Cabot Circus Cantata
Cabot Circus Cantata
Neville Gabie & David Ogden, Cabot Circus Cantata, 2007. Cabot Circus construction site. Photo: Neville Gabie


Cabot Circus Cantata



Cabot Circus is a shopping centre adjacent to Broadmead shopping district which opened in September 2008, after a ten-year planning and building project costing £500 million. The Cabot Circus development contains shops, offices, a cinema, hotel and 250 apartments and covers a total of 139,350 m2 (1,500,000 sq. ft.) of floor space. As part of the development London based art consultants InSite Arts were commissioned to develop a permanent and temporary public art commissions programme which included Neville Gabie’s ‘Cabot Circus Cantata’.

"What has been most revealing is the incredible ethnic mix of this workforce. Walking around the site on any typical day brings an experience of multiple sounds, languages and songs that is truly international.”
Neville Gabie


The performance, which took place in the empty shell of the House of Fraser anchor store in the development, included 100 singers, percussionists and a jazz band recording a specially composed musical score developed by David Ogden from the 25 traditional songs contributed by the site construction staff. 

These songs were collected over a period of three days in May 2007 by Neville Gabie and David Ogden touring the construction site and persuading builders, secretaries, foremen, concreters, security guards, and canteen staff to sing traditional songs from their native countries. The songs, many of which were learned in their different languages, were arranged for a soloist and a choir to form the Cabot Circus Cantata. In June 2008 the ‘Cabot Circus Cantata’ DVD and book was launched at Bristol’s Arnolfini Gallery. 

”One of the most fascinating aspects of a building development on this scale is the diverse, temporary community of site staff that has been brought together. It is estimated that over 20,000 people will have worked on Cabot Circus by the time it is completed. What has been most revealing is the incredible ethnic mix of this workforce. Walking around the site on any typical day brings an experience of multiple sounds, languages and songs that is truly international.” (Neville Gabie) 

“Many of the songs sung by the workers came from the heart. They are reminders of their homeland, of their families and friends back home and so were sung with great feeling and nostalgia. The songs from Eastern Europe were particularly powerful and it has been a tremendous experience for the singers from City of Bristol Choir to learn and perform them as well as meet the original singers and discover how the song is a result of their individual stories.” (David Ogden) 

Neville Gabie 

Born (1959) in Johannesburg, Neville Gabie studied at the Royal College of Art and has been based in Stroud, Gloucestershire, for several years. Working in a range of media from sculpture to film and photography, Neville’s practice is focused on responding to locations which are in the process of change. In practical terms his work has been manifested as a series of temporary interventions made in response to specific locations or situations. These sites are not arbitrary or randomly selected, but fit together, being places in a state of physical or social flux.

Projects are developed over a sustained period of involvement not just with the site, but also with other creative professionals, making these works the result of intensive collaboration.

Recent residencies include: MOMART Tate Liverpool (1999); VitaminCreative Space, Gaungzhou, China (2004); and International Art Space, Kellberrin, Western Australia (2006/7). His work has been exhibited widely around the world in galleries such as the Tate Modern in London, the Tate Gallery in Liverpool, the Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Japan, and also as part of touring exhibitions in Germany, Japan, Macedonia, Portugal, South Korea, and South Africa. Projects include ‘Further Up In The Air’ Liverpool (2001-05), which was developed and curated jointly with Leo Fitzmaurice and COAST, Firstsite.

Neville Gabie has also recently been selected to be artist-in-residence with the British Antarctic Survey Expedition to Antarctica (2008-09). 

InSite Arts 

InSite Arts is a public art organisation founded by Sarah Collicott and Sam Wilkinson in 2001. InSite Arts works in partnership with its clients to generate and deliver innovative and relevant public art and arts initiatives in diversity of scales and in a wide variety of media. 

InSite Arts develop strategies and artworks and have commissioned a wide range of projects from temporary events to permanent installations, from the more intimately scaled art projects through to major landmark installations integrated into the public realm and architectural schemes. 

At the heart of their work is our staunch commitment to commissioning artwork which will inspire and intrigue, which become a fundamental part of a successful building, development, town or city. This can only be achieved by working closely with and supporting artists and clients throughout the course of the art project/programme, through to installation. Successfully conceived and delivered public artworks draw inspiration from a thorough understanding of location, the potential ‘audience’, history of the site and the aspirations of client and design team.