Unlimited expansion set to influence international perception of disabled artists


New funding of more than £1.5 million is set to deliver an international extension to a disability arts commissioning programme that grew out of London 2012, and help influence how disabled people are perceived in other countries.

Unlimited has secured more than £750,000 from Arts Council England – which will be matched by the British Council – to extend its work internationally.

The new Unlimited International programme will make six research and development awards to disabled artists, and then select three of them to become full commissions, each led by disabled artists from England and one other country.

The completed works are set to tour at least three countries, which are likely to include Brazil, Australia and Japan, as well as in Europe.

The new scheme – which will be overseen by the disability-led arts organisation Shape Arts and arts producing experts Arts Admin – aims to help disabled artists from other countries improve their skills.

But it also aims to shift perceptions of disabled people, and build on Unlimited’s existing work to ensure disabled artists have the same opportunities as non-disabled artists, “embedding” them within the cultural sector.

Unlimited was built on a successful programme which saw 29 pieces by disabled artists showcased during the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

In the lead-up to the commissioning process, disabled artists from Brazil, Japan and Australia will tour Britain, probably appearing at Unlimited festivals at London’s Southbank Centre and Glasgow’s Tramway, and other venues across the country.

The tour will also be supported by the British Council; the Pallant House art gallery in West Sussex; the disability, music and technology charity Drake Music; and the Watershed arts centre in Bristol.

Tony Heaton, chief executive of Shape, told Disability News Service: “It’s a great achievement that Shape and Unlimited are now working globally and as far-reaching as Brazil, Australia and Japan.

“We in the UK should be very proud that the home-grown disability arts movement that started a quarter century ago is having such a huge impact in 2016, and the international presence of disabled artists will help further our mission to make art accessible for all.

“However, we recognise that rapid growth requires a more complex infrastructure and greater resources, so the ongoing support from funders is vital for us to continue our work.”

Joyce Wilson, London area director for Arts Council England, said: “Unlimited continues to respond to the very high demand for ambitious new work by Deaf and disabled artists.

“The commissioned works and associated Southbank Unlimited Festival are proving instrumental in shifting the attitudes of not only venues, programmers and producers but also audiences.

“Unlimited International offers significant scope to grow this impact worldwide, delivering demonstrable change and extending the international profile of British Deaf and disabled artists.”

Picture: A previous Unlimited commission: Liz Carr’s ‘Assisted Suicide: The Musical’

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