Unlimited offerings include party balloons, medical aids… and a designer asylum


newslatestMedical aids, party balloons and a “designer asylum” are just some of the inspirations for a series of new works that have been awarded more than £400,000 by the Unlimited disability arts programme.

The three-year Unlimited 2013 programme this week announced the 26 disabled artists awarded financial support in its 2014 funding round.

It includes funding for nine major new works, to be staged in collaboration with arts venues and festivals across the UK, with some of them also to be featured in a high-profile festival in the first week of September at London’s Southbank Centre.

Among these works is The Dinner Party Revisited, a “twist on a 1920s comedy sketch”, in which a woman hosts a celebration dinner for the friends she has outlived.

Artist Katherine Araniello plays host to six “guests”, who each appear on television monitors and are also played by Araniello, in a “satirical and darkly comic take on some of the cliches around disability”.

Another of the nine, Otherwise Unchanged, is a reading tour of Owen Lowery’s 2012 poetry collection, which includes poems on his experience of hospitalisation following a spinal injury.

Unlimited has also awarded 17 research and development awards to support disabled artists to develop new works.

Among them is a grant to the journalist and film-maker Richard Butchins, for 213 Things About Me.

The work will be based on a list of personal traits written by Cate, a young woman with Asperger’s syndrome, who left behind her a “remarkable legacy” of writing and music when she died last October.

Butchins will create a “multi-screen, immersive installation”, featuring footage shot by the young woman, as well as interviews with those who knew her well, excerpts from her writing, and film of her playing her own music.

He is also hoping to find an actor to represent – live – different facets of Cate.

He said: “She was extremely talented, and what I am trying to explore is that different people saw her in completely different ways.

“It is about how we never know someone and when someone is high on the autistic spectrum, it can be even more difficult to know them.

“There are a lot of assumptions about autistic people – that they don’t have empathy, for example – and I think those assumptions are generally wrong.

“Like a lot of people with autism, she couldn’t hold eye contact and found social gatherings difficult, but when you watch her music those barriers completely broke down.

“As well as being about social exclusion and alienation and empathy, it will also be about how disability adds another layer of obfuscation to already complex notions of personal identity.”

Another development award goes to Noëmi Lakmaier, whose Cherophobia will see her body tied into a harness and surrounded by helium tanks and mounds of party balloons.

Another goes to Madlove, which will ask those with and without mental illness to “collaborate in designing a ‘safe place to go mad'”, while in Unstrapped, Louise Coleman will develop a new film installation and live dance performance through exploring expected and unexpected uses of medical equipment, supports and aids.

Unlimited 2013 follows on from a successful programme which saw 29 pieces by disabled artists showcased during the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

It is headed by the disabled-led Shape Arts, and by Artsadmin, and is funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and Creative Scotland.

2 April 2014