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The Centre of Silence Symposium is a one day event intended to explore the various themes and ideas that will form the basis for the proposed Centre for Silence – a spiritual and cultural centre conceived by the Rev Allan Bell and which is being developed by Studio Ben Allen. The symposium will be organised by Allan Bell and the staff of Studio Ben Allen.

The symposium will involve presentations by a number of specialists in fields that relate the principal theme of silence. Although the exact arrangements for the day are still in planning it is intended that there will be four sessions, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. The sessions will involve a variety of different presentations some performative, some with practical experiments and some in the form of short talks. Following each session of three presentations there will be a chaired discussion. We would ideally like to take advantage of the outdoor area for guests to take a break and as space for reflection and contemplation during the symposium. In between the sessions will be informal refreshment breaks in which participants can meet, mingle and discuss the ideas.

Participants who will be presenting will be from a diverse range of backgrounds including those representing the following areas of interest and expertise: spiritual, philosophical, musical, design / architecture, art, landscape design, urbanism, media, sound ecology / acoustics, accessibility and literature.

We propose that there will be twelve participants who will make presentations and a maximum of 70 guests in total. The event will be by invitation only and ideally run from 9am until 6pm. The remaining guests will be a mixture of acquaintances and colleagues of the ten participants, those who have an involvement or interest in the Centre for Silence project, sponsors and students of the participants who are from an academic or teaching background. We intend that the participants and guests will be from a diverse and representative range of backgrounds.

We will be seeking sponsorship for the event from organisations such as the Wellcome Trust and a number of companies that have an interest in Wellbeing and Acoustics. We aim to cover the cost of some participant’s expenses as well as refreshment and food and any required equipment hire.

A B O U T   T H E   C E N T R E   F O R   S I L E N C E

Our society is noisier than ever before.
In the 21st Century sources of noise are not just aural but also emanate from
the saturated digital and media culture which immerses our daily lives.
The Centre for Silence seeks to provide a place away from the modern din of
daily life for thought and contemplation.

The Centre for Silence is a project conceived by the Rev Allan Bell based on over fifteen years of research. During this time the vision of the Rothko Chapel in Houston, USA has perhaps most influenced the thinking behind the Centre for Silence. It is intended as both a large scale artwork, a public space and an institution with a mission to inspire people to action through art, culture and contemplation.

The Centre for Silence, will offer a place of silence in London, a hallowed space for people of every belief and none; a still sanctuary for the prophetic voice in society; and a platform for all those concerned with the themes of peace, freedom, thoughtfulness and artistic and culture interaction who emanate from a diverse set of global backgrounds and locations.

Architects Studio Ben Allen intend to create a tranquil yet inspiring space in which the public are intrinsic to any cultural interactions and where stillness and contemplation also play a vital part in this dialogue. Joan Littlewood, the 1960’s East End theatre director once said, ‘It’s not just the condition of the building that’s important – it’s also what goes on inside it’


Reverend Allan Bell

The Reverend Allan Bell is an Anglican Priest. Amongst many of his diverse undertakings he has innovated and managed an interreligious project at Berkeley University, California, where he used the arts, silence and experiential learning to heighten his students’ awareness. He also completed an internship last year at the Rothko Chapel in Houston. His talk will be experiential and also on his plans for the Centre of Silence based on the ‘Four Pillars of the Centre for Silence’.

Rachel Sambells

In her role working for the City of London, Rachel Sambells drafted the city’s future Noise Strategy which won awards for its innovative approach to soundscape management in an urban context. Rachel will be talking about her work and new approaches to noise control and the provision of areas of tranquillity in the urban environment.

Tam Joseph

Tam Joseph is a painter, illustrator, graphic artist, printmaker and sculptor. His work is often figurative, personal, ephemeral and idiosyncratic, with a surrealistic take on life. He has exhibited and been published widely. His works are held in various public collections including the V&A, Sheffield City Art Gallery and the Arts Council collection. He will talk about how silence both affects and inspires his artistic practice.

