Before its demolition in 2004, the Milton Keynes warehouse drew up to a million ravers from all over the country
In the early 90s, a sprawling Milton Keynes warehouse became an unlikely hub of UK rave culture. The venue, known as The Sanctuary, was a disused industrial space – situated on the city’s outskirts, off an unglamorous ring road – that was in operation from 1991-2004. During that time, it established itself as a beloved all-night club venue, drawing world-class talent and up to a million ravers from all over the country.
Despite its popularity, The Sanctuary was soon lost to time. In 2004, the site was shut down and demolished, replaced with a jumbo IKEA and an electric car charging station. “It wasn’t until I became a journalist and came across the flyer for Dreamscape 1 that I learned of The Sanctuary,” says Emma Hope Allwood, a writer and former Dazed editor who grew up around Milton Keynes. Intrigued, she began researching the venue, uncovering its long-forgotten and hugely influential history in the process.
Allwood began to collect her discoveries, gathering original ephemera, flyers, merchandise, artefacts and footage from the venue’s glory days. Her findings are set to be displayed in an expansive exhibition, titled Sanctuary: The Unlikely Home of British Rave, which will open in Milton Keynes later this year. The show hopes to shine a light on the “pioneering nightlife history” of the UK city, examining the venue’s instrumental role in the development of genres like Happy Hardcore and Drum & Bass. “For me, this project is about doing justice to the youth culture history of MK – a place which is too often unfairly maligned as a cultural void,” says Allwood.
Sanctuary: The Unlikely Home of British Rave is set to open on December 4 at MK Gallery’s Project Space. The gallery will also be hosting an event on Saturday 13 November from 2-5pm, inviting former ravers to share their own objects and ephemera from The Sanctuary, with the chance to be included in the upcoming exhibition. There will also be a free screening of Jeremy Deller’s 2018 exploration of acid house, Everybody in the Place: An Incomplete History of Britain 1984-1992 in MK Gallery’s Sky Room cinema at 5pm.
Former Sanctuary ravers with any objects to be considered for the exhibition are invited to email details to submissions@sanctuarymk. Sanctuary is made possible by support from Carhartt WIP, MK Gallery and the Garfield Weston Foundation.