Requiem for Crossbones (2018)

Requiem for Crossbones (2018) is a composition and sound installation created for Merge Festival 2018, in partnership with Bankside Open Spaces Trust and Tate Modern. It is an interactive and site specific work created for Crossbones garden, a post-medieval, unconsecrated graveyard in the heart of Southwark Bankside, with a fascinating social and historical commentary. Bankside was once a notoriously lawless part of London, a rowdy pleasure quarter outside of the city walls and its jurisdictions. Home to theatres, brothels and gambling dens, it was a place where the poorest resided. Established as early as the 17th century, Crossbones is believed to be the final resting place for prostitutes, known as ‘Winchester Geese’, paupers, criminals and children – those who could not afford burial or were deemed unfit for burial in consecrated ground. The identities of those buried within are largely unknown; there are no distinguishable plots or headstones, but instead a cemented surface surrounded by a community garden created by Bankside Open Spaces Trust in collaboration with the Friends of Crossbones.


People were buried at Crossbones en-masse when graveyards were overcharged with the dead and cholera was rife. When, in 1992, an MOLA undertook an archaeological dig of Crossbones, over 60% of the bodies found were young children and babies. As such, Requiem for Crossbones centres upon the children and babies laid to rest at Crossbones.


Through telling a series of stories, Requiem for Cross Bones reflects upon and connects visitors to the historic, cultural and spiritual significance of Crossbones. The work senses movement and responds to its audience, triggering a soundscape that acts as in interpretation of lives once lived. Requiem for Crossbones is an act of remembrance; a communal reflection on history, inequality, and acceptance – in both life and death. It features drawn plots to acknowledge those lost, and a memorial board to encourage visitors to leave messages for the lost or living.

Exhibition details:

Crossbones garden, Union Street, SE1 1SD (near London Bridge / Borough Market). 8 June – 1st July 2018.







2 responses to “Requiem for Crossbones (2018)”

  1. Roy Eastland says:

    This sounds wonderful. It’s a beautiful thing to bring the presence of forgotten, or half-forgotten, people to light through your Art Work. I look forward to it. Good luck Emily!

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