Omar Ghazal

Omar Ghazal is an architectural practitioner currently collaborating with Studio Ben Allen. He has worked on a wide range of art, architecture and design projects, and his drawn works have been widely exhibited and published. He has previously collaborated with the artist Charles Avery. He will explore a number of built precedents for the Centre for Silence in his talk, giving consideration to the architectural devices and spatial arrangements that invoke silence in these buildings and spaces.

Dr Helen Lees

Dr Helen Lees is the author of Silence in Schools (2012), and works in a university and researches education, silence and sexuality. She began her interest in silence 25 years ago when she met it, properly, for the first time. Since then the relationship has continued as a conversation. Her talk will ask what impact might a Centre for Silence have on social justice and how this could come about.

Stuart Sims

Stuart Sims retired as Professor of Critical Theory at Northumbria University in 2013. He is a Fellow of the English Association and is widely published. Amongst his books are Manifesto for Silence (2007), Fifty Key Thinkers in Postmodernism (2013), and A Philosophy of Pessimism (2015). He will discuss the importance of campaigning for silence in a culture where permanently rising noise levels threaten both our physical and mental wellbeing – what Aldous Huxley referred to as the ‘Age of Noise’.

David Girt

David Girt has performed for over twenty five years as a mime artiste, actor and clown. He has performed at the The Cockpit Theatre, worked with the Zippos Circus, and has been a street artist at Covent Garden.

Ben Allen

Studio Ben Allen is the emerging architecture and design practice founded by Ben Allen in 2013. Over the last decade he has collaborated with a number of eminent artists including Olafur Eliasson and Thomas Demand. In 2013 the Harpa concert hall for which he was partly responsible was awarded the EU prize for architecture. Ben will present his studio’s design concepts for the Centre for Silence.

Professor John Drever

Professor John Drever is Professor of Acoustic Ecology and Sound Art at Goldsmiths, where he co-leads the Unit for Sound Practice Research. Operating at the intersection of acoustics, sound art, soundscape studies, and experimental music, his practice is an ongoing inquiry into the affect, perception, design and practice of everyday environmental sound and human utterance. John will explore the Centre for Silence from the perspective of acoustic ecology as opposed to noise abatement, discussing how soundscapes can be a positive resource to be interpreted, studied and creatively designed.

Lesley Sutton

Lesley Sutton is a curator and artist from Manchester and founding director of PassionArt, a charity that explores art and faith. She is interested in religious and cultural rituals as sensory language and how contemporary forms of participatory art can be used within sacred spaces to create liminality. Using the examples from this year’s BE STILL event in Manchester Lesley will discuss how seeking silence and stillness in a busy city is a spiritual exercise that all can explore, religious or secular.

Esther de Waal

Esther de Waal has written widely on the monastic tradition, Benedictine, Cistercian, Celtic, with a particular interest in Thomas Merton. She has found that monastic values have come to shape the way in which she sees the world. She lives in the Welsh Borders where she grew up, and looks after a wild garden, above a waterfall, in a quiet valley. She will talk about the vital role of silence in monastic life, where it is both an art form and a discipline.

Julian Stair

Julian Stair is one of the UK’s leading potters. He studied at Camberwell School of Art and the RCA. He has exhibited internationally and has work in 30 public collections including the V&A, British Museum, American Museum of Art & Design to name a but a few. Julian is a leading historian of English studio ceramics. In his talk Julian will make a case for an extension of the principle of silence as a reflective and non-verbal space essential to the creation and appreciation of visual art.

Siobhan Wall

Siobhan Wall is an Amsterdam based artist, writer and lecturer. She has spent the last ten years writing books about quiet places in world cities, including Quiet London, Quiet New York and Quiet Paris. In 2016 she curated an exhibition titled Quiet/Stilte at Galerie de Witte Voet in Amsterdam. She is currently writing a book about curating, based on a series of lectures she gave at the University of the Creative Arts Her talk will ask; What should we be asking about cultural differences and silence?