer from the Highlands of Scotland, where he now lives.

    This book required the best part of twenty skins and took me into situations that can’t have troubled many since the monastic age.

  • In The Snake in the Margins, Sylvia V. Linsteadt introduces the other unique collaboration at the heart of this book. When Steve and I invited her to take on the role of Marginalian, we didn’t know exactly what that would mean, except that we wanted a strong female voice to run as a counterpoint to the main text – and to our own role as editors – before claiming the final word with the piece that would close the book. In collaboration with the artist Rima Staines, Sylvia brought magic to this role, summoning the voice of the Sibyl of Cumae to inhabit its pages and foretell its destiny.
  • With a normal issue of Dark Mountain, we would run a series of pieces taken from its pages on the website – but this time around, instead of the usual range of forty or fifty stories, essays, poems, conversations and artworks, we commissioned just twelve long non-fiction pieces to form the backbone of the book. The fourth post in our launch series, Twelve Pieces, introduces each of these and gives a flavour of the book as a whole.
  • Apart from being the most fully-developed artistic project I’ve had the chance to do with Dark Mountain, the best thing about SANCTUM was the people I got to know along the way. Believing in Holidays is a conversation with one of those people, Elizabeth Slade, who is working among the ruins of the institutional forms of religion which lost their hold on countries like the UK or Sweden a couple of generations ago. It starts with an extract from the essay she wrote for the book, The God-Shaped Hole.
  • Finally, Coda rounds off the series with some reflections from Steve and myself on the initial reactions to the book – and our own feelings about finally seeing it in the world.

There will be more announcements and events around SANCTUM over the next few months. Meanwhile, if you’re anywhere near Devon on Saturday 9 December, you can join Steve, Thomas, Elizabeth and others for the book’s official launch.