Shape’s £1.5 million grant ‘is huge boost for disabled artists’


newslatestA leading disability arts organisation has secured £1.5 million of lottery funding to develop a programme of “ambitious and high quality work” by disabled artists over the next three years.

Shape Arts will use the funding – shared with arts producing organisation Artsadmin – to produce commissions from established disabled artists.

The Unlimited II programme will build on the success of Unlimited, which saw disabled artists showcase 29 commissioned pieces during last year’s London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

Nearly 200 artists took part in the Unlimited Festival at London’s Southbank Centre during the Paralympic Games.

The 11-day festival – part of the wider London 2012 Festival – brought together all 29 pieces of work, including dance and performance, visual arts, comedy, circus, music and theatre.

As a result of the new funding there will be two further Unlimited Festivals at the Southbank Centre, in 2014 and 2016, with work also presented internationally in cooperation with the British Council.

Unlimited II will include a mentoring project for some of the commissioned artists, and it will aim to form new relationships between artists and producers, venues and promoters, and provide more opportunities for audiences to see the work of disabled artists.

The Unlimited commissions tried to challenge the public’s perception of disability, and inspire collaborations with new partners, and included work by Claire Cunningham, Bobby Baker, Laurence Clark, David Toole and Chris Tally Evans, with Shape acting as a partner to the London 2012 organising committee LOCOG.

Tony Heaton, chief executive of Shape, said that a “huge” amount of the new funding would be invested in disabled artists and their work.

He said his organisation was “very proud” and “absolutely delighted” to have been selected by Arts Council England to deliver Unlimited II – with a much bigger role than it had with Unlimited – and to build on the success of the original programme.

He said: “We will be able to run a series of commissions and we will be able to give money to disabled artists to produce really amazing pieces of work.

“Unlimited got the disabled artists fortunate enough to win commissions to really think big about what they wanted to do… this will be much more exposure and a lot of other artists will be inspired.

“I know other artists have been inspired by the work they have seen [in Unlimited]. I think [Unlimited II] will raise people’s ambitions.”

He added: “A lot of the public who were on the South Bank saw work by disabled artists often for the first time, and the audience… took everybody by surprise by the fact that things were sold out, people were clammering for tickets.

“There is a demand for work by disabled artists. It is challenging, it is thought-provoking, it is different, and people are looking for that.”

Shape, which is disabled-led, works to improve access to culture for disabled people, developing opportunities for disabled artists, training cultural institutions to be more open to disabled people, and running participatory arts and development programmes.

1 November 2013