London 2012 launches £3 million disability arts programme


The organisers of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games have launched the UK’s largest ever disability arts programme, with £3 million funding to be spread over the next three years.

Jenny Sealey, artistic director of Graeae Theatre Company and artistic advisor for the Unlimited programme, said she hoped it would see talented disabled artists “rightly given equal status and profile”, and was “a chance to speak to the world about the quality of what we do”.

Half of the £3 million fund will be spent commissioning new work by disabled and Deaf artists, some through collaborations with mainstream arts organisations, with individual awards of £25,000 to £50,000.

This work will be shown in the build-up to and during the Games.

The other half of the £3 million will provide training and support to artists who win commissions, helping them develop their ideas and present their work in the UK and abroad. 

Unlimited will also support partnerships between UK and international artists, with the possibility of new work being shown around the world and foreign artists having work shown in Britain, while the British Council will promote a “global debate” about disability rights among young people.

But some prominent disabled artists have yet to be convinced by the plans.

Artist Ju Gosling, aka ju90, welcomed progress made since earlier 2012 disability arts announcements, but said leading artists want an international disability arts festival to be held during the Paralympics.

She said she and other artists who met recently as part of the government-funded Cultural Leadership Programme are yet to be convinced that 2012’s disability arts work “will be led by disabled people and provide work for disabled people”.

She added: “Everybody felt the same: they want a dedicated international disability arts festival during the two weeks of the Paralympics.”

Steve Mannix, cultural programme adviser for London 2012, said they wanted events to take place across the country and not “ghettoised just to the Paralympics”.

But he said it was too early to say how work would be shown, as those decisions would be led by commissioned disabled artists.

Funding for Unlimited, which is part of the wider London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, has mainly come from the National Lottery, with further support from the four UK arts councils, the British Council and London 2012.

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7 October 2009