London 2012: Sirens announce disability arts commissions


A musical symphony featuring warning sirens is just one of the highlights of the first 10 disability arts projects to be commissioned for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

The commissions are part of Unlimited, a three-year £1.5 million programme to create new work in the lead-up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, believed to be the largest single investment in creative work by disabled artists.

Arts Council England and London 2012 said the programme would celebrate disability, arts, culture and sport “on an unprecedented scale” and “transform the disability arts movement” in the UK.

Among the 10 are leading names such as the contemporary dance company Candoco, which will ask two disabled choreographers to create pieces for disabled and non-disabled dancers, including performers from Beijing and Rio de Janeiro, to link the past, current and future Olympic host nations.

The disabled-led theatre company Graeae will produce a piece inspired by Blake’s poem Jerusalem and featuring a team of Deaf and disabled sway pole and street art performers.

Fittings Multimedia Arts, which is led by the disabled director, actor and writer Garry Robson, will work with disabled and non-disabled young people in the north-west to explore issues of identity, in a piece inspired by the lives of conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker.

Private Dancer will feature “professional and emergent disabled dancers” performing in and around a life-sized “luminous house”, while in The Screaming Silence of the Wind, visual artist Maurice Orr will create four sensory installations inspired by the landscapes of Northern Ireland.

Other pieces include a darkly comic tale about dysfunctional families by the Deaf actor and director Ramesh Meyyappan; a community storytelling project by the Welsh disabled writer, performer and director Chris Tally Evans; and a live performance combining warning sirens, choral music and wall projections developed by musician Jez Colborne, who has learning difficulties.

The one-man show Bipolar Ringmaster, performed by actor Eric MacLennan, promises to play with the audience’s preconceptions about mental ill-health, while The ‘d’ Monologues will feature monologues for Deaf and disabled performers inspired by the lives of Deaf and disabled people across the UK.

Ruth Mackenzie, director of the Cultural Olympiad, said: “This is a chance to change the way work by disabled artists is perceived and enjoyed round the world, and we are thrilled to have such exciting commissions to get the programme started.”

Tessa Jowell, minister for the Olympics and Paralympics, said the projects “showcase the true depth of artistic talent we have amongst disabled people in the UK”.

Information on applications for the second of the three rounds of Unlimited commissions is available at

18 March 2010


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